First off, if you haven’t read through this incredible book, be sure to do it right away! It is absolutely essential reading for every Gremlins fan of all ages. Aelia has put together an unrivaled look at the 1984 film with personally-conducted interviews with cast and crew along with photos you won’t find anywhere else.
Check the book out here, completely free & available only online at http://www.gremlininyourhouse.com/
I had the pleasure of interviewing Aelia as she was finishing this book, and while the intent was originally to release the interview when the book launched on June 8th to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Gremlins, I decided to wait until people had some time to enjoy the book and absorb the incredible amount of love that was put into the project before posting the interview.
Check it out after the break!
Gremlins Online (GO): Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Aelia. You have
been a regular contributor for Gremlins Online for quite a few years
now, so many of our readers have seen your name pop up on the site here and
there. Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Aelia Petro (AP): I ADORE Gremlins. But that’s pretty obvious.
Hmm… a bit about me… I’m a big fan of the whole B-movie horror genre, and have seen more movies than any sane person would admit to. If it was made in the 1980’s, I’ll watch it. With VERY few exceptions, all of my most favourite movies are from the 80’s. I graduated a fully qualified high school teacher (history and English) a couple of years ago in an age and geographic area with considerably more applicants than jobs. I’ve begun to forge my own path, starting a business as a Freelance Artist and Jewelry maker. It isn’t easy, but I love it.
GO: You have become something of an ambassador for the Gremlins fan community, and I know I am thrilled to have someone that is as passionate as yourself really digging into the past of the Gremlins series and giving us the definitive look inside the films. What have you learned about when interacting with fellow fans and collectors?
It’s an honour to have you consider me as such, because Gremlins Online has been my go-to site for all things Gremlins-related for well over a decade!
One of the most important things I’ve learned from fellow fans and collectors is that I’m not alone! I’m from a relatively small town, and my friends may be aware of the films, but none of them are collectors.
Finding others who share my obsession has not only helped me make connections that have led to some truly rare and fantastic finds for my collection, but has given me a place to gush over the tidbits of franchise-related news that seep out.
I wasn’t always so involved with the online community, and that was a significant oversight on my part. Connecting with other fans has made it so much easier to stay up-to-date with new merchandise and Gremlins-related events (movie screenings, art shows, etc).
One collector working alone must be constantly searching, ever vigilant, lest they miss a limited edition release or rare opportunity. Within the community however, we all keep our eyes open and share what we find with fellow collectors. It makes it so much easier, and much more pleasant to be a collector!
Also, I’ve learned that one of the biggest things Gremlins has going for it is the collection of incredible people that make up the Gremlins community!
There’s one group that I’m particularly involved with, The Mog Squad: Gremlins and Mogwai Collectors (which originated as the Mogwai Awareness Petition, created primarily as a fan-driven effort to promote and prolong NECA’s mogwai and gremlin lines).
I’ve met some fantastic collectors in the Mog Squad, many of whom have become close friends. If you’re reading this, love the franchise but aren’t active in the community,
I encourage you to jump in with both feet! You’d never know the awesome things you’re missing. We don’t bite. Except those of us that have eaten after midnight.
GO: Most people are at least aware of the 1984 Gremlins film, but people might not understand why there is a book coming out 30 years later. Can you tell us what this project is all about?
AP: This book explores the film making process of the 1984 classic film Gremlins from conception, through script-writing and editing, to casting, production, special effects, and post-production. It includes profiles of the principal cast and as many of the crew as possible, and scene-by-scene breakdowns of the special effects. It’s an attempt to tell the making-of story as completely as possible.
GO: After reading through the completed work, it is obvious that you went further than most professional “behind-the-scenes” books go, the only comparable book with this much previously rare information of films in the 80’s would be “Making Ghostbusters”. What inspired you to take on the responsibility to create this book?
AP: Basically, this project is the book I always wanted to read, that nobody ever wrote. When I discovered making-of books, and that genre became more popular, I constantly hoped that someone would revisit Gremlins and tell us its story. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. When the 25th Anniversary came and went without any significant commemorative fanfare I decided it was time to put something together myself. I already owned a fairly comprehensive library of Gremlins ephemera to use as a foundation (magazines, press kits, even storybooks), and started to gather print material in earnest. At this point, I’ve been working on the book for almost 3 years, but seeing it in its entirety has made that effort worthwhile.
GO: I have to ask the question on everyone’s mind: Why Gremlins? What is it about this movie specifically that drove you to write a book that is over 200-pages long and took nearly 3 years to compile, write, and release?
AP: I was lucky to grow up with a dad who let me watch all the science fiction and horror I wanted from an extremely young age. When you see Hellraiser for the first time at the age of 3, you grow a thick skin that protects against movie monsters. Nothing scared me.
At least until I watched Gremlins.
I’ll never know why it struck such a cord with me, but I was equally enthralled and terrified.
I had a knockoff Mogwai plush doll and I was petrified of breaking the three rules -just in case. I desperately wanted a real mogwai like Gizmo as a pet because
he was so ridiculously cute, but was frightened that his scaly counterpart might exist. I suppose it’s that conflict of thought that led this movie to stick with me above all others after years of heavy media consumption.
As a collector, it’s both appealing and terrifying to build a collection around a film that is as heavily-merchandised as Gremlins has been.
(editor’s note: Gremlins premiered against Ghostbusters on June 8th 1984, and took second place opening weekend, trailing the mega-hit Ghostbusters by only 1.1million dollars, and spawned an unbelievable amount of merchandise for what was considered a “violent” film)
GO: No kidding, There is such a huge amount of merchandise for both Gremlins films out there, ranging from officially licensed to poorly-made knock-offs. Much of it is now worth quite a bit to collectors, what do you attribute to the staying power of Gremlins franchise merchandise over the last 30 years? What really makes collectors search out Gremlins merch this many years later? (Collection Photos courtesy of Aelia Petro,a small sample of the variety of gremlins merchandise released with the movie. )
AP: The staying power of the film fuels the staying power of the merchandise.
It’s one of those movies that just sticks for so many people, for so many reasons. That, combined with the nostalgia factor makes merchandise desirable.
Gizmo may have been a never ending source of struggle and misery for his creators, but they did such a brilliant job that everyone wants him for a pet despite the post-midnight-snack threat. Many collectors were introduced to the franchise at a young age, and some younger collectors (born after the release of the first film, myself included) have never lived in a world without them.
The style of the original merchandise (LJN in particular) harkens back to a simpler age where the only monsters were on the movie screen (and possibly under the bed), not lurking around the corner or in political office (haha).
Additionally, the mogwai and gremlin designs lend themselves naturally to merchandising because they are so visually compelling. Love or hate the rambunctious little gremlins, you’ve got to admit that the design is killer.
GO: In the last couple of years NECA has shown some prototypes of as-of-yet unreleased NECA Gremlins figurines. Putting it lightly, there has been a big uproar within the action figure & Gremlins fan communities regarding NECA putting further Gremlin figure series on hold (which includes the previously shown prototypes) due to lackluster sales. what is your take on the situation as a Gremlins collector?
AP: Honestly, I’m grateful for the recent figures NECA has produced and hopeful that we’ll see more in the future.
As disappointing as it is to see such incredible figures (NECA employs some truly gifted sculptors!) shelved, particularly so close to finishing a core set, I believe we haven’t seen the last of them.
Years passed between the release of Stripe, The Poker Player, Brain, Mohawk and the most recent figures. What’s more, NECA debuted the Spider Mohawk several years ago, and despite fan fears that he’d never see the light of day, last year we finally got him! He’s every bit as beautiful as we hoped, articulated up the wazoo and impressively painted.
Just because we don’t get Greta and the Tattoo Gremlin now, doesn’t mean we won’t ever get them (if you’re reading this NECA… don’t forget about the Gremlins 1 Cocoon, that thing is wicked). That aside, the Gremlins franchise has SO MUCH MERCHANDISE!!! If NECA is putting things on hold, look elsewhere. There is a great deal of weird and wonderful stuff coming out of Japan, and a wealth of vintage merch out there to collect.
GO: Back to your book, what does your book offer the hardcore Gremlins fan that they may not know already?
AP: This book takes information from many scattered sources and weaves it into a comprehensive narrative. Fragments of the film’s history have been available since its release, but never in one place, as one story. This alone makes the work unique, but additionally, I’ve been extremely fortunate to speak to several members of the crew who have provided some never-before-seen photos and truly fascinating insights into the experiences of the crew.
GO: Finally, what did you learn, as someone who is extremely entrenched in Gremlins Lore and fandom through the creation of your book?
AP: I’ve learned more about this film than I ever imagined I could. I thought I was fairly well versed on all things Gremlins, but discovered that what I knew was a tiny drop in the hat. The more people I talked to, the more their parts of the story intertwined, and the more clear the picture became. I obtained a better sense for the atmosphere on set, and the exhausting efforts of the crew. Who puppeteered the female gremlin? Whose idea was the expanding-belly beer-drinking Gremlin? What happened to all the beer from Dorry’s Tavern? What’s the deal with that Toxigen 90 sign in Rand Peltzer’s workshop? What inspired the helmet gremlin puppets? These are just a couple of examples of questions I never thought I’d have answers to… but the answers are all in this book, along with a wealth of other information!
Thank you Aelia for taking the time to reply to all my questions, and I look forward to seeing this book grow, and maybe cross my fingers for a Gremlins 2 book in the same vein!