I am a Gremlins nut. If you've read X-E for any length of time, you already knew this. I was hooked from the moment I saw Gizmo bumbling about in commercials for the first movie, even if I knew that things like Gizmo could turn into nightmarish creatures that would haunt my dreams worse than a bad day at school or a random appearance by Monos, the god of pain. I was old enough to appreciate monsters by the time Gremlins 2 came out, but my fanship was still owed to Gizmo alone.
Because kids have such a wonderful inability to separate fact from fiction, I spent much of my early childhood obsessed with the idea of owning a real, live mogwai -- that being the official species name for Gizmo's kind. It wasn't like I thought I could get Gizmo just by visiting the pet store with an agreeable parent, but I at least had it in my mind that he was a rare kind of miniature, super smart bear, native to some distant island, and that with considerable effort, I could own one such bear. I had other theories, too, and none of them ever amounted to a puppet with some hairy arm up its ass.
While these theories kept hope alive, they did nothing to put a breathing, adorable mogwai in my arms at night. I had to settle on merchandise and a mutant form of animism. As such, anything in stores bearing Gizmo's likeness had to be mine, up to and including breakfast.
(click here to see the box, BIGGER)
"Gremlins Cereal" debuted in 1984, I guess proving that I wasn't the only small boy who sliced his forearm each night in a sacrificial plea for mogwais to turn up rummaging through the trash outside. I've been excited about many cereals throughout my life. Hell, I'd dare say that no new cereal hasn't managed to excite me at least a little bit. But nothing hit me quite like Gremlins Cereal, because the box art portrayed that same vision of Gizmo spoonfeeding me that had already been plaguing my mind for months.
It was made by Ralston, which is hilarious, because I've covered like eight dozen different Ralston movie-themed cereals on this site, and 99% of them just reshape Cap'n Crunch in the most loosely thematically-tied way possible. Here, the crunchy bits were meant to look like tiny Gremlins, thereby placing Gremlins Cereal among Corn Flakes and other breakfast all-stars whose product names can be accepted as literal descriptions of the contents.
The cereal pieces didn't really look like Gremlins, though. Some did, but in retrospect, a large portion of those bowls seemed to be filled with little edible spins on the Blair Witch stick symbol. Still, at 4 or 5 years of age, I doubt this stopped me from playing with my food.
The Gremlins Cereal TV commercial was a pretty big number, mixing a jingle that will forever live in my head with totally custom footage of kids raiding the fridge with mogwai ears, and Gizmo himself, eating spoonfuls of enemy effigies in what was assuredly the cutest two seconds in all of television history. (For those interested, part of the commercial is on YouTube, but since it isn't my upload, I hate it.)
Eating a cereal personally endorsed by Gizmo was one kind of joy, but a special offer on the back of Gremlins Cereal boxes was a different kind of joy: The kind that made my eyes jump out of my head, grow arms, and start pushing each other in playful disbelief over what they'd just seen. It wasn't an offer to get my very own live mogwai, but it was so damn close:
They had me at the first line. If the rest of the ad showed photos of dead elephants and huge spiders, they still would've had me at that first line. "Get your very own Gizmo." I am truly disgusted that this hasn't been pitched to me more often.
The deal was that you could buy a Gizmo plushie for $9.95 with two proofs of purchase, which is really kinda ridiculous, as $9.95 was no discount price. On the other hand, I wouldn't have necessarily complained about needing to double up on boxes of Gremlins Cereal.
The plushie was not a replacement for a real mogwai, but it was better than carrying a tan couch pillow with a "Gizmo" nametag around. More awesome was the note in the fine print: Gizmo would arrive in his very own shoe box! (I still think part of my Gizmo fascination was a byproduct of the incredible antique box Rand Peltzer brought him home in -- so if I was going to get a facsimile of Gizmo, I'd have strongly preferred a facsimile of that box to go with it.)
If you're waiting for me to share memories of that fateful day when plushie Gizmo arrived, I can't. I distinctly remember having my mind blown at the chance, but somehow, it never came to pass. I suppose, to a five-year-old, the process of collecting proofs of purchase, and writing checks, and figuring out how the postal system worked seemed like too tall of an order. To this day, it still drives me absolutely insane to not know if Gizmo really came in a shoe box like the one pictured, air holes and all.
Without a plush to feed my needs, I ultimately settled on a six-inch plastic Gizmo figurine made by LJN, which was cute and had moveable arms, but wasn't cuddly, and hurt when I slept with it. I still treated that little fucker like it had more feelings than our dog, so I can only imagine what life would've been like had I owned the soft plushie. The assumption is, today, I would be a much happier person overall.
I did eventually get that plushie, but by then I was too old to be friends with it. Yard sale or eBay or something...can't really remember. I don't know for certain that it's the same plushie advertised on the back of the cereal box, but save for a minor difference in nose color, it certainly looks to be. It'd be interesting if it was the same doll, because while the advertisement spent a full paragraph celebrating the virtues of a free shoe box, it never once mentioned the fantastic thing that this doll can do: Squeak when you shake it. The squeaking doesn't sound much like mogwai chatter, but for kids yearning for something that would lessen the burden of an existence without real mogwais, it was just one step closer.
Everyone grows up seeing fake stuff on television and in movies that they absolutely must have, no matter how impossible. I stand firm that I needed this fake thing more than you needed your fake things. Had I been presented with a genie lamp, world peace and a million dollars would've waited in line.
And for the naysaying toads just waiting to pounce on me for breaking this one-a-day entry rule, I remind you that this was posted before midnight, as all things related to mogwais should.Posted by Matt on 08/10/2010. E-mail me!