The Mandalorian : ‘Gremlins’ director says ‘Baby Yoda is completely stolen’ from classic film

‘Gremlins’ director says ‘Baby Yoda is completely stolen’ from classic film

Joe Dante isn’t thinking of suing Disney and Lucasfilm. But he believes Gizmo, the fuzzy little star of his two “Gremlins” movies, has been, let’s say, an uncredited inspiration.

“I think the longevity of (the films) is really key to this one character (Gizmo), who is essentially like a baby,” the legendary horror and science fiction filmmaker said with a wry smile, during a video chat ahead of his appearance in San Francisco. “Which brings me, of course, to the subject of Baby Yoda, who is completely stolen and is just out-and-out copied. Shamelessly, I would think.”

Gizmo is the main Mogwai character in Dante’s classic 1984 horror comedy “Gremlins” and its 1990 sequel, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch.” Baby Yoda is a character introduced in the first season of “The Mandalorian.”

But Dante is not one to hold a grudge. The “Gremlins” films — in which the cuddly Gizmo spawns nasty little creatures after coming in contact with water or if he is fed after midnight — have become a cultural phenomenon of their own. HBO Max will introduce an animated series this fall, “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai,” featuring the voices of Ming-Na Wen (“The Book of Boba Fett”), BD Wong (“Jurassic World Dominion”) and James Hong (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”).

Dante, who is a consultant on the series, attended the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France last month for the world premiere of the first episode.

Now he’s looking forward to coming to San Francisco on Saturday, July 16, to present both “Gremlins” movies at the Castro Theatre. Fans will be in for a special treat: Both films will be screened in 35mm, with Q&As after each, and the version of “Gremlins” will be the rarely seen preview edition, which is essentially a director’s cut not available on home video.

“Whenever I host a screening of either of these pictures, I always ask when I introduce it, ‘Raise your hand — how many people haven’t seen these movies?’ There’s always about a third of the audience, usually young, who haven’t seen the movies,” said Dante, age 75. “They’re somewhat different than the run-of-the-mill movie. They’re offbeat in a way that I think is one of the reasons that they’re still popular.

“The people in my generation who loved movies love them because they saw them with an audience. I’ve seen these pictures over the years many times all over the world, and they always play well in a crowded theater.”

Dante’s appearance marks the return of a popular Bay Area series curated by Academy of Art film history coordinator Jesse Hawthorne Ficks. Since a screening of “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” in 2000, Hawthorne Ficks’ Midnites for Maniacs — now rechristened Movies for Maniacs — has screened mostly genre films he considers “dismissed, underrated and forgotten” and brought in many special guests.

Because of the pandemic, he has not curated a program since February 2020. Wanting to make a big splash upon the series’ return, he enlisted the help of one of his all-time favorite directors, and Dante was only too happy to oblige.

“I had epiphanies when I would come out of your movies that you were teaching me how to question society in a way that was subversive to me,” Hawthorne Ficks, who was on the video chat with Dante, told the filmmaker. “They were truly ahead of their time and now connect with perhaps the way a lot of young people look at politics. You consistently have done this throughout your life, at least in your movies. They’re profound popcorn — tapping into the fears of all us as kids and trying to help us out in how to deal with them.”

Hawthorne Ficks likens “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” to films like “Vertigo” — which Movies for Maniacs plans to screen Sept. 3 at the Castro — and “Citizen Kane” for being entirely the vision of its filmmaker. Unlike the first “Gremlins,” a Reagan-era romp executive produced by Steven Spielberg — whom Dante credits for insisting that Gizmo always remain a good Gremlin — “Gremlins 2” is a delirious, pull-out-all-the-stops send-up of horror films, corporate greed, consumer culture and other ripe targets that seem eerily prescient today.

Among an impressive filmography — “Piranha” (1978; produced by Roger Corman and written by John Sayles), “The Howling” (1981), an episode of “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983), “Explorers” (1985), “Innerspace” (1987), “The ’Burbs” (1989), “Matinee” (1993) and “Small Soldiers” (1998) — “Gremlins 2” is Dante’s underappreciated masterwork.

“I think a lot of it goes back to Mad Magazine, which was the organ with which we discovered that we couldn’t trust adults,” said Dante, who grew up going to Saturday matinees in the 1950s. “And when you add that to the science fiction movies of the ’50s, which also told you you couldn’t trust science and you couldn’t trust the government, it sort of inculcated into this worldview that’s essentially absurdist but is actually at heart very serious.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Re: ‘Gremlins’ director says ‘Baby Yoda is completely stolen’ from classic film

Grogu - November 2019

Gizmo - June 1984

Yoda - May 1980

Who stole from who, now?

My password is password

Re: ‘Gremlins’ director says ‘Baby Yoda is completely stolen’ from classic film


Re: ‘Gremlins’ director says ‘Baby Yoda is completely stolen’ from classic film

There is nothing "wow" about it. Nearly everything in this millennial era is a copycat of what has gone before, including the Star Wars franchise, in and of itself.

Norman! What did you put in my tea?