Joe Dante is a director who likes to “doodle in the margins”, cramming his movies with witty references, in-jokes and easy-to-miss details. Gremlins in no exception. So cue the movie up on your TV and read on for a plethora of handy trivia...
Special thanks to Gremlinologist Aelia Petro — for even more detail, visit www.gremlininyourhouse.com.
Chapter 1, 0:00:04. The classic Warners logo. Before Gremlins, it hadn’t been used since the 1970s, but Dante petitioned the studio to bring it back.
Chapter 1, 0:00:57. The front door of Mr. Wing’s mysterious store has four Mandarin symbols engraved on it. Together, they translate into English as “Gods and monsters.”
Chapter 1, 0:01:11. Meet Mr. Wing, played by veteran Chinese actor Keye Luke. Best known for Charlie Chan films, the TV series Kung Fu and the original Green Hornet serials (he played Kato), he was also an artist who created many of the murals in what is now the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Chapter 1, 0:03:26. As well as Gizmo’s crate, objects glimpsed inside Mr. Wing’s shop include a chessboard whose pieces are demons and gargoyles, skulls, a tarantula and lots and lots of lit candles. We're not sure he’d pass inspection.
Chapter 1, 0:05:00. This moped was later given to Phoebe Cates as a birthday present. She was to crash it on more than one occasion.
Chapter 2, 0:05:23. The Rockn’ Ricky Rialto billboard is a rather obvious homage to producer Steven Spielberg, who was filming Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom during the shoot.
Chapter 2, 0:05:33. The first of two epic Rocco Gioffre matte paintings, showing the snowy charm of Kingston Falls (a riff on Bedford Falls from It’s A Wonderful Life).
Chapter 3, 0:08:11. More Spielberg in-jokes (A Boy’s Life and Watch The Skies were the working titles for E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind). They won’t be the last.
Chapter 3, 0:08:45. Watch out for a very thin wire running from Zach Glligan’s pocket to Mushroom the dog. This lead was required to keep the canine running in the right direction.
Chapter 3, 0:10:10. One of Kingston Falls’ medical practitioners is, apparently, called Doctor Moreau. But where’s his island?
Chapter 4, 0:12:55. A cameo from animation legend Chuck Jones. Gremlins is, in many ways, a live-action Looney Tunes ‘toon.
Chapter 5, 0:14:47. It’s A Wonderful Life plays on the Peltzer family TV. Other movies we’ll see glimpses of include Clark Gable racing drama To Please A Lady, Orpheus, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and, obviously, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
Chapter 5, 0:17:46. If the dog looks like he believes Gizmo is a real animal, that’s because he did. It didn’t stop him accidentally pulling one of the Mogwai's ears off later, though.
Chapter 6, 0:21:13. Another disastrous Peltzer invention. Other ones glimpsed throughout the movie include an “Energizer Artichoke”, an “Electric Hammer” and a “High-Speed Flyswatter”. Use at your peril.
Chapter 7, 0:22:29. Corey Feldman! If you’re wondering why Billy Peltzer is hanging out with a 13 year-old, it’s because Feldman was cast before Billy was aged up.
Chapter 7, 0:24:43. The swelling newborn Mogwai were simple air bladders, blown up like furry balloons by puppeteers under the table.
Chapter 7, 0:26:38. Look up and to the right. That Toxigen 90 sign behind Randall Peltzer was created by crew member Jay Davis to keep nosy people away from the Gremlin puppets. The studio's fire marshall received several complaints from passers-by worried about the (non-existent) chemical.
Chapter 9, 0:37:21. This fridge wasn’t plugged in, so the food here had gone off. Apparently it smelled horrible.
Chapter 9, 0:38:02. The notebook here belonged to producer Mike Finnell, and the frenzied scribblings are about the production.
Chapter 10, 0:41:27. In-joke overload, as Dante crams as many cameos as he can into a single shot. There’s Spielberg driving a high-tech wheelchair (while watching Poltergeist), composer Jerry Goldsmith, Zach Galligan’s stand-in (dressed as Dante), Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet and the Time Machine from George Pal’s H.G. Wells adaption.
Chapter 11, 0:44:36. The educational film playing in the science teacher’s classroom is Hemo The Magnificent (1957), directed by Frank Capra.
Chapter 12, 0:50:28. “Phone home!” snarls a Gremlin, disconnecting Billy’s call to his mum and mocking E.T. into the bargain.
Chapter 13, 0:53:19. A Gremlin goes boom in the microwave, proving that at least one gadget in the Peltzer house works. This scene had to be reshot after the first Gremlin-explosion was deemed too gory.
Chapter 15, 0:59:15. Yes, it’s Mike from Breaking Bad, aka Jonathan Banks. He's much better at dealing with blue meth than green critters.
Chapter 15, 1:00:10. The film’s sole stop-motion shot. Originally Dante considered using the technique to do all the creature effects, before deciding it would be too time-consuming.
Chapter 18, 1:04:54. Look closely at the sign for Mrs. Deagle’s real-estate company, and you’ll notice that it’s only open for business 45 minutes a day.
Chapter 18, 1:05:43. All of the avaricious Mrs. Deagle’s cats are named after currencies of money. Here’s Drachma, having a snack.
Chapter 18: 1:05:47. Cinephiles will recognise the deceased Mr. Deagle, as seen in this photograph. He’s Edward Arnold, the Golden Hollywood actor who played corrupt tycoons in several Frank Capra films.
Chapter 20, 1:10:18. Welcome to Dorry’s Tavern, where Gremlins go to let their hair down. While recording vocals for this sequence, the Gremlin voice-actors (including Peter 'Optimus Prime' Cullen and Frank 'Megatron' Welker) got into character by drinking Budweiser.
Chapter 20, 1:12:38. Flashdance Gremlin! Funnily enough, the tune playing here — Gremlins (Mega Madness) — was performed by the same man who brought us Flashdance’s Maniac, Michael Sembello.
Chapter 20, 1:14:11. The Gremlin shooting at Kate instead hits a photo of a World War II era B17 — a nod to the fact the term “gremlin” began as RAF slang.
Chapter 22, 1:19:25. The biggest group of Gremlins seen in the movie. When not on set, the puppets were kept in an 18-wheeler trailer nicknamed “Das Box”, after German U-boat thriller Das Boot.
Chapter 22, 1:19:43. More Easter Eggs: look out for a Gremlin wearing Mickey Mouse ears, one wearing the sheriff’s hat, one with a doctor’s mask and another with a fireman’s helmet. Kingston Falls’ emergency services are not in good hands.
Chapter 22, 1:20:45. It’s a scene set in a cinema, so naturally the Coming Attractions board advertises a Dante joint, The Howling.
Chapter 23, 1:25:51. That hypnotism record to Billy’s right has been recorded by a “Dr. Dante”.
Chapter 23, 1:26:50. Some cuddly cameos in the form of Sylvester, E.T. and Bugs Bunny toys. Gremlins designer Chris Walas wanted Stripe to rip E.T. apart, but wasn’t allowed.
Chapter 23, 1:27:13. Another iconic, if less cute, cameo in the store’s gardening department: a Triffid from The Day Of The Triffids.
*Chapter 25, 1:33:15. *The fountain was filled with liquid nitrogen and Stripe’s grisly demise orchestrated by a puppeteer hidden inside, wearing special protective gear.
Chapter 26, 1:38:32. A final matte painting to finish the movie. At one point, due to a glitch in the rendering of the shot, Mr. Wing vanished — and the filmmakers considered leaving it in for the mystical effect.