Gremlins: Secret of the Mogwai Gives Gizmo an Origin and New Monsters to Face

Thứ sáu - 17/05/2024 21:34
The creators and stars of the new Gremlins animated series on going back to the 1920s and adding Chinese folklore to Gizmo's history.
Table Of Contents

It’s taken 33 years, but the Gremlins franchise has finally returned with the new animated series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, which debuts May 23 on Max, as the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max gets its new identity.

Secrets of the Mogwai is a prequel to the two Gremlins films, beginning decades before the 1984 original and its 1990 sequel with a story beginning in 1920s Shanghai, showing how a kid named Sam Wing (voiced by Izaac Wang) first came to know the Mogwai known as Gizmo (voiced by A. J. Locascio) and learn the consequences of disobeying the three rules that lead cute and cuddly creatures to transform into maniacal monsters. And as longtime Gremlins fans are aware, Sam will eventually be adamant about those rules, keeping watch over Gizmo into his old age, with the late Keye Luke portraying Mr. Wing in both Gremlins films.

Tze Chun (Gotham) is the showrunner and an Executive Producer alongside Executive Producer Brendan Hay (Harvey Girls Forever), while Steven Spielberg is once more an Executive Producer and Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch director Joe Dante serves as Consulting Producer, with the group setting about to revitalize the franchise for a new generation, while also keeping in mind the many fans who’ve long adored it.

As Chun told Fandom, Warner Bros. and Amblin initially had the basic idea for an animated Gremlins prequel and Chun recalled how he and Hay came up with “A big, fun action adventure story set in 1920s China. The old Mr. Wing from the original movies, he’s only 10 years old in our show. It was really an origin story of his friendship with Gizmo and all the adventures that they go on before they came to the US.”


Tze Chun noted they wanted the show to be a co-viewing series – as in appealing to all ages – but at the same time, stay true to what the Gremlins films had established, as far as a pretty notable combination of comedy and horror elements.

Joe Dante wasn’t originally involved but told Fandom when he heard about the project, “I was intrigued enough by it to call Warner Brothers and say, ‘Listen, if there’s anything I can do to help you guys with this, feel free to call on me.’ Sam Register was the guy I talked to and he was very accommodating and brought me in to meet the creative team. I spent some time talking about the concept and looking at some drawings and going over some story things. And before I knew it, I was sort of part of the team. I’m just very proud to be associated with it at all. But I was particularly gratified to see how it manages to build on the material from the first two pictures, and how it manages to juggle the light and dark in the same way.”

Having seen the entire first season of Secrets of Mogwai, I can attest that it does indeed include some notably dark and macabre moments that work within the fun, funny and creative framework of the show’s world. Gremlins, after all, are going to cause mayhem and that is certainly the case here, including some body parts being removed along the way.

Brendan Hay noted that they didn’t receive any notable pushback on the studio level as far as incorporating those darker moments, recalling that early on they’d write scenes they thought they’d be asked to dial back, and instead, “Every single time, both at Warner Brothers Animation and Amblin, they’re like, ‘No, go for that. In fact, feel free to go further.'”

He added, “I think it goes back to something Tze landed early on. The Amblin movies may be geared for families, but while the laughs obviously genuinely make you laugh, the scares are also genuinely scary in these movies. And also the emotion is really heartfelt. Whatever you’re going for, you go all the way in those films. So that’s obviously something that we just felt we had to do as well.”

Said Chun, of the Secret of the Mogwai writers, “We all grew up watching Amblin movies, and they were obviously huge inspirations for us and huge inspirations for the series. And one of the things we talked about a lot early on was movies like Goonies or Gremlins, they have younger characters, but they’re still living in a world with life or death stakes. The world is an adult world where there is true danger, where you really have your life at stake.”

Chun added that they wanted to find the balance where, “There’s really intense stuff going on, but you’re still experiencing it through the eyes of a child. [The show] still being funny even while it’s being scary allowed us to go a little bit darker in places because we knew that we could also turn the dial and make it funny at the same time. You can always undercut a gag with a scare and vice versa.”

Izaac Wang (Raya and the Last Dragon, Good Boys) mentioned that he was surprised by some of the moments in the scripts he was recording and that when it came to the finished project, “Once I was actually watching through it, I was like, “Oh, wow, that is pretty scary once they animated it.’ It’s a really good mix of how they mix comedy and horror together.”


Sam, Gizmo and a girl they meet named Elle (Gabrielle Nevaeh Green) are at the center of the series, along with their decidedly wicked foe, Riley Greene (The Americans‘ Matthew Rhys), but Sam’s family plays an important role too, including his parents, Fong (Ming-Na Wen) and Hon (BD Wong) and his Grandpa (James Hong).

Wen and Wong are no strangers to playing an animated couple, of course, with Wen voicing Fa Mulan and Wong voicing Li Shang in 1998’s Mulan – a film which also featured the legendary Hong in its cast as Chi-Fu – and Wen and Wong have worked together on other occasions.

Said Wong, “Ming-Na can tell you, we’ve just done this a bunch of times actually – been connected to each other. Ming-Na’s a real touchstone for me. We kind of always come back to each other. We’re just often put together and in different contexts.”

Even in a case like Secrets of the Mogwai, where they didn’t record together, Wen remarked, “I think I can hear BD, because I have worked with him for 25 years now and we’ve worked on other projects besides this one. So there’s this innate chemistry that happens. And it’s just always a joy. I always get so excited.”

Their onscreen son, Wang, noted he didn’t actually know the role he was auditioning for was the Mr. Wing character from the Gremlins films initially, recalling, “It was later in the callbacks where I finally realized, ‘Oh, I’m playing the old guy!’” Though he kept that in mind, he explained that when it came to his performance, “In my mind, I was just like ‘I should just act as who he is now and not act as who he’s going to become. I’m just gonna follow the storyline.’ I think that was one of the main factors that helped me play the character.’

Wen, known in live-action for action packed roles in projects like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Book of Boba Fett, said she went into Secrets of the Mogwai, “a Gremlins fan and a massive Steven Spielberg fan. And the fact that Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg are still behind this project helps to make that connection to the feel of the original films.” She added that also greatly appreciated, “taking the story of a very mysterious Chinese character, Mr. Wing, which was so eloquently and beautifully played by Keye, and then be able to bring him back and tell his real backstory and how we raised him.”

As Wen referenced, we don’t learn any details about Mr. Wing’s history in the Gremlins films, where he’s really there just to provide the set up to the story. Wong, known for project like the Jurassic Park films and Mr. Robot, said he also appreciated that Secrets of the Mogwai was now expanding on Sam and his people and culture, noting, “You can go any number of different ways and decide to stress anything that is in the origin of any character. And so for us, it is great to have Asian American talent kind of driving the boat and kind of inspiring that representation that we’re all craving so much.”

Wong added, “We didn’t have origin stories when I was a kid. We’re now in the stage where we’re kind of going back behind things and explaining how things got there. And this is a really wonderful creative way to foster representation, by taking this character and exploring their whole story, their whole family, their whole background, their whole country. I love it. It’s a sign, to me, of what I consider progress.”


An interesting aspect of Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai is that it doesn’t limit itself to only Mogwai and Gremlins when it comes to supernatural and creature-based elements, with Sam, Elle, and Gizmo encountering several other potentially dangerous and powerful beings along the way – many of which are based off of real life Chinese folklore and myths.

Said Chun, “A lot of the Chinese mythology and spirits and creatures and monsters were definitely ones that I had grown up hearing about or watching in, like, 80s Hong Kong vampire movies or an old TV show called Journey to the West that also kind of follows the same structure where every episode is in a different location. There’s monsters and creatures and everybody’s after our good guys. And beyond that, we also did a lot of research and looked at different creatures and monsters and what would be fun. For me, it’s such a joy to be able to bring Chinese culture to American audiences, and also to do something where you might not necessarily know what these creatures and monsters are, how they tick, what their rules are, what their personalities are.”

Said Wen, of this part of the show, “[Tze Chun] took painstaking research with historians and people who are knowledgeable about these folklores and these monsters and mythology of Chinese characters and  things that I grew up with to incorporate their stories and culture into Secrets of the Mogwai. I’m so excited for everyone to learn more about that too.”

She added, with a grin, that watching the series, “I actually jumped a few times, I was a bit nervous even watching some of the scenes in this animation, which is so great. It’s like a really fun amusement park ride for me. And I hope that that’s true for the kids in the family that are going to be watching it.”


The Gremlins films never gave any specific origin for Gizmo, the Mogwai, and the Gremlins, but suffice to say, by the end of Season 1 of the series – which has already been renewed for Season 2 – we do learn exactly where these creatures came from.

Prior to this, the only explanation given, albeit a decidedly non-canon one, was in George Gipe’s 1984 Gremlins novelization, which said Mogwai were created centuries ago on another planet by an alien named Mogturmen “who set out to produce a creature that was adaptable to any climate and condition.” While I won’t give away anything about the show’s definitive answer on where the Mogwai come from, I can say Mogturmen is not involved, though Dante praises Gipe’s creativity, noting he wrote the novelization off of an early script, having not seen the film itself.

While actually making the movies, Dante admits he wasn’t too concerned about where the Mogwai and Gremlins came from, explaining, with a chuckle, “I spent all my time trying to make sure that the puppets didn’t break down. That was the major concern all the time!” Though Hay replied, “Do you remember, Joe, early on you told us your kind of throw away origin was ‘What if a dragon mated with a panda?’”

There was a fairly uniform body type to the Gremlins in the films, though there were specific distinctions as seen on characters like Stripe. The second film then both overhauled the creatures’ basic look in some subtle ways and had more distinct Gremlins characters like Mohawk, Daffy, George, and Lenny, while also implementing a scientific lab into the story that allowed for many of the Gremlins to dramatically change how they looked.

Notably, Secrets of the Mogwai has a core group of Gremlins who look rather different from one another from the get go, with some physically larger than others, among other variations. Explained Chun, “We wanted to have something that was visual that we could differentiate our ‘hero’ bad guy Gremlins from the rest of them. One of the really fun things about the early designs and working with our Supervising Producer, Dan Krall , with some of the sketches was just really accentuating the weirdness of their bodies and how they came up [as Mogwai]. And then what do they look like when they turn evil? And how do you take little details so you can tell it’s the same Mogwai even though you see them in a good state or in a bad state?”

He added, “One of the most fun things during the research process was going to the Warner Brothers archives, which is where they have tons of prop cars, like every Batmobile, but they also have a lot of the puppets from the original movies. And we brought our crew and they took photos. Just looking at the care the filmmakers took in making these Gremlins come to life was really a fun, once in a lifetime experience.”

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai debuts with two episodes on Max’s kick off day, Tuesday, May 23, and then will debut two more episodes each week on Thursdays, beginning June 1.

Total notes of this article: 0 in 0 rating

Click on stars to rate this article