Gremlins Week: The Evolution Of Gizmo

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In the original script he was the size of a hamster. At one point he was four foot tall. Steven Spielberg wanted him to look like his dog Chauncey. Few movie characters have gone through so many design changes as Gizmo, the bat-eared, monkey-pawed hero of Gremlins. Here, designers Chris Walas and Rick Baker talk us through the Mogwai's various mutations.

Gizmo early designs by Chris Walas
Photo: Austin Hargrave

Chris Walas: “After reading the script, my first idea was to take the tarsier, a little primate, and give it cartoony proportions. I wanted the big eyes to make it cute. So this was the first design (above right). I showed it to Mike [Finnell] and Joe [Dante] and they asked for some tweaks, so I made the next one (above left). This is more like a puppy. Big, floppy ears. It’s not based on any one dog in particular — just a Cocker Spaniel or something. Fortunately they did not go with it. These were the only two Mogwai I sculpted before the final one.”


Gizmo, Gremlins

Walas: “The final Gizmo from the first film. I’ll be honest: the project was a nightmare. They just kept making changes, so when we had all the puppets we thought we were going to need to make of the Mogwai, Joe called up and said, ‘Steven [Spielberg] is wondering if you can match the colour of his dog…’ So we had to look at photos and match the fur of his beagle. We were tearing our hair out the whole time on the show.”


Gizmo, Gremlins

Rick Baker: “The very first thing I did on Gremlins 2, before I even started, was a painting of what we could do to Gizmo to change him just a little bit. I know when Chris saw it he said, ‘That’s not Gizmo!’ But I wanted to tweak him and bring out his personality a little more.”


*Keep 'em peeled during Joe Dante