The theater that blows up was subsequently involved in another accident when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in Back to the Future (1985), smashes into the front entrance at the end of the film. The theater then burned down with the rest of the buildings in the fire that happened right after the filming of Back to the Future Part II (1989).
One of the studio notes to director Joe Dante and producer Steven Spielberg on seeing the first cut was that there were too many gremlins. Spielberg suggested cutting them all out and calling the film "People".
Generally credited (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)) to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating, but not enough for an R rating.
The time machine prop from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen behind Rand Peltzer when he's on the phone with his wife, while attending the convention. A moment later, the machine has disappeared (into the future or the past) to the astonishment of several onlookers. Also attending the convention are Steven Spielberg, Jerry Goldsmith and Robby the Robot
Zach Galligan recounted in an interview that when the movie was made there was no CGI, so all the Gremlins were animatronics, each costing between $30,000-$40,000. When everyone left the lot for the day, security would have everyone open the trunks of their cars to make sure they weren't stolen.
The Santa speech proved to be controversial, and studio executives insisted upon its removal because they felt it was too ambiguous as to whether it was supposed to be funny or sad. Joe Dante stubbornly refused to take the scene out, saying it represented the film as a whole, which had a combination of horrific and comedic elements. Steven Spielberg did not like the scene but, despite his creative control, he viewed Gremlins as Dante's project and allowed him to leave it in.
Little to no actual dialogue for the Gremlins and Mogwai exists in the script in itself. In addition to several instances of on-set rewrites changing or adding to much of the script, the voiceovers were mostly ad libs, repeating snippets of just-performed dialogue or in reaction to other sound effects or environment. To this end, Howie Mandel recorded Gizmo's lines phonetically for foreign dubs of the movie, where localized dialogue and in-jokes helped make the picture successful with audiences worldwide.
The idea for these creatures was born in a loft in Manhattan's garment district that was home to NYU Film School graduate screenwriter Chris Columbus. "By day, it was pleasant enough, but at night, what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy." Columbus recalls.
Near the very beginning of the film, as Mr. Peltzer makes his way to the curio shop in Chinatown, a wrecked car is seen with the hood up and smoke coming out of it. That car is an AMC Gremlin. In real life, the AMC Gremlin logo (located on the gas cap) bears a striking resemblance to the Gremlins featured in the film except for a more grotesque, reptilian appearance.
Originally planned and scheduled for a Christmas release, the film was rushed into production shortly after Warner Bros. found out that it had no major competition against Paramount's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) or Columbia's Ghostbusters (1984) for the summer movie season.
When the filmmakers were making this they had the idea to use Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) as a film to be shown in the theatre because Disney released it on December 21,1937 as a holiday movie event, since this story took place during the Christmas season.
When Billy leads Pete up to his room to show him the Mogwai, a rolled-up movie poster for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) can be seen standing on end against a wall. Joe Dante directed one of the "episodes" for that film a year earlier.
Within the story, Gizmo was capable of singing or humming. Jerry Goldsmith wrote Gizmo's song as well, but Howie Mandel never sang it. A female member of Goldsmith's congregation was hired to sing Gizmo's song, although she had never worked in films before.
Unbeknownst to Joe Dante and Michael Finnell, Steven Spielberg was a big fan of The Howling (1981). After he came across Chris Columbus' writing sample, he fell in love with it and bought it. Then he decided that Dante was the guy to make it into a movie, took the project to Warner Bros. and also produced it with his own company, Amblin Entertainment.
There are many connections to Steven Spielberg's other popular movie, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). One of the Gremlins says "phone home", there is a stuffed E.T., and at the begining, one of the movies on the marquee is "A Boy's Life" which was the fake name E.T. was shipped to theaters under.
In addition to restoring the classic Warner Brothers logo to the opening of the movie, it was hoped to release the film along with the classic Looney Tunes short, Falling Hare (1943), where Bugs Bunny is harassed by a plane gremlin during WW II. This fell through, but, highlights from the short do appear as part of the Behind the Scenes featurette, that has also been included on the Special Edition DVD.
Hoyt Axton was always the first choice for Rand Peltzer. Pat Harrington Jr. was also considered. Pat Hingle was said to have delivered the best screen test, but was passed on because it was feared Rand's character would take over the picture as a result of Hingle's excellent performance.
The Gizmo puppets were particularly frustrating because they were smaller and thus broke down more. Consequently, to satisfy the crew, a scene was included in which the gremlins hang Gizmo on a wall and throw darts at him. This was included on a list that the crew created known to them as the "Horrible Things to do to Gizmo" list.
Steven Spielberg had a great working relationship with Chris Columbus on this film, and he produced the next two films Columbus scripted--The Goonies (1985), based on an idea Spielberg had, and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), which was Columbus' idea. Altogether, three years was spent working on those three films.
Steven Spielberg urged the casting of the relatively unknown Zach Galligan as Billy because he saw chemistry between him and Phoebe Cates during auditions. Galligan later compared himself to Billy, saying he was a "geeky kid", and that being in the film "was really kind of a dream" given "what I get to do, what my character gets to do, blow up movie theatres", adding that he "got to work with great people".
The official comic strip adaptation included scenes that were not in the movie, including Billy's mother asking if the mogwai was a rat followed by the mogwai using Rand's "Bathroom Buddy," thus earning the name "Gizmo." There was also more emphasis on a subplot of Mrs. Deagle trying to buy up everything in town, a scene of Billy finding that throwing juice on the mogwais has no effect on them, Mr. Hanson's students being more Billy's age, Gizmo and Kate trying to shut down the fountain and turn on the lights, and Billy smashing Stripe's skeleton with a baseball bat.
Although it is not clearly visible, "Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf", by Joe Dante (senior) is on Billy's nightstand. Joe Dante Junior said his father criticized him for not making the title more visible.
The billboard of Rockin' Ricky Rialto at the start of the movie is done up like Indiana Jones; Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was shown at the Rialto cinema, and producer Steven Spielberg directed that film.
Chris Walas suggested they use puppets instead of the proposed stop motion idea. As a compromise the studio suggested a spider monkey in a suit which was tested at Joe Dante's office, the animal went crazy, tearing the office apart and defecating everywhere. Dante screamed at the trainer to get the animal and then asked Walas, 'So puppets?'
There was more than one Gizmo puppet, and occasionally Zach Galligan, when carrying one, would set him down off camera, and when Gizmo appeared again sitting on a surface it was actually a different puppet wired to the surface.
In Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), an inventor Waxflatter builds inventions similar to Rand Peltzer's, like a clockwork egg slicer he never got to patent; a spring-loaded device that turned the pages of a book with a timer that recorded the reader's pace and a gas-fueled bedside coffeemaker. Both films were scripted by Chris Columbus and may reflect his love of inventions, like in the James Bond series, that he and Steven Spielberg are big fans of.
Speilberg changed the design of the Mogwai from moment to moment, greatly upsetting Chris Walas's workshop, first he suggested they change the color to brown in white rather than all over brown, then hairless ears, then he wanted Gizmo to become more of a sidekick to Billys hero doubling Walas's already overstretched workshop.
Chris's workshop began to understand the premise of the gremlins creatures when they did the carol singing gremlins, once they were dressed in human clothing Walas exclaimed, 'They're parodies of people!'
The novelization for Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) mentions being attacked by something with razor-sharp claws and vicious teeth; this could be a reference to the Gremlins of this film. Also, an inventor Waxflatter hallucinates that gremlins sabotaged his ornithopter, which is a definite in-joke to this film.
The term "gremlin" is a neologism originally coined by English author Roald Dahl, famous for his somewhat dark children's books. His story 'gremlin Lore' about fictitious mischievous elves that were said to cause unexplained damage on RAF planes was commissioned by Walt Disney but was never made.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At the end, Gizmo pulls a window blind that exposes Stripe to the sunlight. Originally, however, there were two window blinds and Gizmo pulls the first one and then Billy pulls the second one. This scene was edited because Steven Spielberg believed that Gizmo was the hero of the movie and not Billy, and therefore Gizmo would be the one responsible for the demise of Stripe.
Chris Columbus' script went through a few drafts before a shooting script was finalized. His original version had the creatures killing the dog and cutting off the mom's head and tossing it down the stairs. These elements were never shot due to the fact that both Joe Dante and Warner Bros. wanted the movie to be more family-oriented.
In the original draft of the script, instead of Stripe being a Mogwai who becomes a Gremlin, there was no Stripe the Mogwai and Gizmo was supposed to turn into Stripe the Gremlin. Steven Spielberg overruled this plot element because he felt Gizmo was cute and audiences would want him to be present at all stages of the film. This became stressful for Chris Walas who had designed the Gizmo puppet only for the actions that happened in the first half of the movie.
In the script, Murray Futterman was killed during his encounter with the Gremlins, but it was changed because the filmmakers found this a little harsh. So, during the news report at the end of the movie (if you listen closely to the voice0over) you can hear Lew Landers (an in-joke referencing prolific 1930s-'50s "B" picture director Lew Landers) say that he is going to talk with Mr. Futterman at the hospital. In the novelization of the film by George Gipe, this change was not included.
After Lynn Peltzer stabs the Gremlin to death in the kitchen there was an unused effect of the Gremlin trying to pull the knife free from its body, the effect was considered too distressing and the shot omitted, however you can see the effect over her shoulder as she microwaves the other Gremlin.
Mr. Hanson, the science teacher, originally died with dozens of hypodermic needles stuck in his face. However, by request from Steven Spielberg, this scene was re-shot with just a single needle in the buttocks.
The novelization has a scene with the mogwai/gremlin (named Earl in the novel) Billy left with Mr. Hanson to study. After Hanson took a sample of his blood, it gets a hold of a sandwich and eats after midnight. After completing its transformation, it takes its revenge on Hanson for the blood test before scratching Billy and escapes into the school's ventilation system. It briefly appears and attacks Billy in the nurse's office before escaping. After that, it disappears and Billy doesn't give it any thought when he went to tracking down Stripe.
Deleted scenes reveal that Mrs. Deagle was forcing people out of their homes to put down a strip mall, effectively destroying Kingston Falls. In the novelization, she was selling their land to a chemical company Hitox of all things.
Billy watches "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) in his room before giving the five new gremlins food after midnight. Invasion of the body snatchers is about aliens taking over a whole city, just like the evil Gremlins will be doing later in the movie.