The scandal of the year just broke, as “Gremlins” creator Joe Dante recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that “The Mandalorian” breakout character Grogu (AKA Baby Yoda) is a blatant copy of his notoriously cute yet feisty creature creations.
The “Gremlins” franchise began with the 1984 horror comedy that spawned a 1990 sequel, toys and collectibles, books, video games, and TV spinoffs with the main gremlin, Gizmo, serving as its adorable epicenter. The franchise will return to screens later this year in the HBO Max animated series “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.”
“I think the longevity of [the film] is really key to this one character (Gizmo), who is essentially like a baby,” Dante told the outlet while reflecting on the IP’s enduring appeal. “Which brings me, of course, to the subject of Baby Yoda, who is completely stolen and is just out-and-out copied. Shamelessly, I would think.”
The affectionately nicknamed Baby Yoda, whose real name was revealed to be Grogu in Season 2, became an immediate internet meme and pop culture phenomenon after being introduced in the first episode of Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” the first-ever live-action “Star Wars” TVseries. The character belongs to the same species as Yoda, who was first introduced in 1980’s “Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back.”
Even as both franchises have expanded to the small screen, Dante still credits the big screen for the popularity of “Gremlins.”
“Whenever I host a screening of either of these pictures, I always ask when I introduce it, ‘Raise your hand — how many people haven’t seen these movies?’ There’s always about a third of the audience, usually young, who haven’t seen the movies,” Dante said. “They’re somewhat different than the run-of-the-mill movie. They’re offbeat in a way that I think is one of the reasons they’re still popular.”
He continued: “The people in my generation who loved movies love them because they saw them with an audience. I’ve seen these pictures over the years many times all over the world, and they always play well in a crowded theater.”
“Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai,” set in 1920s Shanghai, East China, will serve as a prequel to the 1984 films. “The Mandalorian” Season 3 will premiere in February 2023.