In Early Screen Tests For Gremlins, Monkeys Were Dressed In Gremlin Costumes (And More Fun Trivia)

Gremlins carol singers 1984

Warner Bros / Amblin Entertainment

Released in 1984, Gremlins is a classic supernatural comedy. Produced by Steven Spielberg, it follows the misfortunes of Billy Peltzer, who is gifted a cute ‘Mogwai’ creature named Gizmo. But the creature comes with three rules: don’t get it wet, don’t feed it after midnight, and don’t expose it to sunlight. When these rules inevitably get broken, the whole town descends into chaos as mischievous Gremlins cause havoc.

Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the film… 

1) The set for Kingston Falls is the same as Back to the Future’s Hill Valley 

If Kingston Falls – the town in Gremlins – looks familiar to the Back to the Future fans amongst you, well, there’s a reason for that. It’s the exact same set. The two films were filmed back to back in the exact same lot at Universal Pictures. The theatre that explodes at the end oif the movie is the very same one Marty McFly crashes into. 

2) Mogwai means ‘devil’ in Cantonese 

Cute Furby-like creatures, Mogwais certainly look like cuddly pets upon first appearance. However, if you knew your Cantonese, you’d be a little more cautious of these furry critters. Translating to ‘devil’, or ‘gremlin’, the name gives you some warning as to what you can expect if you were to feed the creature after midnight! 

3) Monkeys were going to be used to play the Gremlins 

Before the crew decided to pay out a huge chunk of the film’s budget on expensive animatronics, they had a much simpler idea for bringing the Gremlins to life. They would simply get trained monkeys to portray the creatures, after fitting the primates with little Gremlin masks. However, a test run for this idea went badly. They put the mask on a monkey and it totally freaked out, so they quickly realised this wasn’t going to be a viable option. 

4) A cockroach made Phoebe Cates scream for real 

With so many murderous monsters on the loose, it’s no surprise that leading lady Phoebe Cates screams a lot throughout the movie. But during the scene at Dorry’s Tavern, one of the screams is totally genuine! The actress was startled by an enormous cockroach that scurried out, and she let out a screech which made it into the final cut of the film. 

Billy fights Stripe in Gremlins
Warner Bros / Amblin Entertainment

5) The animatronic Gremlins were very expensive 

Made without any CGI, the film relied on animatronics to bring the ghoulish Gremlin creatures to life. Each puppet cost somewhere between thirty and forty thousand dollars. They were so expensive, in fact, that security had to check the cast and crew weren’t trying to steal them at the end of each day. The security team would check the boots of cars for the animatronics before letting anyone leave the lot. 

6) The first PG-13 rating 

Two 1984 films were responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating; Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Both movies were considered to be too dark and too violent for a PG rating. However, neither warranted an R rating. This prompted the MPAA to create a certification somewhere in the middle – and thus, the PG-13 rating was born. 

7) In the original draft, Gizmo became Stripe the Gremlin

When the first draft of the script was written, there was no Stripe the Mogwai. Instead, the villainous Gremlin Stripe would evolve from Gizmo himself. The cute star of the film would become it’s ugly and evil villain! However, after laying eyes on the puppet of Gizmo, and realising how cute it was, Spielberg decided against it, because he knew the audience would want to see Gizmo as a Mogwai the whole way through the movie. 

8) Kate’s speech about her father dressing up as Santa was almost cut

In the film, Kate recounts the story of how her dad had died one Christmas years before. He dressed up as Santa, and tried to climb down the chimney to surprise her and her mum, but slipped, broke his neck, and his body was stuck up there for days. They only realised he was up there when they lit a fire and noticed the smell. Spielberg and other bigwigs at the studio wanted to cut it for being too dark, but the director fought to keep it in and, as he considered it the director’s project, Spielberg allowed him to keep it in. 

9) Police Academy’s Michael Winslow voiced most of the Gremlins 

Renowned voice artist Michael Winslow voices some of the cute Mogwais, as well as most of the ghoulish Gremlins! Michael is probably best known for his fantastic role as vocal prankster Jones in the Police Academy series; the first installment of which hit cinemas the same year as Gremlins – 1984. 

10) Ghostbusters vs Gremlins 

Gremlins was released on the very same day as another popular supernatural comedy of the 80s: Ghostbusters! Ghostbusters generally performed better at the Box Office in most cities across America. However, in New York City, Gremlins out-performed the Ivan Reitman classic. Why? Well, it’s allegedly because the filming of Ghostbusters caused bad traffic across New York for months, and the residents were frankly sick of hearing about the film! So, when it came to what to see at the cinema, they opted for Gremlins. 

There you have it – 10 things you didn’t know about Gremlins!

Gremlins trailer

Check out our 1980s section for more classics from the golden decade.