On June 4th, 1984, Warner Bros released Gremlins to theaters. Directed by Joe Dante, this comedic creature feature about an army of violent, scaly little monsters that spawn from the mishandling of a sweet, adorable little fuzzball named Gizmo was a smash hit at the box office and is now widely considered a modern classic of the genre. Even before release, there was more than a little presumption that the film would be a smash success, especially with children who were undeniably “targeted” with the lovable, yet highly marketable Gizmo.
The Gremlins Adventures storybook and record sets were released by Disney’s Buena Vista Records and made available exclusively through Hardee’s fast food restaurants to coincide with the film’s release. Released as a series of 5 books, each came accompanied with a 45 mph record featuring a word-for-word recitation of the story contained within. Starting with the first book, the series was an abridged recounting of the film’s events, minus some of the violence and all of the swearing. Ya know, all the stuff that I loved about the film when I first saw it as a 7-year old on opening night.
The records were sold individually for 89 or 99 cents (depending on region). That is, they cost that price if you also purchased a sandwich, fries, and beverage. I’m sure that the books cost a little more when purchased sans food, but I was not able to determine what that price was.
Each book (chapter) is 16 pages long with the records each running approximately 10 minutes. As already mentioned, the recordings feature a word-for-word recount of the portion of the film covered in their respective book. However, don’t expect to hear the actual cast of the film here. Voice actors have taken those well known roles, so Mr. Futterman unfortunately sounds nothing like Dick Miller . It’s also worth noting that the records feature the notorious “chime” that lets you know when to turn the page.
The storybooks would resurface in toy stores a few years later. These releases were identical to the Hardee’s releases and were, presumably, over-stock copies.
Book 1: The Gift of the Mogwai
BOOK 1 – SIDE 1:
The 1st record begins the same as the film, with traveling inventor Rand Peltzer scouring the streets of Chinatown in search of a unique gift to give his son, Billy, for Christmas. After a few stores fail to produce the “perfect” gift, Rand is stopped by a young Chinese boy who promises Rand that he will definitely find that something of interest at the boy’s grandfather’s curio shop. The narrator helps reveal the changes in cultural attitude since the film’s release when he refers to the young boy as “Oriental”, a term that’s usually frowned upon now, as “Oriental” is generally used to refer to furnishings and not people.
Rand soon finds the cage carrying Gizmo and inquires into buying the creature. The old man informs him that the Mogwai is not for sale. Rand attempts to raise his offer, but the man is firm in his insistence not to sell. Rand leaves the store disappointed, but the young buy cuts him off. The boy secretly sells Gizmo to Rand, but not before filling him in on those 3 “infamous” little rules.
- Never get it wet!
- Keep it away from bright lights!
- Most importantly, no matter how much it may cry or beg…NEVER EVER FEED IT AFTER MIDNIGHT!!!!!
Rand takes the cage and heads home, happy that he now has a gift for his son.
BOOK 1 – SIDE 2
Side 2 opens with Billy Peltzer returning home from a stressful day of work at the local bank. His father, Rand, arrives home only moments later. Rand gives Billy the box carrying Gizmo, telling his son to open it now. Gizmo emerges from the box and quickly bonds with the young man. Billy’s mother attempts to take a photo of the new “pet”, but the flash of the bulb visibly upsets the small furball. Rand then takes this moment to inform his son of the 3 vital rules.
From here, the record focuses on Gizmo’s first night in the Peltzer home. This includes the scenes where Gizmo is reading comics and playing the keyboard while wearing the Santa hat. The record ends as the day ends, and the two new friends go to bed.
BOOK 2 – SIDE 1
The 2nd record opens with a brief recap of how Rand Peltzer obtained Gizmo as a gift for his son, Billy, as well as those 3 oh-so-important rules. Each of the following records will open with a brief recap of the previous record’s events.
The story picks back up with Billy’s neighbor, Pete, who was played by Corey Feldman in the film, stopping over for a visit. Billy shows him the new bizarre “pet” that his father got him for Christmas. In an attempt to pet the Mogwai, Pete accidentally knocks over a glass that is used to store paint brushes, causing some of the water to splash on Gizmo. As in the film, Gizmo emits a loud screech before starting to spasm uncontrollably. Shocking both Billy and Pete, new Mogwai begin to “pop” from Gizmo’s back.
Each quickly grows into a full grown Mogwai. Billy is amazed by the five new Mogwai, including the white haired one that he now calls “Stripe”, but Gizmo is more than apprehensive towards his new siblings.
The new Mogwai are soon playing in the family living room. Billy shows his father what has happened, but the distraction caused by their presence makes them both unaware of some of the havoc that they are already causing, in particular towards the Peltzer’s dog, Barney. Gizmo, however, is more than aware and keeps his distance from his new siblings, in particular Stripe.
The 1st side of the record ends showcasing the first major difference between the events of the film and those of the records. Like in the film, Billy takes one of the Mogwai to his science teacher Mr Hansen for him to look at. However, the storybook version has Billy taking the Mogwai back home with him afterwards, completely eliminating the events that lead to Hansen’s death in the film version. I guess that while death was perfectly acceptable for kids to watch on the big screen, listening to it happen on a storybook record obtained from a fast food chain that specializes in wholesale cow murder was totally not.
BOOK 2 – SIDE 2
With Billy and Gizmo soundly asleep, Stripe rounds up the other Mogwai and heads downstairs. They draw the attention of the Peltzer’s dog, Barney. Stripe tricks Barney into chasing him out the front door, but retreats back in and slams the door behind the dog, trapping it outside in the freezing snow. Billy soon awakens and lets Barney back in the house, but is surprised to find Stripe and the other Mogwai fast asleep.
The next evening, while Billy is working on a drawing, Stripe and the other new Mogwai begin to cry for food, even though they had already eaten earlier in the night. Billy looks at his clock and notices that it is still before midnight, so he feeds them some leftover fried chicken. Gizmo not only refuses to join them, but also acts like something is seriously wrong. Something that he is unable to vocalize to Billy.
Billy wakes the next morning to find that the 5 newer Mogwai are gone. 5 sticky, green pods lay on his bedroom floor in their place. Billy doesn’t seem overly phased by this development and heads out to work, leaving Gizmo to watch over the pods. Before long, the pods begin to hatch, releasing 5 little green monsters. Gremlins.
Billy returns from work that evening to find his house in a state of total disarray. The Christmas tree is knocked over. The living room and kitchen are in shambles. He heads upstairs to his room to find it in the same state as downstairs. Then, he notices the burst pods. What he doesn’t see is Gizmo, whom the Gremlins have shoved into a laundry chute. Billy hears Gizmo’s squeaks for help and rescues him from the mound of dirty, smelly clothes.
Billy is happy to see his little friend safe, but they both know the danger that awaits them, and the rest of the town, if the Gremlins aren’t stopped soon.
BOOK 3 – SIDE 1
On the trail of the evil Gremlins, Billy and Gizmo follow the tracks to the local gymnasium. Once inside, Billy hears Stripe laughing from the shadows. Billy finds the electrical panel and opens the box, prepared to turn on the lights. However, Stripe is waiting in the box for Billy and attacks him as soon as he opens it. Stripe swats at Billy, ripping his jacket, before running off. Stripe makes his way to the gymnasium’s pool….. and jumps in. His laugh can be heard from under the surface as the water begins to bubble wildly with the creation of the new creatures.
Billy heads to the local police station to warn them about the Gremlins, but the police dismiss Billy’s claim as a prank.
BOOK 3 – SIDE 2
As we already know, Billy’s claims were true and the small town of Kingston Falls is now being overrun with mischievous Gremlins. They’ve tormented the townsfolk (and their pets), trashed antennas and mailboxes, pulled down Christmas decorations, and shorted out the town’s traffic lights. They stole people’s clothing, which they now were wearing themselves. They even go so far as to drive the snowplow belonging to Billy’s neighbor, Murray Futterman, into the man’s house. Really, I would have been quite pissed if there were no mention of “Mr. Futterman” in the storybooks as Dick Miller is my idol.
The scene then shifts to Dorry’s Pub, the local tavern. We finally meet “Kate”, the role played in the film by the lovely Phoebe Cates. The record introduces her as “Billy’s girlfriend”, although in the film I don’t believe the two had even dated yet. Armed with a Polaroid camera, she uses the flashbulb to try and distract the Gremlins enough for her to escape the bar. However, the flashbulb dies out before she can escape. Billy pulls up in his car just in time, the headlights blinding and aggravating the Gremlins enough for Kate to make her way out. The record ends with Kate safely outside of the bar.
BOOK 4 – SIDE 1
After Billy rescues Kate from the Gremlins that had invaded Dorry’s Pub, the two hide out in the bank for a moment to develop a plan and for Billy to fill Kate in on just what is happening in their little town. Determined to put a stop to the Gremlins, they return to the streets.
Clueless to where the Gremlins could be hiding, Gizmo points out the local movie theater. The Gremlins are inside, safe from the coming morning sun. And since it is a theater, the little creatures may as well catch a movie while they are there. The Gremlins are singing along to the film and throwing popcorn and drink cups at each other, just like a large group of unruly children. The creatures distracted, Billy heads to the theater’s boiler room intent on destroying the theater and the little monsters with it.
BOOK 4 – SIDE 2
Unbeknownst to all, Stripe just so happens to pick that moment to hit up the concession stand for a snack. He’s disappointed to find the snack bar completely raided of goodies, but soon notices a display window that is just loaded with candy at the store across the street. He creeps out of the theater and makes his way across.
Billy finds the boiler room and releases the gas. He closes the door to the boiler room to allow the gas to build up and leaves a burning rag closed in the door to use as a fuse. The movie ends and Billy and Kate are silhouetted against the screen as they attempt to flee the theater. The Gremlins give chase and almost catch our heroes, but Billy uses a board to jam the door closed before the little green menaces can escape. Billy and Kate take shelter behind a parked car as the theater explodes.
Billy believes the Gremlins to be defeated, but Gizmo points out Stripe escaping from the burning building. Our heroes give chase as the record ends.
BOOK 5 – SIDE 1
The theater has just exploded, killing all of the Gremlins inside. All of them, that is, except Stripe. The “leader” of the Gremlins had left the building in search of food and was now making his way into a department store across the street from the theater.
Billy enters the store and, just as in the film, is soon attacked by Stripe. The Gremlin throws saw blades at Billy from a distance before fleeing first into the store’s electronics department, and next to the Sporting Goods section. Billy enters the Sporting Goods section and is greeted by a crossbow-wielding Stripe. However, in another case of stripping the violence from the record version, Billy is never actually hit by any of the arrows that the gremlin fires.
Just as Stripe is about to fire one last fatal arrow at Billy, Kate and Gizmo manage to find the store’s electrical room and turn on all the lights in the store. The light blinds Stripe, making him drop the crossbow as he runs off. Within only a few steps, Stripe hears a surprising sound beckoning him: the running water from a fountain in the store’s garden section. A new goal in sight, Stripe runs full-speed towards the fountain.
BOOK 5 – SIDE 2
Before Stripe can plunge into the fountain water, Gizmo races to the scene in a pink Barbiemobile. We will excuse the fact that the toy actually has no motor to provide it with movement just because it’s such a fun moment in the film. Gizmo crashes the car and rolls out. He pulls on the cords that open the blinds for the store’s skylight, blasting Stripe with the first rays of dawn before the Gremlin has had the chance to fully submerge in the flowing water.
The Gremlins dead and the threat over, Billy and Gizmo return home to nurse their bruises and enjoy what’s left of Christmas. As they watch the recap of the night’s events on the local newstation, they are surprised by a knock at their door. Opening the door, they find the old man from the antique store in Chinatown, whom the racially insensitive narrator refers to as “the Chinaman”. The old man berates them for their lack of responsibility with Gizmo before putting the Mogwai back into his small container to take back to the shop with him.
Billy and Gizmo say their goodbyes and the old man walks away. As they wander off, Billy can faintly hear Gizmo humming the song that he had taught him.
The Gremlins Adventures storybook records are readily available on eBay and sell for about $3-$5 per record, but complete sets can be found ranging from $10-$15.