Gremlins (1984)

PG | 106 mins | Comedy, Horror | 8 June 1984

Director:

Joe Dante

Writer:

Chris Columbus

Producer:

Michael Finnell

Cinematographer:

John Hora

Editor:

Tina Hirsch

Production Designer:

James H. Spencer

Production Companies:

Warner Bros., Inc., Amblin Entertainment
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HISTORY

Actor Howie Mandel provided the voice for “Gizmo” but received no onscreen credit, as stated in a 16 Jun 1984 LAHExam news item.
       End credits contain the following acknowledgement: “Footage from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs © 1937 Walt Disney Productions.”
       In a 15 Jun 1984 Chicago Reader article, director Joe Dante discussed the challenge of making a film that incorporated an idyllic setting, cute and fuzzy mogwai, and the mogwai’s scary, violent counterparts, gremlins. After screening an early edit and gauging the audience’s response, Dante realized that the violence needed to be pared down and humor built up to create a balance between the “Disneyesque” first half of the film and the horror of the second half. The director also stated that the opening sequence in Chinatown was crucial to setting the tone of the film and establishing a “fairytale feel.” Though Dante was concerned that the portrayal of the Chinese grandfather could be perceived as racist, he felt it was important to have an “archetypal figure” explain the rules of the mogwai and “evoke a context” so that viewers would believe the story.
       According to a 30 Jul 1984 US article, Chris Walas, the designer, creator, and operator of Gizmo and the gremlins, was inspired by the creatures’ characters in the script, which he described as “frenzied, fun-loving, [and] maniacal.” Walas worked for seven months during preproduction to create puppets, using “foam latex and other materials” to build Gizmo and the gremlins, and designed both manual and mechanical controls for them. Twelve Gizmo puppets were built, as well as fourteen for the lead gremlin, “Stripe.”
       Inspired by the ... More Less

Actor Howie Mandel provided the voice for “Gizmo” but received no onscreen credit, as stated in a 16 Jun 1984 LAHExam news item.
       End credits contain the following acknowledgement: “Footage from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs © 1937 Walt Disney Productions.”
       In a 15 Jun 1984 Chicago Reader article, director Joe Dante discussed the challenge of making a film that incorporated an idyllic setting, cute and fuzzy mogwai, and the mogwai’s scary, violent counterparts, gremlins. After screening an early edit and gauging the audience’s response, Dante realized that the violence needed to be pared down and humor built up to create a balance between the “Disneyesque” first half of the film and the horror of the second half. The director also stated that the opening sequence in Chinatown was crucial to setting the tone of the film and establishing a “fairytale feel.” Though Dante was concerned that the portrayal of the Chinese grandfather could be perceived as racist, he felt it was important to have an “archetypal figure” explain the rules of the mogwai and “evoke a context” so that viewers would believe the story.
       According to a 30 Jul 1984 US article, Chris Walas, the designer, creator, and operator of Gizmo and the gremlins, was inspired by the creatures’ characters in the script, which he described as “frenzied, fun-loving, [and] maniacal.” Walas worked for seven months during preproduction to create puppets, using “foam latex and other materials” to build Gizmo and the gremlins, and designed both manual and mechanical controls for them. Twelve Gizmo puppets were built, as well as fourteen for the lead gremlin, “Stripe.”
       Inspired by the successful merchandising of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (see entry), rights for numerous Gremlins products were arranged in advance of the film’s release, according to a 12 Aug 1983 Publishers Weekly brief. Avon purchased the novelization rights for $135,000 after a bidding war with Bantam and Pocket Books. In addition, a 10 May 1984 LAHExam article reported that more than fifty companies were licensed to sell Gremlins merchandise including Walt Disney Productions, for “children’s story and record books”; Hallmark Cards for “greeting cards, gift wrap, puzzles, stickers, [and] posters”; Atari&sortType=sortByExactMatch'>Atari for video games; Topps Chewing Gum for trading cards and stickers; Turtle Wax for air fresheners; Aladdin Industries for lunch boxes; and Bibb Co. for pillowcases, sheets and curtains. A 13 Apr 1984 NYT article stated that filmmakers revealed very little about Gremlins to merchandisers and marketers of the film, and Intralink Film Graphic Design, the company hired to create posters, could only view an edit of the film that was missing all scenes involving Gizmo and the gremlins. F.A.O. Schwartz was one of the retailers who planned to carry Gremlins toys without seeing a script, but the company later rescinded their order for “thousands of pieces” after the film was released, due to the “black humor and sick jokes,” according to a 2 Jul 1984 NYT article.
       Gremlins opened in 1,509 theatres nationally, according to an 8 Jun 1984 HR news item. A 25 Jul 1984 Var brief reported that the film set a record for Warner Bros., Inc. as it took in $100 million in box-office receipts faster than any of the studio’s previous motion pictures, surpassing Superman , Superman II , and The Exorcist (1978, 1981, and 1973, see entries). In the summer of 1984, Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (see entry), sparked a ratings debate, as viewers took issue with the amount of violence allowed in the films, both rated PG (parental guidance suggested) instead of R (restricted), as stated in a 25 Jun 1984 Time article, and the controversy coincided with the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America)'s recent proposal to add a PG-13 rating to their scale. MPAA President Jack Valenti was opposed to the PG-13 proposal and stated, “Who is smart enough to say what is permissible for a 13-year-old and not for a twelve-year-old?”
       Critical reception was mixed. Reviewers generally praised the special effects in the film, but some felt the story and human characters were lost amidst the creatures. A 21 May 1984 DV review criticized the film as “heedless of dramatic concerns,” and stated that there was “no need to remember the previous scene to appreciate the present.” The 21 May 1984 HR review called the technical aspects of the film “little short of brilliant, with Chris Walas’s gremlin creations one of the more remarkable feats in the history of animation.” In a positive review on 8 Jun 1984, Sheila Benson of LAT lauded lead actors Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, and described the film as sweet-and-sour funny, implausible, inventive, rousing, and exhausting.”
       According to a 5 Jul 1984 DV article, Warner Bros. filed lawsuits against Maxson Imports Inc., Motivic Inc., and several other companies for making and selling unauthorized Gremlins merchandise including toys, jewelry, buttons, and key chains. To the time, a temporary restraining order had been issued against Maxson Imports, and the other cases were pending. A 23 Dec 1998 DV article reported that Warner Bros. sued Hasbro after the company released a toy called Furby, a talking plush doll with large eyes, that closely resembled “Gizmo.” The companies agreed to settle out of court, and Hasbro paid Warner Bros. an undisclosed, seven-figure amount.



The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Katelyn Cooley, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Reader
15 Jun 1984.
---
Daily Variety
21 May 1984
p. 3, 6, 11.
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1984.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1984
p. 2, 4.
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1998
p. 1, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1984
p. 8, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1984.
---
LAHExam
10 May 1984.
---
LAHExam
16 Jun 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Jun 1984
p. 1.
New York Times
13 Apr 1984.
---
New York Times
8 Jun 1984
p. 10.
New York Times
2 Jul 1984.
---
Publishers Weekly
12 Aug 1983.
---
Time
25 Jun 1984
p. 78.
US
30 Jul 1984
pp. 36-37.
Variety
13 Apr 1983.
---
Variety
23 May 1984
p. 12, 27.
Variety
25 Jul 1984.
---
Variety
21 Jun 1989.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Steven Spielberg presents
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Elec best boy
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Still photog
Process photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Mens' cost supv
Ladies' cost supv
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus rec mixer
Mus rec mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dial ed
Prod sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Foley
Foley
VISUAL EFFECTS
Gremlins created by
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec vocal eff
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Matte paintings
Matte artist
Titles and opticals
Gizmo and the gremlins des, created and operated b
Project coord, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature crew, Chris Walas, Inc.
Creature consultant, Chris Walas, Inc.
MAKEUP
Make up artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod secy
Scr supv
Transporation coord
Transportation capt
Animal coord
Asst to Mike Finnell
Asst to Joe Dante
Unit pub
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," performed by Darlene Love, produced by Phil Spector, courtesy of Phil Spector International
"Make It Shine," performed by Quarterflash, provided courtesy of Geffen Records
"Do You Hear What I Hear?," performed by Johnny Mathis, provided courtesy of CBS Records
+
SONGS
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," performed by Darlene Love, produced by Phil Spector, courtesy of Phil Spector International
"Make It Shine," performed by Quarterflash, provided courtesy of Geffen Records
"Do You Hear What I Hear?," performed by Johnny Mathis, provided courtesy of CBS Records
"Out Out," performed and written by Peter Gabriel, co-produced by Nile Rogers and Peter Gabriel
"Gremlins ... Mega-Madness," performed by Michael Sembello, words and music by Michael Sembello, Mark Hudson and Don Freeman, produced by Michael Sembello and Mark Hudson.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 June 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 8 June 1984
Production Date:
27 April--early July 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros., Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 June 1984
Copyright Number:
PA214201
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Cameras and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
106
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27406
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Inventor Rand Peltzer tries to sell his newest invention, a bathroom gadget, in Chinatown. He follows a young Chinese boy to his grandfather’s shop, and, there, finds a mogwai, a small furry creature that likes to sing. Rand asks to buy the mogwai as a Christmas present for his son Billy; however, the grandfather refuses, saying the mogwai requires a very responsible owner. Worried that his family needs money, the Chinese boy secretly directs Rand outside where he accepts two hundred dollars in exchange for the creature. The boy informs Rand of three rules: keep the mogwai out of bright light, especially sunlight which can kill it; never let the mogwai near water; and, most importantly, never feed the mogwai after midnight. In the small town of Kingston Falls, Billy Peltzer cannot start his car before work. The next-door neighbor, Mr. Futterman, notices Billy having trouble with his car, a Volkswagen Beetle, and complains about the unreliability of foreign automobiles. Billy walks to his job at the bank with his dog, Barney, who sits beneath Billy’s desk. Kate, a coworker, asks Billy to sign a petition to have Dorry’s Pub declared a landmark because Mrs. Deagle, a wealthy landlord, is trying to take the lease away. Shortly after, Mrs. Deagle arrives at the bank with part of a snowman lawn ornament and accuses Billy’s dog, Barney, of breaking it. Deagle refuses to accept payment, and threatens to take Barney to the kennel instead. Barney undoes his own leash and jumps over the counter at her, driving her out of the bank. After work, Billy’s smug coworker, Gerald, tells Billy that their boss almost fired him over the incident. Kate, ... +


Inventor Rand Peltzer tries to sell his newest invention, a bathroom gadget, in Chinatown. He follows a young Chinese boy to his grandfather’s shop, and, there, finds a mogwai, a small furry creature that likes to sing. Rand asks to buy the mogwai as a Christmas present for his son Billy; however, the grandfather refuses, saying the mogwai requires a very responsible owner. Worried that his family needs money, the Chinese boy secretly directs Rand outside where he accepts two hundred dollars in exchange for the creature. The boy informs Rand of three rules: keep the mogwai out of bright light, especially sunlight which can kill it; never let the mogwai near water; and, most importantly, never feed the mogwai after midnight. In the small town of Kingston Falls, Billy Peltzer cannot start his car before work. The next-door neighbor, Mr. Futterman, notices Billy having trouble with his car, a Volkswagen Beetle, and complains about the unreliability of foreign automobiles. Billy walks to his job at the bank with his dog, Barney, who sits beneath Billy’s desk. Kate, a coworker, asks Billy to sign a petition to have Dorry’s Pub declared a landmark because Mrs. Deagle, a wealthy landlord, is trying to take the lease away. Shortly after, Mrs. Deagle arrives at the bank with part of a snowman lawn ornament and accuses Billy’s dog, Barney, of breaking it. Deagle refuses to accept payment, and threatens to take Barney to the kennel instead. Barney undoes his own leash and jumps over the counter at her, driving her out of the bank. After work, Billy’s smug coworker, Gerald, tells Billy that their boss almost fired him over the incident. Kate, who is working at the pub for free to help out Dorry, delivers drinks to Billy’s table and rejects Gerald when he asks her on a date. Billy returns home and offers to help his mother, Lynn Peltzer, cook dinner, but when he attempts to use one of his father’s inventions, it fails. Rand arrives home with the mogwai wrapped in a box and insists Billy must open the gift before Christmas. At Rand’s request, Lynn dims the lights, and Billy opens the box to find the mogwai, which Rand has named “Gizmo.” Lynn tries to snap a picture of Billy with his new pet, but the flash startles Gizmo, and Rand relays the three rules about mogwai that he learned from the young Chinese boy. The next morning, Billy shows Gizmo to his friend Pete, who accidently spills water on the mogwai, causing it to scream and writhe. Soon after, five small fur balls pop out of Gizmo’s back, and each quickly grows and becomes another mogwai. Pete tries to pet one of them, named “Stripe” because he has a white mohawk, but the creature bites him. Billy informs Rand that the mogwai multiplies with water, and Rand gets the idea that he could sell them to children as “The Peltzer Pet.” That night, Billy finds Barney dangling from a strand of Christmas lights outside and assumes that Mrs. Deagle is responsible, although Stripe is the real culprit. Later, Billy takes a mogwai to Roy Hanson, a high school science teacher, and shows him how it multiplies by dropping water onto the creature. A fur ball pops out of the mogwai’s back and grows into another mogwai, and Hanson asks to keep one of them for observation. Later, Kate escorts Mr. Futterman, who is drunk, outside Dorry’s Pub. Billy arrives and helps with Futterman, who complains that foreign companies seeking to sabotage the United States put gremlins into their machines before exporting them. That night, Billy wakes to the sound of hungry mogwai and checks his alarm clock to make sure it is before midnight. He feeds Stripe’s gang, but Gizmo refuses to eat. Meanwhile, at the school, Hansons’s mogwai steals food and eats after midnight as well. The next morning, Billy wakes up to find that all of the mogwai except Gizmo have transitioned into a pupal stage and are now surrounded by slimy cocoons. Billy realizes he must have fed them after midnight when he finds that the cord to his alarm clock was cut. At school, Hanson watches his mogwai hatch from the cocoon and emerge as a slimy, sharp-toothed gremlin. Hanson calls Billy and urges him to come to the school, but when he arrives, Billy finds that the gremlin has killed the teacher. Frantic, Billy calls Lynn, warning her to get out of the house. Instead, she fights the gremlins and kills three of them before Billy returns and helps her kill the fourth. Only Stripe escapes, and Billy follows it to the YMCA where it jumps into the pool and starts to multiply. Billy runs to the police station and warns Sheriff Frank and Deputy Brent about the gremlins, but they do not believe him. Soon, throngs of gremlins wreak havoc on the town. At Dorry’s Pub, they drink, smoke, and trash the place while Kate serves them. When she notices they are afraid of bright light, Kate uses a Polaroid camera to immobilize the gremlins and escapes. Carrying Gizmo with him, Billy meets Kate outside and they run to the bank for shelter. After the gremlins disappear from the streets, Kate and Billy leave the bank and find all of the gremlins gathered in the town’s movie theater, watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . Billy starts a gas leak in the building and lights a fire, escaping with Kate just before the theater explodes. Though the gremlins are killed, Kate and Billy realize that Stripe was at the nearby department store and is still alive. Inside the store, Billy pursues Stripe, and Stripe fights him off by throwing saw blades, then arrows, and eventually comes after Billy with a chainsaw. Moments before Stripe can saw through Billy’s baseball bat, Kate turns on the store lights, and Stripe is knocked across the room by the brightness. Stripe finds a bubbling fountain and jumps onto it, but just as he begins to multiply, Gizmo pulls the shade on a window, exposing Stripe to sunlight and melting him to death. That night, the grandfather from Chinatown arrives at the Peltzer’s house and retrieves Gizmo, telling the Peltzers that they weren’t prepared for such a responsibility. Gizmo says goodbye to Billy and the grandfather tells him that the mogwai will be waiting for him until the day he is ready. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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