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Gremlins 2: Facts Only Huge Fans Know About This Underrated Gem

It's that special time of year again when families sit around a cozy fireplace and watch their favorite holiday movies together. Classic films like "It's a Wonderful Life," "Elf," and even "Die Hard" have become winter traditions for many people who enjoy the spirit of the season. One of the most enduring movies set during Christmas time is 1984's "Gremlins" which merged black comedy and horror together with a hearty candy cane gloss. While fans love the original tale of Billy and Gizmo saving their snowy town from evil critters, there's been a recent resurgence in interest for its even more insane sequel.

1990's "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" is not a holiday movie whatsoever, and it's barely even a coherent sequel to the first "Gremlins." Director Joe Dante became tasked with creating another installment of his blockbuster franchise after the massive success of the first "Gremlins" and, being the chaotic mastermind that he is, decided to make something completely different. The film brings back several main cast members including Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Howie Mandel, Dick Miller, and Jackie Joseph as their original characters (even the Futtermans who pretty clearly died in the previous film) while adding even more talent in a variety of over-the-top roles. 

Although "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" wasn't the same critical or commercial success as its predecessor, it has aged like fine wine into a masterpiece of comedic filmmaking. In the popular YouTube channel "Red Letter Media" retrospective on the film, they put it best by describing the movie as "possibly the weirdest sequel to a big blockbuster movie ever made," in the best way possible. So, read on to find out all the crazy facts only huge fans know about this underrated gem.

Clamp was inspired by '80s Donald Trump

Out of all the characters in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," John Glover's portrayal of eccentric business mogul Daniel Clamp embodies the cartoonish energy of the film more than any other. The movie's story centers around Billy Peltzer and Kate Beringer working inside Clamp's high-tech New York City high-rise which quickly gets infested by a new batch of Gremlins. While actor John Glover portrays Clamp with an undeniable likability and cluelessness, audiences may be surprised to learn that he was directly inspired by a now infamous public figure: Donald Trump.

Long before Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, he was mostly known as a bizarre media personality and New York real estate entrepreneur with a penchant for slapping his name on everything in sight. Since "Gremlins 2" took place in New York right on the heels of the roaring 1980s, the film's creators wanted a secondary villain who fit within that framework. According to an interview with co-writer Charlie Haas, he and Joe Dante saw Trump as the epitome of '80s decadence. He said, "He was an emblem of what was going on in the '80s and '90s with greed and money and crassness, and [the idea of] the whole world being for sale. But he still seemed sort of harmless." 

Interestingly, another major influence on the character of Daniel Clamp was actually Ted Turner (which is where all the TV studio stuff in the movie comes from). Ultimately, however, John Glover made the character all his own by giving him an irresistible innocence that made him a fan favorite.

Hulk Hogan sequence is different on VHS

One of the most meta moments in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" comes from a moment where director Joe Dante pulls a prank on the actual audience in the theater watching the movie by making it seem as though the projector has had a malfunction, only to reveal it is actually those pesky gremlins messing around. If you were lucky enough to catch a showing of "Gremlins 2" back in the day, you'd have seen the gremlins doing shadow puppets on the big screen before cutting to an entirely different movie (a steamy and inappropriate flick called "Volleyball Holiday"). The segment ends with WWE superstar Hulk Hogan getting out of his seat in the theater, threatening the gremlins with violence, and then apologizing directly to the real audience for the interruption.

While this is genuinely one of the most bizarrely hilarious moments in the film, the production team actually created a totally different gag for folks watching "Gremlins 2" on VHS. The chaotic creatures still do shadow puppets on what looks like TV static, but they now cut away to several different television channels before settling on a John Wayne movie instead. Joe Dante also brought in none other than Bugs Bunny to speak to the audience by saying, "Hey, I bet that was ... say ... do you think that ... could that have been a ... GREMLIN?"

Deep connection to the Looney Tunes

Speaking of Bugs Bunny, the Looney Tunes have a surprisingly large part to play in the creation of "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." It's no secret that director Joe Dante is a lifelong fan of the Warner Bros. iconic animated franchise and, since "Gremlins" is also owned by the same studio, he felt it was a perfect opportunity to shoehorn them in whenever possible. Fans of "Gremlins 2" will remember that the movie actually opens with a totally unique Looney Tunes segment over the Warner Bros. logo. In it, Bugs Bunny is confronted by a jealous Daffy Duck about how he's always hogging all the attention before taking over the intro for himself.

What isn't common knowledge about this opening animation is that Joe Dante managed to convince legendary Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones to come out of retirement just to create this scene. According to one DVD commentary review for "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," Joe Dante felt the cartoon intro helped "set the anarchic tone" that the sequel was going for in comparison to the more straightforward original.

Gizmo directly references The Addams Family

"Gremlins 2: The New Batch" has its fair share of overt references to pop culture, but one stands out as being uniquely interesting because of the inclusion of one very special actor. During a point in the story where Gizmo is left alone in Billy's office, he encounters a frustrated janitor struggling to fix a broken water fountain nearby. Ultimately, the janitor causes water to shoot out towards Gizmo, gets him wet, and unleashes all the new Mogwai that spawn as a result.

Although it's a small role, that janitor was actually played by legendary character actor John Astin who is most known for his work as Gomez Addams in "The Addams Family" series from 1964 to 1966. Gizmo directly references this connection in the film by saying the words "Gomez" to himself, as though recognizing the actor from watching television (something Gizmo loves to do). Although this is probably just a fun reference for fans to enjoy, it could be canon that John Astin himself took a side job at Clamp Tower in the "Gremlins" universe. It's unlikely, though, since John Astin's son Sean Astin is even more famous from his work as Samwise Gamgee in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Warner Bros. begged Joe Dante for a sequel

"Gremlins" was a surprise success when it came out back in 1984, both commercially and critically. The film made over $150 million worldwide off a smaller budget of only $12 million which made it the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year (behind only "Ghostbusters," "Beverly Hills Cop," and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"). Not only did audiences love "Gremlins," but critics did, too. Roger Ebert even gave the movie three out of four stars, stating simply that "It's fun."

It shouldn't be surprising that Warner Bros. wanted more out of these trouble-making gremlins since they quickly asked Joe Dante to make a sequel. According to a piece by The Independent, Joe Dante wasn't interested at first since "Gremlins" was an infamously difficult shoot thanks to all the puppets, animatronics, and special effects which were hard to control. They claimed, "Making the film had been an endless battle of attrition. The rubber puppets posed new challenges on a daily basis. Warner suits pushed constantly to cut the budget. Did Dante want go to back into that inferno? Thanks but no thanks." It took several years and multiple failed attempts by Warner Bros. to find a replacement before they came back to Dante and offered him full creative control for "Gremlins 2."

Different Gremlin philosophy

Most sequels take what the original movie did but bigger (and not always better), but the creators of "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" didn't want to shake things up for their balls-to-the-wall return. One of the biggest differences between "Gremlins" and "Gremlins 2" is, in fact, the gremlins themselves. Originally the gremlins were portrayed as identical-looking and mean-spirited creatures who spent most of their time aggressively trying to attack everyone in Kinston Falls, but "Gremlins 2" changed what these little monsters could be seen as.

"Gremlins 2" features more individualistic gremlins with unique looks, personalities, and even superpowers to accompany their penchant for chaos. What becomes apparent in this sequel is that, more than anything, the gremlins just genuinely enjoy wreaking havoc wherever they go. According to an interview with Joe Dante, fundamentally changing the gremlins was a key factor in getting special effects artist Rick Baker on board. He said, "They turned the gremlins into different kinds of gremlins. So all the designs and ideas that Rick had, we could come up with and we could make different kinds of gremlins out of them. And plus he changed the designs of Gizmo and the regular gremlins a little bit." The Brain Gremlin in particular has become a fan favorite for how distinct he is from his brothers since he is able to talk, reason, and lead the gremlins in a surprisingly wonderful musical number.

Key & Peele lovingly made a sketch about Gremlins 2

Before the current re-evaluation of "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," there was one beloved comedy duo lovingly teasing how absurd of a movie it was. We're talking of course about Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele who, in their Comedy Central sketch show "Key & Peele," directly satirized what the writing room of "Gremlins 2" must have looked like. Their Season 5 Episode 8 titled "Hollywood Sequel Doctor" features a sketch dedicated to explaining how over-the-top the gremlins are thanks to the suggestions of Star Magic Jackson Jr. The premise of the sketch revolves around Star (played by Jordan Peele) encouraging the writer's room to pitch their most insane ideas before immediately putting them into the movie, ending with the hilarious on-screen text: "All of that is in the actual movie."

Thanks to the popularity of this sketch, fans on multiple occasions have asked director Joe Dante what he thinks about the comedic rendition of that writer's room. According to an interview with The A.V. Club, the sketch was more accurate than they probably realized. He said, "I told (Key and Peele) after I saw it that it's completely accurate, it's exactly the way it happened." Now that Jordan Peele is a massively successful horror director in his own right with films like "Get Out" and "Nope" under his belt, maybe someday they could all collaborate to make the fabled "Gremlins 3."

Two Breaking Bad actors show up

The last thing most people would expect when reading about the "Gremlins" franchise is something about AMC's hit series, "Breaking Bad." Yet, that's exactly what's happening right now because of a cosmic coincidence that can only be appreciated years after both projects are finished. It turns out that among the big cast of "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" are two actors who have now become known for their roles as Hank Schrader and Tuco Salamanca from "Breaking Bad."

The first one of these actors we see is Raymond Cruz as a delivery man who overhears Gizmo's trademark whistle in the offices before whistling it himself around Billy, thus alerting him to the fact that his Mogwai is in the building. Cruz has become known for his portrayal of drug-dealing psychopath Tuco Salamanca in the first and second seasons of "Breaking Bad." Next is actor Dean Norris who comes in towards the end as one of the S.W.A.T soldiers entering the building with Daniel Clamp. Norris is best known for playing DEA agent Hank Schrader in "Breaking Bad," a main character across all five seasons. Despite these two having one climactic scene together in the show, they never interact at all during their time in "Gremlins 2."

Joe Dante wanted Gremlins 2 to be an anti-sequel

As mentioned earlier, Joe Dante wanted nothing to do with "Gremlins 2" when Warner Bros. first offered it to him hot off the heels of the first film. It wasn't just money or time that eventually enticed the beloved director to come back, it was creative freedom. According to BloodyDisgusting, Dante was basically given unlimited control over the project so long as he made more "Gremlins" for the studio. He said, "So they said to me, 'If you give us a couple of cans of film with gremlins in them next summer, you can do whatever you want.' And they gave me three times the money we had to make the first one."

Joe Dante has been open about how this freedom inspired him to make a subversive movie that exists in spite of itself (and in spite of any actual need for a sequel to "Gremlins"). During an interview with Simon Bland, Dante was hilariously blunt about his intentions in making the movie itself one big joke. He claimed, "We decided to make fun of the whole concept of 'Gremlins,'" then added, "Let's let them know it's a sequel and that we know it's a sequel. We were going to make fun of the movie and the fact you came to see it." This punk ethos is at the heart of the movie which explains why it's more irreverent and chaotic than the first movie by far. Yet, as time has passed many fans see "Gremlins 2" as the superior film because of its uniquely meta subversiveness.

Audiences didn't like it at the time

Like many other pieces of truly exceptional art, "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" wasn't properly appreciated by contemporary audiences who were lucky enough to have seen this masterpiece in theaters. The movie was generally regarded as inferior to the first movie with many critics lamenting that director Joe Dante swapped out the Spielberg-esque sentimentality of "Gremlins" for the misanthropic slapstick humor of the sequel.

Sadly, the movie ended up being a box office bomb by making only $41 million on a bigger budget than the original but with way fewer returns. "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" ended up performing worse than movies like "Dick Tracy," "Edward Scissorhands," and "Back to the Future Part II" (another poorly-received sequel). According to one interview with Joe Dante, he explained why he thought the film didn't land with audiences at the time and how that impacted the future of the franchise: "We didn't make as much money as we could have and it put the kibosh on plans for an animated 'Gremlins' series which they already had in the works." Although it's great that the film has reached a cult status of enjoyment, it's a shame we'll never get to see what could've been if "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" made as much money as its predecessor.