Joe Dante, the legendary films director, producer, and father of Gremlins, has managed to poke the fandom hornet’s nest with an offhanded comment about Grogu. That’s the puppet the internet originally dubbed Baby Yoda after his star turn in the Star Wars spin-off, The Mandalorian.
“I think the longevity of (Gremlins) is really key to this one character (Gizmo), who is essentially like a baby,” Dante told the San Francisco Chronicle.
So far, very little any fan of cinema could object to (even if Brain Gremlin stole the show with his chat show appearance), but there’s more.
“Which brings me, of course, to the subject of Baby Yoda, who is completely stolen and is just out-and-out copied,” he continued. “Shamelessly, I would think,” he added.
Isn’t it weird that we call Grogu “baby Yoda”?
We’re “Yoda’s-species-all-look-the-same-ing” Grogu, and no one seems to be bothered by that.
It’s like if your name was Alex, but we called you Baby Pat because you looked like some rando named Pat.
— Giuseppe Castellano (@pinocastellano) July 15, 2022
The outlet noted Dante delivered this quote with a “wry smile,” which makes us think he’s not being entirely serious. Still, let’s take it at face value. If we do that, the only possible reaction is to ask whether it’s possible that Joe Dante has reached the age of 75 without seeing a Star Wars movie?
After all, the likely inspiration for Baby Yoda was, unsurprisingly, Adult Yoda, who first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 before making further appearances in Return of the Jedi (1983), The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Gizmo, meanwhile, has been out of movie work since the 1980s, following successful box office hits Gremlins (1984) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).
In other words, Yoda had made two cinematic appearances before the young Mogwai had got his figurative boots on. That’s something that wouldn’t escape the notice of Disney’s lawyers should the flippant remark be drawn into a colossal waste of court time.
Or, as one tweet put it:
He just made the whole world realize he copied Yoda to design Gizmo
— Ziggy (@mrjafri) July 15, 2022
Yes, there are unquestionably similarities between Grogu and Gizmo: both short puppets with giant eyes, equally giant ears, and a limited vocabulary. But once Disney had decided to make a baby of the 900-year-old Yoda’s species, there wasn’t really much for the designers to work with. He would hardly look like a miniature Wookie or Hutt, after all.
In other words, we think that Yoda probably doesn’t have to seek the services of Dagobah’s best lawyers for this one. And Twitter seems to agree.
It’s weird, cause if you look really close, you’ll notice that “baby Yoda” looks surprisingly even more similar to a character that also copied the gremlins 4 years before they existed.
I think his name is Yoda, but don’t quote me on that. Look it up
— Chris mixel (@chrismixel) July 15, 2022
Unless there is some other, even older puppet character who could be shown to be a more direct inspiration for the Baby Yoda design… a sort of “Old Yoda”, if you will… then I think he has a good point. https://t.co/yrIg1QA67t
— Alexandra Erin (She/Her) (@AlexandraErin) July 15, 2022
Even Gizmo fans were having none of it.
Look, I love Gizmo more than any middle-aged female should still love a fictional character from her youth, but there is not a shred of accuracy to the notion Grogu is a ripoff of Gizmo.
Also, Gizmo is a Mogwai, not the “lead Gremlin” or even a Gremlin at all.
— Grumpy Bear ⛈ (@Ooooh_A_Sparkly) July 14, 2022
Some highlighted a key advantage that Grogu has over his rival: 24-hour drinking.
Now I want a story about feeding Baby Yoda after midnight, just to piss him off.
— Silo (@Silo098) July 15, 2022
One even questioned Grogu’s lineage, opening the door to a crossover that probably wouldn’t ever be greenlit for Disney Plus:
Baby Yoda dad had to much to drink at the club one night. 🤣🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/49DCfn7jNP
— Nunya (@bxdray) July 15, 2022
Others noted that, with a new animated Gremlins series in the works, it wouldn’t hurt Dante to get people talking about everyone’s favorite Mogwai again.
Wow. He must be really upset to bring this up three years and a whole pandemic later. I wonder why he felt the need to speak up now? It’s not like he needs publicity or anything. No new Gremlins projects any time soon, right? pic.twitter.com/iLQO3fy52n
— Tinda Zaszcek (@tinnyzaz) July 15, 2022
On that note: Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai will debut on HBO Max this fall, with voice acting help from Everything Everywhere All At Once’s James Hong, Jurassic World Dominion’s BD Wong, and, awkwardly, Grogu’s Mandalorian castmate Ming-Na Wen. Maybe Dante can raise it with her there.
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Alan Martin is a freelance writer based across the Atlantic in London, with bylines dotted across the web and in print. Specializing in technology, games and internet culture, you’ll likely find him running, playing through Spelunky for the millionth time, or cheering on his beloved Derby County.