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Gremlins' Zach Galligan sounds off on new animated series & threequel ideas ahead of Gremlins 2 watch party
For three decades, Zach Galligan has avoided a mogwai-related incident, but the Billy Peltzer actor is hopping back into the Gremlins ring for SYFY WIRE's 30th-anniversary watch party of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Taking place this coming Monday (June 29), the Twitter event will feature behind-the-scenes insights and anecdotes from both Galligan and Lady Gremlin lothario Robert Picardo (Forster).
"It's interesting because I really haven't seen the movie in close to 10 years," Galligan exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. "I have my copy of it, I'm ready to take a look at it again. I don't want to do it until we get really close to the event, so that all of the thoughts and memories that will invariably come flooding through my cerebral cortex ... it will be exciting to revisit."
Released in June 1990, the sequel to 1984's Gremlins finds Billy living and working in New York City. After Mr. Wing (Keye Luke) passes away and his antiques shop is demolished, Gizmo (Howie Mandel) is scooped up by a genetics lab. He finally reunites with Billy, but history repeats itself and Manhattan runs the risk of being overrun by scaly mechanical meddlers. Thanks to all of the bubbling concoctions in the genetics lab, director Joe Dante got to run wild with Gremlin designs, relying on the innovative work of practical special effects legend Rick Baker.
The titular creatures could now morph into bat, spider, electrical, and eloquent hybrids (the most famous being the "Brain Gremlin" voiced by Tony Randall), but that was just one way in which Dante upped the controlled insanity. Gremlins 2 was also incredibly self-aware and featured meta cameos from the likes of Leonard Maltin and Hulk Hogan.
"I have been immensely gratified by the outpouring of people [and their] love for Gremlins 2," Galligan says. "You have to realize that when it came out, it was almost universally reviled by a lot of the audience ... People didn't understand it; it was ahead of its time; it broke the fourth wall; it did all sorts of things that people weren't ready for. And so now, 30 years later, people really have gone from not getting it, to 'I get it and I love it.'"
The film — which also co-starred Phoebe Cates, Christopher Lee, John Glover, Haviland Morris, Robert Prosky, Gedde Watanabe, Dick Miller, and Jackie Joseph — divided critics and was a financial disappointment, bringing in just over $41 million against a $50 million budget. With fourth-wall-breaking humor now more commonplace in popular culture (thank you, Deadpool), The New Batch is finally getting the appreciation it rightly deserves.
"It's been a seismic shift in terms of the perception of the movie. It's always nice when you go from something that's perceived as a failure to be perceived as real success as a movie," Galligan continues. "I'm excited to revisit it, I'm excited to enjoy the success it didn't get to enjoy the first time."
The screenplay, by Charlie Haas, even poked fun at the three vague rules surrounding mogwai: Don't get them wet, don't expose them to bright light, and don't feed them after midnight. When Billy tries to explain this to other people, they simply laugh him off and nitpick each one — a fun little nod to how audiences started to question those prohibitions in the six years since the original movie was released.
"Charlie put in there at the request of Joe," Galligan reveals. "For half a decade, we're hearing these sarcastic, smartass-y, kind of know-it-all-y questions. We're like, 'Dude, it's a movie. We know that after midnight, it's always after midnight. We understand that.' But you're not gonna have a rule, 'Don't feed them between 1:03 and 6:41.' It's too complicated and technical and precise. 'Don't feed them after midnight' is perfect storytelling because it makes just enough sense so that you get it, but it's vague enough so that you can't pin it down. And, of course, the key thing is it's memorable."
Given that The New Batch was a critical and financial letdown, one could say that Warner Bros. just didn't have enough confidence in green-lighting a third entry in the Steven Spielberg-produced series. All these years later, however, the studio is returning to the Gremlins mythos with Secrets of the Mogwai, an animated series (coming to HBO Max) that will explore Mr. Wing's early adventures in China with Gizmo at his side.
"It seems like what they're going to do is re-educate us on the mythology surrounding Gremlins and Gizmo and Mogwai and, of course, most importantly, the three nebulous rules," Galligan says. "You have to figure that they're using the animated series as a stepping stone to the larger endgame, which is a live-action Gremlins movie. That would be my assumption, and it's really not that much of a stretch to think that that's what they're doing."
While the actor isn't involved with the show in any capacity, he has heard good things from Dante, who is on board as a sort of creative consultant.
"[He said] that the people involved in it are very smart and very respectful of the franchise and doing a very good job with a lot of interesting ideas," Galligan adds. "Of course, that's pretty vague, but it was overwhelmingly positive, and I know Joe well enough for close to 40 years to know that if he was grumpy about and was unhappy with the way things were going, he'd probably wouldn't have told me."
As for Gremlins 3, Galligan's got some really great ideas in terms of what he'd like to see.
"I would like to see some kind of reunification with Billy and Gizmo. The relationship between them is kind of the heart and soul of both movies," he says. "I would also like to see some expansion of some pivotal ideas in the series ... I think we should see some misapplications of the rules; I'd like to see what happens as various liquids hit mogwais, if it causes strange things to happen or mutations."
However, the real billion-dollar idea is one that Galligan's been suggesting for decades.
"We see the Gremlins go from the equivalent of caterpillars to butterflies; going from the mogwais to the gremlins. That's one transformation," he continues. "Is that the only one? There are all sorts of creatures that go through multiple metamorphoses. The question is: Is there a stage after Gremlins? What would it be? What would it look like? What would it encompass? Are there female mogwai? Is Gizmo gonna end up with a little mate? Wouldn't that be a cute ending, the two of them in the cage purring with each other? There's all sorts of ways you can go with it."
According to Galligan, there's just one cardinal rule the next movie (if one is made) should not violate.
"The only key mistake that they could make, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't make this, is the notion that my character would break the rules for a third time," he says. "My guess is that Gizmo would either have to be taken away from me and someone else would have to break the three rules, because they were unaware of them, and I would be the one going, 'No, no, you must follow them!' Or, another Mogwai is found and people know nothing about it, so therefore, they break all the rules and then I have to fix it. Who you gonna call? Gremlin-busters."
Hosted by Jackie Jennings, The Gremlins 2 watch party kicks off on Monday, June 29, at 8 p.m. EST. It will be preceded by an exclusive Q&A with Picardo on SYFY WIRE's Instagram page at 7 p.m. EST. You can queue up The New Batch on FandangoNOW for $3.99 (rent) or $5.00 (buy). Whet your post-midnight appetite by watching this separate interview Jackie did Galligan and Picardo.