Working With Gremlins' Gizmo Puppet Was A Living Hell
If you're a puppeteer and not Jim Henson, your work is probably wildly underappreciated, given how difficult it is. The reason we now know this is because of how pissed off the puppet people were following the movie Gremlins. It's a movie wherein the main stars are the not-so-distant ancestors of Furbies, and it was a nightmare for all involved.
According to director Joe Dante, "A small army of puppeteers was living beneath each set, controlling rods and levers and staring into video monitors with the picture flipped as in a mirror." That meant that there were a ton of people sitting down there moving bits and pieces of the little mogwai around, glancing at a screen to make sure they were even close to being on the right track.
Warner Bros. PicturesIt was the puppetry equivalent of trying to parallel park an Escalade with a TV remote.
Gizmo, in particular, was the hardest to operate. The team had designed Gizmo thinking they'd only have to work with the puppet for the first 25 minutes of the movie, because he was supposed to turn evil after that. But then, weeks before shooting started, producer Steven Spielberg decided he loved this barely functional, constantly breaking little fuzzball, and that he should be the hero of the film. So the crew had to improvise. As they toyed around with various rods and levers, they had to make an ongoing list of things that could and could not be done with the Gizmo puppet -- basic stuff like making it walk, or moving its face at all (close-ups were done with a giant animatronic Gizmo head straight out of Hades).