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. 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).
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. Director Joe Dante stubbornly refused to take the scene out, saying it represented this movie as a whole, which had a combination of horrific and comedic elements. Executive Producer Steven Spielberg did not like the scene, but despite his creative control, he viewed this movie as Dante's project and allowed him to leave it in.
One of the studio notes to Director Joe Dante and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg on seeing the first cut was that there were too many gremlins. Spielberg suggested cutting them all out and calling this movie "People".
Zach Galligan recounted in an interview that when the movie was made, there was no CGI, so all of the Gremlins were animatronics, each costing between thirty and forty thousand dollars. 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 time machine prop from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen behind Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) 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 on-lookers. Also attending the convention were Steven Spielberg, Jerry Goldsmith, and Robby the Robot.
This movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) are credited with inspiring the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating. Many felt the movies were too violent for a PG rating, but not violent enough for an R.
After watching Tim Burton's earlier short films, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg considered him to direct this movie. He decided against it, because at the time, Burton had never directed a full-feature length movie.
Little to no actual dialogue for the Gremlins and Mogwai exists in the script. In addition to several instances of on-set re-writes changing or adding to much of the script, the voice-overs 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 this movie successful with audiences worldwide.
Near the beginning, as Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) 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) bore a striking resemblance to the Gremlins featured in this movie, except for a more grotesque, reptilian appearance.
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. Executive Producer Steven Spielberg overruled this plot element because he felt Gizmo was cute and audiences would want him to be present at all stages of this movie. 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.
Chris Columbus' script went through a few drafts before a shooting script was finalized. His original version had the Gremlins 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 Director Joe Dante and Warner Brothers wanted the movie to be more family-oriented.
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 movies before.
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.
Executive Producer Steven Spielberg had a great working relationship with Screenwriter Chris Columbus on this movie, and he produced the next two movies 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 movies.
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 voice-over) you can hear Lew Landers (an in-joke referencing prolific 1930s-'50s "B" movie Director Lew Landers) say that he is going to talk with Mr. Futterman at the hospital. In the novelization by George Gipe, this change was not included.
The idea for these creatures was born in a loft in Manhattan's garment district that was home to New York University 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.
There are many connections to Executive Producer 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 under which E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) was shipped to theaters.
When Billy (Zach Galligan) leads Pete (Corey Feldman) 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. Director Joe Dante and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg directed segments of that movie.
When Murray (Dick Miller) said, "We should have gotten a Zenith" (television). It's a reference to the fact that by the 1980s, Zenith was one of the few elecronics brands still manufactured in the U.S.
Originally planned and scheduled for a Christmas release, this movie was rushed into production shortly after Warner Brothers found out that it had no major competition against Paramount Pictures' Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) or Columbia Pictures' 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 movie to be shown in the theater, because Disney released it on December 21,1937 as a holiday movie event, since this story took place during the Christmas season.
Unbeknownst to Director Joe Dante and Producer Michael Finnell, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg was a big fan of The Howling (1981). After he came across Screenwriter 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 Brothers and also produced it with his own company, Amblin Entertainment.
Hoyt Axton was always the first choice for Randall Peltzer. Pat Harrington, Jr. was also considered. Pat Hingle was said to have delivered the best screentest, but was passed on, because it was feared Randall would take over the movie as a result of Hingle's excellent performance.
Executive Producer 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 this movie "was really kind of a dream" given "what I get to do, what my character gets to do, blow up movie theaters", adding that he "got to work with great people."
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 Director 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?"
In addition to restoring the classic Warner Brothers logo to the opening of the movie, it was hoped to release this movie along with the classic Looney Tunes short, Falling Hare (1943), where Bugs Bunny is harassed by an airplane gremlin during World War 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.
Executive Producer Steven Spielberg changed the design of the Mogwai from moment to moment, greatly upsetting Chris Walas' Workshop. He initially suggested they change the color to brown and white, rather than all-over brown, then hairless ears, and then he wanted Gizmo to become more of a sidekick to Billy's hero, doubling Walas' already overstretched workshop.
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 Randall'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.
The term "gremlin" is a neologism originally coined by Welsh 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 Royal Air Force planes was commissioned by Walt Disney, but was never made.
Although it is not clearly visible, "Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf", by Joe Dante, Sr. is on Billy's nightstand. Director Joe Dante, Jr. said his father criticized him for not making the title more visible.
Billy watches Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) in his room before giving the five new gremlins food after midnight. That movie is about aliens taking over a whole city, just like the evil Gremlins will be doing later in the movie.
The billboard of Rockin' Ricky Rialto at the start of the movie was done up like Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was shown at the Rialto Theater, and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg directed that movie.
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.
Deleted scenes reveal that Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) was forcing people out of their houses to put down a strip mall, effectively destroying Kingston Falls. In the novelization, she was selling their land to chemical company Hitox.
The educational film shown to the children in school about the heart and the pumping of blood is the Bell Science Series film "Hemo the Magnificent". This short was written & directed by Frank Capra, who also directed "It's a Wonderful Life", which also appears in this film.
The scene when Billy is looking for Stripe in the department store is a nod to Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Stripe hides in-between stuffed animals like E.T., and there is a stuffed E.T. doll that falls over as Stripe sticks his head out.
In Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), an inventor builds inventions similar to Randall Peltzer's (a clockwork egg slicer he never got to patent, a spring-loaded device that turns the pages of a book with a timer that records the reader's pace, and a gas-fueled bedside coffeemaker) . Both movies were written by Chris Columbus, and may reflect his love of inventions, like in the James Bond film franchise, of which he and Steven Spielberg are big fans.
While the original shooting script contained numerous scenes that featured graphic violence and gore (and would have certainly led to the final movie getting an R rating), Director Joe Dante and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg intended to sharply reduce these elements, and the rumors that an R-rated cut of this movie exist are inaccurate. It helped that many of the more horrifying scenes in the script were basically ideas that Dante and Spielberg wanted in the movie, such as the bit with the gremlins attacking the mailbox guy and Santa, and so re-writing was not a major issue, and gave more focus time to making sure this movie would get the PG rating they wanted.
The two swords seen hanging on Peltzer's wall appear to be the same props used in the climactic battle between Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Angel (David Boreanaz) in the season two finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996).
The novelization for Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) mentioned being attacked by something with razor-sharp claws and vicious teeth. This could be a reference to the Gremlins of this movie. Also, an inventor, Waxflatter, hallucinates that gremlins sabotaged his ornithopter, which is a definite in-joke to this movie.
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 Mr. 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.
John Louie played the Chinese boy in the beginning of the movie, he is seen wearing a New York Yankees hat. Coincidentally, Jonathan Ke Quan, who played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), also wore a Yankees hat, and is Chinese. Both movies were released in 1984, and are connected to Steven Spielberg.
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 Executive Producer 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.
After Lynn Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) 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 (Glynn Turman), the science teacher, originally died with dozens of hypodermic needles stuck in his face. However, by request from Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, this scene was re-shot with just a single needle in the buttocks.
The Gremlins share an inner story where the major character is being threatened by an antagonistic woman determined to destroy their pet dog. In the Wizard of Oz the female is referred to as a "Wicked Old Witch". In Gremlins she is referred to as an old dragon.