Why Gremlins Didn't Use Monkeys To Create The Special Effects

It takes a lot of work to get films right. This means that a lot of changes occur throughout the history of the film. Sometimes this happens in the writing stage, or during pre-production, or while shooting, even when editing. However there are some ideas that you would think a creative team would immediately recognize as bad. The latest addition to this list comes from Gremlins, after Joe Dante admitted that they tried to use a monkey to play one of the titular beasts. However there was just one problem; the monkey did what was completely natural to him and simply wreaked havoc across the editing suite.

Joe Dante made this revelation to Yahoo, admitting that alongside producer Michael Finnell and executive producer Steven Spielberg, the trio struggled to figure out how to create these characters in a pre-CGI era. During this process the flirtation of using animals as the Mogwais came around, and Dante revealed what happened when they tried to work with the monkey...

We got a Rhesus monkey and got a Gremlin head on him. And he ran all over the editing room and shat all over everything, and we realized that that wasn’t going to work.

Monkey excrement is probably enough to put any director off ever working with the creatures again. And we should all thank the heavens that the dressed-up monkey pooped all over their editing suite. Because this led to some of the most majestic/terrifying special effects in the history of movies.

However, despite the above excellence, I can’t help but be a tad disappointed that Dante and Gremlins’ creative team didn’t pursue the monkeys in a suit idea. Especially since, in my head at least, this is how they would have turned out:

In the end, Chris Walas’ perfectly designed Gremlins ended up making the film delightfully unique. And even though they pushed the boundaries of special effects for 1984, there were numerous limitations to the designs and they eventually ended up being hugely frustrating for the filmmakers. This was because they were so small, fiddly and repeatedly broke down. In fact, the puppet for Gizmo proved to be so infuriating that the crew apparently even created a list entitled, "Horrible Things to do to Gizmo."

Gremlins proved to be a huge hit for Joe Dante, as it grossed $153 million after being made for just $11 million. But led to the disappointing sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch that only returned $41.5 million from its $50 million budget. Both of these films still scared the bejesus out of a generation of kids though. I’m not sure if that would have been the case if they were monkeys.

Gregory Wakeman