10 Easter Eggs In Gremlins That Are Easy To Miss

We all know the rules: don't get them wet, keep them out of sunlight, and whatever you do never, ever, feed them after midnight. That's the easy part, although you wouldn't be able to tell by watching Joe Dante's two excellent and much-loved monster movies "Gremlins" and its arguably better meta-sequel, "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Despite the deceptively simple nature of these three all-important laws, owning a Mogwai is apparently much harder than it looks. In both instances, utter mayhem is very quickly unleashed when a gaggle of chaotic green gremlins land on the scene and unleash all hell onto anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in their war path. Played like a straight-faced family frightener, Dante's 1984 original introduces us to Billy (Zach Galligan) and his Mogwai pal Gizmo. Together with Billy's girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates), they must try their best to stop their small town from being overrun by the film's titular cackling nasties, ruining Christmas for everyone.

Most of us know this story so well that it's become a staple of each and every holiday season. However, there's plenty of other fun stuff hiding in plain sight throughout this enduring '80s creature feature that even the most grizzled "Gremlins" fanatic can easily overlook. So, in order to appease all the Mogwai mega-fans out there, we've gathered together a list of 10 "Gremlins" Easter Eggs that are easy to miss. Hit the lights, it's time to jump in ...

Kingston Falls

Joe Dante's 1984 movie whisked us away to Kingston Falls, the sleepy American town that became ground zero for fiery gremlins mayhem. While fictional, the name of Billy's quaint hometown sounds uncannily similar to Bedford Falls, the town where James Stewart's George Bailey lived in Frank Capra's 1949 Christmas tale "It's A Wonderful Life." Both movies are festive-themed and ultimately play out as cautionary tales warning their heroes to be careful what they wish for. Capra's movie even briefly appears in "Gremlins."

However, when it comes to Kingston Falls, the big Easter Egg looming over the entire town is the town itself. If the main square, local cinema, and clocktower look familiar that's because you've probably seen them before: the Kingston Falls set was Courthouse Square, a pre-made backlot housed on the Universal Studios lot in California. In addition to "Gremlins," the lot's other primary claim to fame is doubling as Hill Valley in Robert Zemeckis' "Back To The Future" trilogy. Detail-hungry viewers may have even noticed that the cinema where the gremlins gather to watch "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is the same spot where Biff has a bust-up with Marty McFly's mum Lorraine in 1955 Hill Valley.

Watch The Skies

By 1984, Steven Speilberg was already considered a bonafide hit-maker after releasing movies like "Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "E.T: the Extra-Terrestrial." Following the latter, he decided to launch his own production company to help produce more popcorn blockbusters under one label, thus Amblin Entertainment was born. While looking for screenplays to produce, Steven Spielberg spied potential in a spec script written by newcomer Chris Columbus around the same time director Joe Dante ("The Howling") had also caught his eye. The combination of these elements led to "Gremlins" entering production and ultimately becoming the first movie to carry the familiar Amblin Entertainment logo.

That's not all, though, as the film contains numerous fingerprints scattered throughout its 106-minute runtime that lead back to executive producer Spielberg. Perhaps one of the most obvious is the mention of a couple of would-be titles for previously-released Spielberg films playing as part of a double bill at the Kingston Falls movie house. During the film's first act, we can see films entitled "A Boy's Life" and "Watch the Skies" playing at Billy's local cinema. The former refers to a working title for "E.T: the Extra-Terrestrial," while the latter was a one-time name for the filmmaker's 1977 alien epic "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Rockin' Ricky Rialto

Just before "Gremlins" was first released, studio heads thought Joe Dante's eponymous monsters were a little too dark to handle. "The Studio really didn't quite get it," recalled Dante back in 2017. "They were saying, 'Why are the Gremlins so gross? Why are there so many of them?' Steven said, 'Well, we could cut them all out and call it People but I don't think anybody's going to come.'" However, this wasn't the only Steven Spielberg-related movie of 1984 to be considered too dark. Just a few months before the June debut of "Gremlins" came the May release of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," a film that contained sequences so sinister they forever changed the MPAA rating system, giving birth to the PG-13 certificate. Still, this isn't the only connective tissue that links Dante's creature feature with Spielberg's adventure-loving archaeologist.

During the scene-setting opening moments of "Gremlins," we're treated to some quick cut-away shots of a bustling Kingston Falls while the local radio station plays Darlene Love's festive hit "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," spun by resident disc jockey Rockin' Ricky Rialto. Soon, we get to put a face to the name via a billboard boasting Ricky's moniker in the adventurer's iconic font alongside a drawing of the man himself dressed as Indiana Jones whipping a microphone wire around in the air, just like Indy's iconic whip.

Robby The Robot

Forget Billy, since the instigator of all the chaos in "Gremlins" is Billy's father, Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton). This wannabe inventor stumbles upon the mysterious Mogwai whilst visiting a dusty old trinket store in New York's Chinatown, and after being told this pet comes with too much responsibility by the shop's owner Mr. Wing (Keye Luke), he manages to convince his young grandson to sell it behind his grandfather's back. It's here where we first see Randall trying to flog his latest invention, a clunky multi-purpose grooming tool known as the Bathroom Buddy, to a bemused Mr. Wing. However, it's later in the movie that we catch a glimpse at the next Easter Egg on our list. Shortly after Randall has given Billy his new "Peltzer Pet" — AKA Gizmo the Mogwai — he visits an inventor's convention while the recently-multiplied creatures start the process of becoming gremlins.

It's during a brief scene featuring Randall at this convention that we see a number of interesting tidbits. One of the most notable is a cameo appearance from Robby The Robot, the resident machine featured in the iconic 1956 science fiction film "Forbidden Planet," featuring a pre-comedy Leslie Nielsen. Wearing a hat that looks similar to-but-isn't the one worn by Indiana Jones, Robby can be heard speaking to someone saying: "I rarely use it myself, sir. It promotes rust."

Steven Spielberg Cameo

Robby The Robot isn't the only famous face to appear in Randall Peltzer's science convention sequence. While he's phoning his wife Lynn Peltzer, played by Frances Lee McCain, the gremlins are just about to hatch from their cocoons. Neither party is privy to this information just yet, and as the couple speaks viewers are treated to a very quick cameo appearance from the film's own executive producer, Steven Spielberg.

Shortly after the scene begins, the "Jaws" director can be seen driving through the shot as Joe Dante slowly pulls his camera backward, revealing even more unusual detail. Driving what appears to be a buggy with an American flag and a big boxy television strapped to its front, Spielberg only appears briefly, with his big moment so front and center it can be easy to miss while audiences are engrossed in Randall's conversation and the wealth of other details. Speaking of which, look towards the right-hand side of the background and you'll also see a man sitting in what looks to be the time machine used in George Pal's 1960 adaptation of H.G Wells' enduring science fiction story of the same name. This decade-hopping vehicle is noticeable thanks to its unusual shape, featuring levers, pulleys, an intricate design, and a large spherical back plate. The film's composer Jerry Goldsmith can also be seen to the direct right of Peltzer in a plaid suit and cowboy hat.

Barney the Dog

Gizmo and the gremlins aren't the only animals to feature in Joe Dante's Christmas classic. One of the film's other furry stars is Barney, Billy's trusty dog. Odds are you may remember him best thanks to his scene-stealing moment where he breaks free from his leash behind Billy's bank clerk desk and proceeds to cause havoc in the lobby, ultimately smashing an "imported Bavarian snowman" owned by the cold-hearted Mrs. Deagle, played by a perpetually frowning Polly Holliday.

Barney's other big sequence appears shortly afterward when Gizmo's mischievous Mogwai offspring tangle the poor pooch up in colorful Christmas lights, an incident that Billy blames on a vengeful Mrs. Deagle. Elsewhere, Barney the dog — known offscreen by his obscure real name of Mushroom — looks to form a pretty solid bond with Gizmo who affectionately refers to him as "Woof Woof." Over the years, Dante has praised Mushroom's performance as one of the best in the whole movie. While he sadly doesn't appear in the divisive, New York-set sequel in 1990, movie buffs may recognize his other screen credit as the dog Gypsy in effects master Stan Winston's 1988 horror movie "Pumpkinhead." This four-legged professional was one of the few stars of that film to make it all the way to the end credits, too.

E.T Cameo

As "Gremlins" speeds towards its explosive conclusion, our hero Billy manages to trap all of these snarling creatures in Kingston Falls' local cinema, where they've gathered for a gremlins-only viewing of Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Filling the building with gas and blowing it to smithereens, Billy and Kate are sure they got all of Gizmo's green siblings until he spies their mohawked leader, Stripe, hiding out in a department store the creature has smashed its way into.

Following him inside, Joe Dante treats us to a tense game of cat-and-mouse as Billy tries his best to track down this rogue gremlin before it can find a source of water, multiply, and double down on destroying Kingston Falls. While creeping his way through a darkened department store, Billy can be seen sneaking past an aisle full of plush, cuddly toys. It's here where we find Stripe, who removes a stuffed E.T. teddy and pokes his head out for a quick snoop at his human foe. Fun fact: while Steven Spielberg's homesick alien is the focus of this brief moment, E.T. is flanked by the stuffed toys of Looney Tunes stars Bugs Bunny and Sylvester. Dante fans will know he's a long-time admirer of these whacky Warner Bros. creations. Not only did he feature them during the animated opening of the "Gremlins" sequel six years later, but he also brought Bugs and Co. to the big screen with 2003's "Looney Tunes: Back in Acton."

Phone Home

Just before all hell breaks loose, Joe Dante treats us to a quick audio Easter Egg alluding to Steven Spielberg's mammoth family blockbuster that broke box office records just two years earlier in 1982. The scene in question revolves around Billy's science teacher pal Roy (Glynn Turman), who has taken a particular interest in the multiplying Mogwai and their ever-changing physiques. Before Billy arrives on the scene, audiences glimpse their first introduction to a gremlin as Roy tries to lure one out from under his desk only to have it viciously bite his hand. Unfortunately, when Billy finds Roy, he's lying lifeless on the floor with an ominous-looking syringe sticking out of his butt. Little does he know, things are only going to get worse from here on out.

Running to the school payphone to let his mother know that the Mogwai cocoons sitting in his attic bedroom will have now hatched as well, he's eager to let her know that she's no longer safe. Before he can pass on this urgent message he's cut-off mid-warning by an unseen gremlin who yanks the telephone cable from the wall while uttering E.T's famous line, "phone home." The last time we heard this muttered on screen, it was from a kindly creature from another planet, wanting nothing more than to return home. Here, Dante serves it back to us through the rasping voicebox of a gremlin, like some kind of Amblin edition of "Black Mirror."

Gizmo Inspiration

Perhaps the biggest key to the enduring success and legacy of "Gremlins" is the creation of its pint-sized story catalyst Gizmo. As the Mogwai MacGuffin that ultimately kickstarts all the gremlin-based carnage, it's a character that's pretty integral to the overall narrative of Joe Dante's movies but also a cutie to boot. Designed by Chris Walas, the same guy who dreamed up Jeff Goldblum's horrifying insect transformation in David Cronenberg's "The Fly," its big emotive eyes, twitchy little nose, and bat-like ears have since been featured on lunch boxes, tee shirts, and everything in between.

Despite going through multiple designs during pre-production, Steven Spielberg eventually helped narrow things down by citing his dog Chauncey as inspiration for Gizmo's final look. "Chris Columbus drew some drawings with the script. The Gremlin drawings were particularly similar to the Gremlins in the movie, but the Gizmo drawings were kind of all over the place," Dante told Little White Lies a few years back. "Steven would constantly say, 'No, it's not quite right,' and we were getting close to the deadline where we really had to have something to shoot. So we had the idea to make Gizmo the same color as Steven's cocker spaniel and that seemed to get us over the hump. He approved that and it became the design that went into the movie."

Amblin Logo

At 1 hour and 46 minutes, "Gremlins" manages to pack a hell of a lot of Easter Eggs into its available screentime. However, not all of them are limited to the movie itself. As part of its promotional campaign, Joe Dante enlisted the help of illustrator John Alvin, who had already breathed life into iconic posters for the likes of "Blade Runner," and — you guessed it — Steven Spielberg's "E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial" to whip up something for "Gremlins."

Holding the film's cards close to his chest, he kept things simple, showing the torso of a mystery individual holding a box with holes punched in its lid. In the gap between the lid and the box itself, we can just about glimpse a pair of large, shiny eyes peeking out at us, while two familiar furry hands emerge from its depths. Doing a lot with very little, the poster manages to pique your interest while leaving you with questions that are in dire need of answers. However, take a closer look and you'll find an Easter Egg hiding right at its center. On the button of the figure's jeans, Alvin has painted a very small Amblin logo, featuring the silhouette of Henry Thomas's Elliott riding his flying bicycle, complete with E.T. sitting in the vehicle's front basket. Around the figure, he's also added the "Amblin Entertainment" text which circles Elliott, E.T., and the moon, an image that's since come to signify quality family entertainment.