We just unearthed this set of Gremlins Teaser Trailer Storyboards by John Alvin, and just in time to celebrate Spielberg's Christmas cult classic from 1984.
Each one of the 17 images, posted below in sequence, were painted by hand as 5 x 7 fully executed paintings. The script is below the paintings and is original from the time, of course! If that doesn't show us all just how much the movie and illustration worlds have changed, I don't know what would! Beyond how great and exciting these are for fans of Gremlins, seeing the actual teaser trailer and finding exact moments captured from the storyboards...that's just ultra-cool for movie geeks, especially when those storyboards were done by John Alvin, who did the official one-sheet for the film!
Gremlins is a 1984 American comedy horror film directed by Joe Dante and released by Warner Bros. The film is about a young man who receives a strange creature called a mogwai as a pet, which then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters. This story was continued with a sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, released in 1990. Unlike the lighter sequel, Gremlins opts for more black comedy, balanced against a Christmastime setting. Both films were the center of large merchandising campaigns.
Steven Spielberg was the film's executive producer, with the film being produced by Michael Finnell and written by Chris Columbus, drawing on legends of gremlins going back to World War II. The film stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, with Howie Mandel providing the voice of Gizmo, the main mogwai character.
Gremlins was a commercial success and received positive reviews from critics. However, the film was also heavily criticized for some of its more violent sequences. In response to this and to similar complaints about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spielberg suggested that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) alter its rating system, which it did within two months of the film's release.
Gremlins was produced at a time when combining horror and comedy was becoming increasingly popular. According to Professor Noël Carroll, Ghostbusters, released the same weekend as Gremlins, and the comic strip The Far Side also followed this trend. Carroll argued that there was now a new genre emphasizing sudden shifts between humorous and horrific scenes, drawing laughs with plot elements that have been traditionally used to scare.
The notion of gremlins was first conceived during World War II when mechanical failures in aircraft were jokingly blamed on the small monsters. The term "gremlins" also entered popular culture as children's author Roald Dahl published a book called The Gremlins in 1943, based on the mischievous creatures. Walt Disney considered making a film of it. A Bugs Bunny cartoon of the era, Falling Hare, has him battling a gremlin on an airplane. Joe Dante had read The Gremlins and said that the book was of some influence on his film. In 1983, Dante publicly distanced his work from earlier films, explaining, "Our gremlins are somewhat different—they're sort of green and they have big mouths and they smile a lot and they do incredibly, really nasty things to people and enjoy it all the while".
The story of Gremlins was conceived by Chris Columbus. As Columbus explained, his inspiration came from his loft, when at night "what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy". He then wrote the original screenplay as a spec script to show potential employers that he had writing abilities. The story was not actually intended to be filmed until Steven Spielberg took an interest in turning it into a film. As Spielberg explained, "It's one of the most original things I've come across in many years, which is why I bought it."
After deciding to executive produce the film, Spielberg chose Dante as his director because of his experience with horror-comedy; Dante had previously directed The Howling (1981); however, in the time between The Howling and the offer to film Gremlins, he had experienced a lull in his career. The film's producer was Michael Finnell, who had also worked on The Howling with Dante. Spielberg took the project to Warner Bros. and co-produced it through his own company, Amblin Entertainment.
The film's script went through a few drafts before a shooting script was finalized. The first version was much darker than the final film. Various scenes were cut, including one which portrayed Billy's mother dying in her struggle with the gremlins, with her head thrown down the stairs when Billy arrives. Dante later explained the scene made the film darker than the filmmakers wanted. There was also a scene where the gremlins ate Billy's dog and a scene where the gremlins attacked a McDonald's, eating customers instead of burgers. Also, instead of Stripe being a mogwai who becomes a gremlin, there was originally no mogwai named Stripe; rather, Gizmo was supposed to transform into Stripe the gremlin. Spielberg overruled this plot element as he felt Gizmo was cute and that audiences would want him to be present throughout the film.
A famous urban legend is referenced in the film, in which Kate reveals in a speech that her father died at Christmas when he dressed as Santa Claus and broke his neck while climbing down the family's chimney. After the film was completed, the speech proved to be controversial, and studio executives insisted upon its removal, because they felt it was too ambiguous as to whether it was supposed to be funny or sad. Dante stubbornly refused to take the scene out, saying it represented the film as a whole, which had a combination of horrific and comedic elements. Spielberg did not like the scene but, despite his creative control, he viewed Gremlins as Dante's project and allowed him to leave it in. A parody of this scene is featured in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.