Joe Dante wanted to use monkeys instead of puppets for Gremlins

The idea of using monkeys during the making of Gremlins seemed like a reasonable idea until one crapped all over the room.

Last Updated on June 13, 2024


We all know the rules for having a mogwai: no sunlight, no water and don’t feed it after midnight (whenever that is…). But there’s actually one more that thankfully the team behind Gremlins discovered early on: no monkeys! The puppetry in Gremlins remains some of the most iconic of its time, but at one point director Joe Dante thought it would be a good idea to have simians play the titular creatures.

In a new oral history of Gremlins marking the 40th anniversary of the beloved horror-comedy, some of the key members behind the scenes remembered just how different the gremlins themselves could have turned out. As creature supervisor Chris Walas remembered, “It wasn’t just designing the characters, it was figuring out how we were going to do them all.” Dante, for his part, wanted to do everything in stop-motion, which would have been an incredibly daunting task for the team. And so: monkeys.

A trainer specifically meant for the rhesus monkeys was brought in, much to the dismay of Walas, who said, “No way am I going to be able to put a Gremlin’s costume on this thing.” Not only did Walas recognize just how insane the idea was, but one monkey was even causing a crappy situation for the team. As Dante put it, “We got a rhesus monkey and put a Gremlin’s head on him, and he bounced around the editing room and sh*t all over everything. And it became quite apparent that this was not the way we were going to do it.” From there, it was pretty clear that puppets would be the way to go. After all, a monkey running around with a gremlin head is just about as terrifying as finding Santa dead in your chimney.

After an initial run that nabbed it nearly $150 million and a spot as the third highest-grossing movie of 1984, a sequel was inevitable. But it was a bit too late once The New Batch was released six years later, unable to capitalize on the success of the original. Even still, the property is hot nowadays, with some chatter of a third installment amid the success of the animated series, which has a second season slated for the fall.

Do you prefer Gremlins or The New Batch? What are your memories watching the movies as a youth?

Source: The Ringer

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.