Participants at Annecy Festival were the first to see the first episode of HBO Maxis back in the world of Gremlins through the animated series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, which debuts later this year. Sam Register, chairman of Warner Bros. Animation, introduced the pilot with a trivia about the show’s origins. By meeting with Steven Spielberg to launch a Animaniacs revival to Hulu, he shared his idea for an animated prequel to Gremlins And the rest is history.
Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai is set in the 1920s and provides a backstory for Mogwai and the terrifying creatures they can become if you don’t follow the rules. In addition to Gizmo, the series follows 10-year-old Sam Wing (the shopkeeper who sells Gizmo to Billy’s uncle in the 1984 film) and his adventurous grandfather as they try to save Gizmo from getting between wrong hands and take him back to where the Mogwai came from. The show is computer-animated but strives for a painterly look with cel-shaded brushstrokes on each character and hand-painted elements in the background.
After the episode’s half-hour premiere, producers Tze Chun and Brendan Hay joined Joe Dante, the creator and director of Gremlins, to discuss the new series. We learned it was already in production when Joe Dante found out about it and asked if he could join the team. His official credit is “Consulting Producer” and Dante joked that he was acting as Gizmo’s agent. He attributes the longevity of the film’s success to its star Mogwai and admitted that in his original script, Gizmo turned into a gremlin within the first 20 minutes. It was Steven Spielberg who suggested that the cutest Mogwai remains a cute companion for Billy throughout the film, without which there would probably be no animated series to look forward to.
In the 10-episode first season, the first 2 episodes are set in Shanghai, with the remaining episodes set in another region of China. As showrunner, Tze Chun shared his excitement not only with a series where all human characters are Asian unless otherwise specified, but also with the opportunity to combine Chinese mythology with a franchise that was so special to him when he was child. The Mogwai fits right in with these classic legends while telling the story of where Gizmo and Mogwai came from. We all know you don’t expose them to direct sunlight, get them wet, or feed them after midnight, but the creative team announced that a fourth rule will be revealed on the show.
Producer Brendan Hay vividly remembers his first viewing Gremlins at the age of 6, having already read a picture book inspired by the film that made him believe he was ready. The movie terrified him, but in a way that made him want to come back for more. Regarding the tone of the series, the creators said that was always the goal, to make moments truly intense and funny, just like the film. The creators also promised that we would see Gizmo and Sam’s bond grow over the 10 episodes, with Gizmo already having reason to be wary of humans when he meets the friendly boy. Like many of Amblin Entertainment’s best films, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai is a coming-of-age story (Amblin is a production company for the series alongside Warner Bros. Animation).
No release date has been announced, but another fun reveal is that a 10-episode second season has already been ordered by HBO Max. In addition to streaming, the series will also debut on Cartoon Network. Click here to find out more about our coverage of the Annecy Festival.