The Gremlins

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The Gremlins
Gremcov.jpg
Cover of the first edition of The Gremlins
Author Roald Dahl
Illustrator Bill Justice
Al Dempster
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Published1943 Walt Disney Company (original)
Dark Horse Comics (current)
Media type Hardback
ISBN 1-59307-496-4
Roald Dahl, c. 1954 Roald Dahl.jpg
Roald Dahl, c. 1954

The Gremlins is a book written by Roald Dahl and published in 1943. [1]

Roald Dahl British novelist, short story writer, poet, fighter pilot, and screenwriter

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.

Contents

It was Dahl's first book and was written for Walt Disney Productions, in anticipation of a feature-length animated film that was never made. [Note 1] With Dahl's assistance, a series of gremlin characters were developed, and while pre-production had begun, the film project was eventually abandoned, in part because the studio could not establish the precise rights of the "gremlin" story, and in part because the British Air Ministry was heavily involved in the production because Dahl, who was on leave from his wartime Washington posting, insisted on final approval of script and production. [2] [Note 2]

The Walt Disney Company American mass media corporation

The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney, is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California.

Gremlin folkloric creature

A gremlin is a folkloric mischievous creature that causes malfunctions in aircraft or other machinery. Depictions of these creatures vary. Often they are described or depicted as animals with spiky backs, large strange eyes, and small clawed frames that feature sharp teeth.

Air Ministry 1918-1964 British Government department

The Air Ministry was a department of the Government of the United Kingdom with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964. It was under the political authority of the Secretary of State for Air.

Plot

The story concerns mischievous mythical creatures, the Gremlins of the title, often invoked by Royal Air Force pilots as an explanation of mechanical troubles and mishaps. [4] In Dahl's book, the gremlins' motivation for sabotaging British aircraft is revenge of the destruction of their forest home, which was razed to make way for an aircraft factory. The principal character in the book, Gus, has his Hawker Hurricane fighter destroyed over the English Channel by a gremlin, but is able to convince the gremlins as they parachute into the water that they should join forces against a common enemy, Hitler and the Nazis, rather than fight each other.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft family

The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s–40s that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. for service with the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was overshadowed in the public consciousness by the Supermarine Spitfire's role during Battle of Britain in 1940, but the Hurricane inflicted 60 percent of the losses sustained by the Luftwaffe in the engagement, and fought in all the major theatres of the Second World War.

English Channel Arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France

The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Southern England from northern France and links to the southern part of the North Sea by the Strait of Dover at its northeastern end. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.

Eventually, the gremlins are re-trained by the Royal Air Force to repair rather than sabotage aircraft, and restore Gus to active flight status after a particularly severe crash. [Note 3] The book also contains picturesque details about the ordinary lives of gremlins: baby gremlins, for instance, are known as widgets, and females as fifinellas, a name taken from the great "flying" filly racehorse Fifinella, that won both The Derby and Epsom Oaks in 1916, the year Dahl was born.

Aviation accidents and incidents Aviation occurrence involving serious injury, death, or destruction of aircraft

In aviation, an accident is defined by the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft, which takes place from the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until all such persons have disembarked, and in which a) a person is fatally or seriously injured, b) the aircraft sustains significant damage or structural failure, or c) the aircraft goes missing or becomes completely inaccessible. Annex 13 defines an incident as an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of operation.

Fifinella Mascot of the U.S. Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in World War II

Fifinella was a female gremlin designed by Walt Disney for a proposed film from Roald Dahl's book The Gremlins. During World War II, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) asked permission to use the image as their official mascot, and the Disney Company granted them the rights.

Fifinella (horse) British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Fifinella (1913–1931) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare. In a career that lasted from 1915 until 1917 she ran seven times and won four races. She was the highest-rated British two-year-old of either sex in 1915 and went on to greater success the following season. As a three-year-old in 1916 she won the Derby and Oaks both of which were run that year at Newmarket. She was the sixth and most recent filly to win the Derby.

Publication

The publication of The Gremlins by Random House consisted of a 50,000 run for the U.S. market [Note 4] with Dahl ordering 50 copies for himself as promotional material, handing them out to everyone he knew, including the British Ambassador in Washington Lord Halifax, and the First Lady of the U.S. Eleanor Roosevelt, who loved to read it to her grandchildren. [4] The book was considered an international success with 30,000 more sold in Australia but initial efforts to reprint the book were precluded by a wartime paper shortage. [5] Reviewed in major publications, Dahl was considered a writer-of-note and his appearances in Hollywood to follow up with the film project were met with notices in Hedda Hopper's columns. [6] [Note 5]

Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax British politician

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax,, styled Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was a senior British Conservative politician of the 1930s. He held several senior ministerial posts during this time, most notably those of Viceroy of India from 1925 to 1931 and of Foreign Secretary between 1938 and 1940. He was one of the architects of the policy of appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1936–38, working closely with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. However, after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 he was one of those who pushed for a new policy of attempting to deter further German aggression by promising to go to war to defend Poland.

Eleanor Roosevelt American politician, diplomat, and activist, and First Lady of the United States

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was an American political figure, diplomat and activist. She served as the First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1933, to April 12, 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms in office, making her the longest-serving First Lady of the United States. Roosevelt served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952.

Facing copyright problems and realising that the Air Ministry's "Clause 12" in the original film contract would restrict the studio, Walt Disney, who had a personal interest in The Gremlins, reluctantly began to "wind down" the project. By August 1943, Disney had even reconsidered an animated "short" based on The Gremlins and indicated to Dahl by correspondence that further work would not continue. After a year of story conferences and related research, Dahl realised that his book would be the only tangible product emanating from the aborted film. [2]

Walt Disney American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer

Walter Elias Disney was an American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of cartoons. As a film producer, Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. He was presented with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award, among other honors. Several of his films are included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Subsequent use

The story of gremlins appeared in Issues #33-#41 of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories published by Walt Disney Productions between June 1943 and February 1944; it contained a nine-episode series of short, silent stories featuring a Gremlin Gus as their star. The first was drawn by Vivie Risto and the rest of them by Walt Kelly. This served as their introduction to the comic book audience. These comics were subsequently reprinted in 1987 by Gladstone Publishing Ltd. [7]

Reprints

A special edition of the book was produced to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force and was distributed exclusively through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. [8] The USAF special edition featured a unique dust jacket that bore the commemorative seal of the 60th USAF Anniversary. The inside flap of the dust jacket featured a brief history of the book's role in improving morale for airmen and their families. The initial distribution of the USAF 60th Anniversary commemorative edition sold out at all participating AAFES locations on the first day of sale. [9]

Used copies of the first edition book are highly prized and sought after by collectors of both Roald Dahl's works and Disney's; these copies may be valued anywhere between US$100 and US$10,000. [10]

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", a 1963 Twilight Zone episode, starring William Shatner, is an homage to the legend of gremlins, one being seen dismantling an airliner during flight. The role was played by John Lithgow in the 1983 movie.

In the book "Myth Conceptions," from the MythAdventures series, Robert Asprin describes a gremlin as a small, blue-skinned creature that has a tendency to vanish when the viewer's attention is distracted.

The 1984 film Gremlins , produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Joe Dante, is loosely inspired by Dahl's characters, featuring evil and destructive monsters which mutate from small furry creatures.

In September 2006, Dark Horse Comics published The Gremlins: The Lost Walt Disney Production, a faithfully restored and updated version of The Gremlins including an introduction by acclaimed film historian Leonard Maltin as well as creating a series of Gremlin-inspired toys and figurines, that were patterned after the original Dahl-inspired characters as well as a comic sequel miniseries in which the grandson of pilot Gus meets the Gremlins when inheriting his grandfather's house in England. [11]

The Gremlins appear in the Epic Mickey franchise as tiny helpers of Mickey Mouse. Their leader Gus (voiced by Bob Joles in the first game and Cary Elwes in the second) serves as a conscience figure to Mickey (as Jiminy Cricket is to Pinocchio). Unlike in the book, the Gremlins can teleport.

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References

Notes

  1. Dahl claimed that the gremlins were exclusively a Royal Air Force icon and that he was the original author and creator, but the elf-like figures had a very convoluted origin that predated his original writings. [2]
  2. Dahl was given permission by the Air Ministry to work in Hollywood and an arrangement had been made that all proceeds from the film would be split between the RAF Benevolent Fund and Dahl. [3]
  3. The book had an autobiographical connection as Dahl had flown as a Hurricane fighter pilot in the RAF, and was temporarily on leave from operational flying after serious injuries sustained in a crash landing in Libya. He later returned to flying.
  4. Both paperback and hardcover versions were printed in 1943.
  5. In 1950, Collins Publishing (New York) published a limited reprint of The Gremlins.

Citations

  1. Conant 2008, pp. 42–43.
  2. 1 2 3 Conant 2008, p. 173.
  3. Conant 2008, p. 43.
  4. 1 2 Donald, Graeme. Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2008. ISBN   978-1-84603-300-1.
  5. Sturrock 2010, p. 188.
  6. Conant 2008, pp. 43–46.
  7. Howard, Kristine. "The Sequels." roalddahlfans.com. Retrieved: 1 October 2010.
  8. O'Connor, Seamus. "Guardian Gremlins: Air Force uses Dahl book to celebrate 60th Birthday." Air Force Times, 9 July 2007. Retrieved: 11 October 2010.
  9. Joyner, Bo. ""Reservist helps bring the Gremlins back to life." Citizen Airman, October 2007. Retrieved: 3 June 2011.
  10. "Gremlins book prices." bebooks.co.uk. Retrieved: 11 October 2010.
  11. Dahl 2006, pp. v–viii.

Bibliography