Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai Looks Like a Delightful Addition to the Beloved Franchise

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai Looks Like a Delightful Addition to the Beloved Franchise
Image: HBO Max

A Gremlins prequel has been in the works for HBO Max since before the streamer was even called HBO Max — and now we’ve finally got eyes on it! The cast and crew of the Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai animated series took to the stage at San Diego Comic-Con 2022 to share more.

The assembled group representing the Amblin Television-Warner Bros. Animation production included executive producers Tze Chun and Brendan Hay and art director Tara Rueping, plus cast members Izaac Wang (the voice of main character Sam, who admitted he knew nothing about the Gremlins movies before he landed the role), A. J. LoCascio (Gizmo — he did a Gizmo demonstration and it was perfect), and Gabrielle Neveah Green (Elle, a young thief who befriends Sam and Gizmo). Plus, the panel featured an additional surprise: original Gremlins movie star Zach Galligan, who’ll be playing “a cool character” he couldn’t say too much about.

The rest of Secrets of the Mogwai’s stacked cast was not at SDCC, but it includes the previously announced Ming-Na Wen (The Book of Boba Fett, Mulan), B.D. Wong (the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movies), the legendary James Hong (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Big Trouble in Little China), and Matthew Rhys (The Americans), who plays the Gizmo-chasing villain. The panel announced four more cast members as well: Sandra Oh, Randall Park, Bowen Yang, and another legend in the form of the great George Takei.

Way back in February 2021, when the voice casting announcements were made, Variety dropped an official synopsis for Secrets of the Mogwai, which is set in 1920s Shanghai:

“The 10-episode animated television adaptation reveals the story of how naïve 10-year-old Sam Wing (the future mysterious Chinatown shopkeep Mr. Wing in the original live-action flick), 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.”

Speaking to the Comic-Con crowd, Chun and Hay explained that the series aims to “recreate ‘80s Amblin,” which they summed up as “a kid’s story with adult stakes, life or death stakes,” and explained that it will draw upon monsters from Chinese mythology in every episode. As a fun surprise, the first episode of Secrets of the Mogwai was screened; it shows us how Sam and Gizmo first meet. But first, it explains why Gizmo leaves his home (a Smurf Village-like paradise) for Shanghai: while trying to protect his fellow Mogwai from a vicious bird, he accidentally hitches a ride very, very far away, then gets scooped up by a “circus of the uncanny,” where he instantly becomes the star performer.

While Sam and his mischievous Grandpa (Hong) are out shopping for supplies for the herbal medicine practice run by Sam’s parents (Wen and Wong), they take a detour to see the circus. Naturally, they’re intrigued by the “singing cat dog” (who wouldn’t be?), which Grandpa — a former treasure hunter who’s a big fan of magic and adventure — recognises as a potentially dangerous creature. After a bit of a kerfluffle, they manage to pluck Gizmo from the clutches of Elle, who’s trying to snatch him for her boss (Rhys), who we can tell wants to use the Mogwai for some very dark ends. Grandpa insists that he and Sam must bring Gizmo back to his mythical home, otherwise “very bad things” will happen (we have an idea of what that might look like, since we’ve seen the Gremlins movies!). And though the episode ends there, the journey’s just beginning.

The animation is lush and colourful, the use of the Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic Gremlins theme in the opening credits is spot-on, and the way Secrets of the Mogwai leans into Chinese mythology — something that only vaguely entered into the 1984 film — feels like the perfect way to bring new cultural context to the story. The show will stream on HBO Max and Cartoon Network in 2023.

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