We still don’t have a set release date for HBO Max’s upcoming animated series Gremlins: Secrets Of The Mogwai, the first new installment in the beloved horror-comedy franchise since 1990's Gremlins 2: The New Batch. But we do have some new details about its decidedly kid-friendly-sounding first episode, which debuted this week at the Annecy Animation Festival, with series showrunners Tze Chun and Brendan Hay, and original director Joe Dante, on hand to premiere the series.
Which, yeah: Sounds pretty kid focused, as it recounts beloved series hero Gizmo getting grabbed from his magical homeworld by an eagle and taken to 1920s China, where he encounters Sam, the 10-year-old version of mysterious curiosity shop proprietor Mr. Wing from the films. There’s an evil industrialist who wants to capture the Mogwai, a kid thief who teams up with Sam and Gizmo, Ming-Na Wen and James Hong voice performance… It all sounds exceptionally wholesome for the franchise that once gave us Phoebe Cates’ Christmas monologue and the brutally slapstick death of Mrs. Deagle, but so it goes.
As to why the show is operating as a prequel, Dante had an answer: “What I responded to most was the idea of doing a prequel,” Dante told the crowd at the festival, “Especially after I had kind of made the sequel to Gremlins sequel-proof.” Which does seem to be a fair descriptor for a movie that both riffed on the conventions of sequels and transformed the already wacky Gremlins into something just a step short of a living cartoon. (And now we suddenly have a strong hankering to go back and watch Gremlins 2.)
Talking about the show, Chun noted that the scariest part of the whole process was pitching the series to Steven Spielberg, who produced both films through Amblin Entertainment. Spielberg’s first question about the animated project: “Is Joe happy?”
For Dante’s part, he also re-told the story of what might be Spielberg’s single greatest contribution to the whole Gremlins mythos: “In the original script of Gremlins, the Gizmo character turned into a bad Gremlin after about half an hour. But Steven Spielberg decided in his wisdom that Gizmo should stick around and be the hero’s pal. If we had made the movie the other way, nobody would remember it. The addition of Gizmo made the difference.”