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Musings on Gizmo, the Mogwai of nightmares?

ImageI was just re-reading Joe Dante’s Ask Me Anything that was featured last year on reddit, and something occurred to me. A constant theme in many of the behind-the-scenes footage and information has the cast, crew and creators of the film constantly badmouthing Gizmo.
At first I figured it was just a cute little in-joke taken too far, but now I think about it and it makes a bit of sense that these people really do legitimately dislike the minority Mogwai. 

Gizmo is abused in both movies in an extreme fashion. In Gremlins 1 he is constantly knocked over, thrown around, light shone in his eyes, even had darts thrown at him while trapped on a dartboard. Image
The crew publicly has said in the past that the various Gizmo puppets were so complex that it was a pain to work on and around. In the famous scene where Pete spills the water on Gizmo, Zach Galligan and Corey Feldman both have said how difficult it was to maneuver around the cables and hidden puppeteers. This seems to be a constant theme  not to mention how many times some scenes had to be shot due to yet another malfunctioning Gizmo puppet.

As most of us rabid fans know by now, Gizmo was supposed to change just like the rest of the Mogwai, and in fact even becomes Stripe himself in some drafts of the script. Due to the late decisions made on what actions Gizmo would be doing, the special effects team had to constantly figure out ways to make increasingly complex (and last minute) actions work on the screen. This led to even more malfunctioning puppets and exasperated crew. It seems Gizmo became the bane of the Gremlins cast and crew, so they punished the poor Mogwai at every opportunity on-screen. This theme continues to an extreme in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, where Mohawk finds even more creative ways to torture Gizmo than the first batch Gremlins could have even conceived. 

So more and more interviews and behind-the-scenes articles paint Gizmo as if he were real and a “diva” type star. Over twenty years have passed since the last Gremlins film, and the jokes are still made by those involved, but I think it is a bit deeper than we initially realized. Image
Picture this: You are involved in what has become a blockbuster movie, and everyone is in love with Gizmo. Not the cast, not the director, but the puppet that has made the last six months of your life pure hell. Everyone loves cute little Gizmo, and he is treated like a star and as if he were an actual entity. So the jokes begin as a way to deflect the questions in interviews, but they aren’t just jokes. What if they really despise the existence of that furball? Why wouldn’t they? Indiana Jones and Short Round have action figures, playsets and more. Star wars merchandise has the full cast in whatever way you could imagine on pretty much everything you can imagine. 
Meanwhile the majority of the merchandise for one of 1984’s biggest blockbusters is Gizmo, a hunk of fur with ears. 
There weren’t any Billy or Pete action figures. No “Futterman Plow Playset with real crushing action” to be found in your JC Penny Dream Book. Just tons and tons of Gizmos. Everywhere. Now there were a few items like the colorforms or books of the film that had the human cast, but by and large Gizmo was the star. You’d think the folks in charge of marketing would see the potential of pushing ugly green goopy monsters to young boys, and make hundreds of designs of gremlins, but no….we get at least four Gizmo designs to every Stripe item. 

Now imagine every time you look around at the movie you worked so hard on (in any capacity) and the majority of things staring back at you are memories of long nights trying to get a scene shot or a puppet to hold 3d glasses just right. 

I get the feeling as I read more and more humorous asides, that Gizmo was the cause of the Gremlins crew’s nightmares rather than the horrific Gremlins that caused so many of us to lose sleep as children. 

Of course Gizmo became a badass by the end of Gremlins 2 and saves the day against Mohawk, but you can tell how much joy the filmmakers took in torturing Gizmo, and how much they reveled in the Gremlin-Brand Chaos whenever possible. 
If you look at it, Gizmo isn’t even a focus  in as much of the film as the Gremlins are in the second movie, and the sequel benefits from this.

I compare it to a band that has been working so hard to make it big that suddenly gets a song on the radio that breaks out and gives them their moment in the sun. Naturally that song would be the one the band hated the most, like Warrant’s “Cherry Pie”, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” and Pete Townsend’s utter loathing for The Who’s “Pinball Wizard”. 

Gizmo seems to be the “Stairway To Heaven” for those involved with the Gremlins films, and they still take every opportunity to remind how much of a pain-in-the-butt the Mogwai was. 


One response to “Musings on Gizmo, the Mogwai of nightmares?

  1. Kelan Wood January 1, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Interesting article. I would’ve thought the Gizmo torture scenes were ways to get the audience interested and root for their favourite character more, but it’s a clever way to look at it. Led Zeppelin and The Who are two of my favourite bands so I appreciated the references to them. I seriously wish more people would talk about “Communication Breakdown”, “Tangerine”, “No Quarter”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, et cetera. There’s dozens of great Zep songs to be found, though I still love “Stairway to Heaven”.

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