A beef brewing that involves two of the cutest characters of all time? This is not the drama we were looking for.
Joe Dante, the director of the 1984’s Gremlins, is apparently one of the few folks on Earth not smitten with Baby Yoda, aka Grogu — the, pint-sized, scene-stealing, Jedi-powered pop culture sensation from Disney+’s hit Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian.
That’s because Dante thinks that Grogu is a blatant rip-off of Gizmo, the mogwai who spawns some decidedly nastier, havoc-wreaking creatures when not properly attended to by Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) and friends in the Steven Spielberg-produced horror-comedy favorite. Like Gizmo, Grogu has big eyes, pointy ears, a tiny stature and aggressively high level of adorability.
“I think the longevity of [Gremlins] is really key to this one character, who is essentially like a baby,” Dante told the San Francisco Chronicle in a new interview. “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.”
Mandalorian’s brain trustees Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have credited a popular Spielberg-related character with influencing Baby Yoda, but it wasn’t Gizmo.
“Dave had done a sketch of kind of a Michelangelo/E.T. moment, and that was a source of inspiration,” Favreau has said, referencing Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” and the eponymous alien from Spielberg’s 1982 classic. “Then, Doug Chiang and the whole art department started generating drawings of it, and the Legacy [Effects] people built it.”
Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal, however, has said “The Child” immediately made him think of the beloved Gremlins creature.
“I saw Baby Yoda in those pictures and I remember thinking, ‘OK, bye, Gizmo,’” he told Empire magazine in 2020. “[I thought,] ‘People are going to lose their minds over that.’”
The Gizmo-Grogu rivalry may have quietly escalated further in 2021 when Galligan, while still being diplomatic, drew a hard line in the sand and called Gizmo cuter. “He’s fuzzier and, to me, fuzzy is cuter,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “Baby Grogu seems like he’s kind of been shaved, or maybe he’s hairless.”
Dante, who also directed films such as Piranha (1978), Explorers (1985) and The ‘Burbs (1989), is currently a consultant on the upcoming HBO Max animated series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.
For what it’s worth, Dante has admitted to Piranha liberally borrowing from Spielberg.
“There were no illusions about it being a Jaws rip-off,” Dante told Yahoo Entertainment in a 2015 Director’s Reel interview. It’s why a character in the opening credits is playing a Jaws arcade game. “Just so that we know that you know, and we want you to know that we know, that this is a rip-off. So relax.”