Don’t get them wet. Don’t feed them after midnight. And most of all, don’t ever doubt their ability to pull in a bevy of bona fide Hollywood stars to do voices for a cartoon based on an ancient pair of critter movies from the ‘80s.
HBO Max has announced the voice cast joining its animated prequel to the 1984 Gremlins movie, which will be set in 1920s China. Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD, The Mandalorian) and B.D. Wong (Jurassic World, Mr. Robot) will voice the mother and father of 10-year-old Sam Wing (Izaac Wang), who ends up being the elderly store owner who has Gizmo at the beginning (and end) of Gremlins.
Meanwhile, Matthew Rhys — of The Americans and Perry Mason fame, among others — will voice the cartoon’s main antagonist. From Variety:
Rhys voices nemesis Riley Greene, a power-hungry English industrialist and treasure hunter who wields black magic that is determined to stop at nothing in his pursuit of Gizmo and the mythical treasure of the Mogwai.
Rhys, Wen, and Wong have all done their share of voice acting before, so this shouldn’t be too surprising. On the other hand, if you take Christopher Lee out of Gremlins 2: The New Batch (or relegate him back to his level of fame back in 1990, when the film came out) then these three actors have more clout than all the other actors in the first two movies combined. For an animated series. For a prequel animated series. To a franchise that bombed with its first sequel.
Honestly? This cartoon sounds much more interesting than Gremlins ever was (and I say that as somehow who enjoyed the movie). Here’s the show’s synopsis from way back in the halcyon days of 2019:
Set in 1920s Shanghai, the series will tell the story of how 10-year-old Sam Wing (future shop owner Mr. Wing in the 1984 movie) met the young Mogwai called Gizmo. Along with a teenage street thief named Elle, Sam and Gizmo take a perilous journey through the Chinese countryside, encountering, and sometimes battling, colourful monsters and spirits from Chinese folklore. On their quest to return Gizmo to his family and uncover a legendary treasure, they are pursued by a power-hungry industrialist and his growing army of evil Gremlins.
This sounds great, but the Gremlins are easily the least interesting part of this pitch. More importantly, having to somehow tie into a 37-year-old movie that no one under the age of 35 likely cares about could potentially limit the series’ storytelling. Of course, Netflix did a fantastic job with its Dark Crystal prequel series, which improved upon and vastly enriched the original film. Maybe HBO Max and Secrets of the Mogwai will do the same for Gremlins. With a cast like this — which also includes the legendary James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) as Sam’s grandfather, along with Gabrielle Green as Ellie and A.J. LoCascio (Voltron: Legendary Defender) as Gizmo — it’s certainly possible!