The Dog In Gremlins Was A Very Good Boy Who Thought The Monsters Were Real

"Gremlins" is a holiday classic — a fun, nasty little monster movie that's perfect to revisit when Christmas rolls around (in fact, it's so associated with the Christmas season that I honestly can't imagine watching it any other time of year, even though it opened in theaters in the summer of 1984). In "Gremlins," a small Norman Rockwell-like town descends into chaos when a group of mischievous monsters run amok. The monsters, the gremlins, spring forth from the body of a cute little critter known as a Mogwai, named Gizmo. While Gizmo is nice and cuddly, the gremlins are a bunch of slimy perverts who love to smoke cigarettes, destroy property, and kill people. All of this plays hell with the holiday season of poor local loser Billy (Zach Galligan), who is gifted Gizmo by his father (Hoyt Axton), a struggling inventor who can't quite get the hang of the whole "inventing" thing. 

Also in the movie: Billy's very good dog named Barney. Barney, played by a dog actor named Mushroom (omg, adorable) is a very good movie dog — his reactions during scenes are perfect. In the "Gremlins" commentary track including on home video releases of the film, director Joe Dante calls the dog "the all-purpose cutaway" — whenever Dante and his editor Tina Hirsch were unsure how to punctuate a scene for maximum effect, they would simply cut to a reaction shot from Mushroom the dog. 

In a recently published oral history of "Gremlins" from The Ringer, it's revealed why Mushroom was so good at his job: he thought all the monster puppets were real

Mushroom, the very good dog from Gremlins

According to star Zach Galligan, he was brought in "about 10 or 12 days before shooting" in order to develop a bond with Mushroom the dog. "So they would drive me out to Warner Bros., to where Ray Berwick, the animal coordinator, was," Galligan said. "And I would spend an hour with Mushroom, giving him treats, throwing balls, playing with him, petting him, giving him more treats. And it worked."

I just want to add that if a studio wants to drive me out somewhere to hang out with a dog, I'm available. Hit me up, Warner Bros.! Anyway, Joe Dante also weighed in, confirming that lovable Mushroom thought Gizmo and the gremlin props were alive. "We had a great dog in the movie who thought the puppets were real," Dante said. "We got a lot of great stuff from this dog. I mean, he would just surprise us in these scenes. The dog and Corey Feldman were the actors who most related to the puppets as if they were actually alive."

The fact that both the dog and Corey Feldman treated the puppets as real is charming as hell, I gotta say. As for Mushroom, it's worth noting that "Gremlins" wasn't his only big screen role. He also appeared in the horror movie "Pumpkinhead." There's no word on whether or not he thought the giant Pumpkinhead animatronic puppet was real, though

 

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