They appear like small, fur-covered, bat-eared mammals, slightly reminiscent of a bushbaby or an aye-aye, with the difference that Mogwai are bipedal and have no tail.
They are notable for their aversion to sunlight, and the strange reaction that occurs when they have contact with liquid water, as it causes them to immediately multiply by means of budding off balls of fur which rapidly develop into new individuals.
The strangest feature of this species, however, is the transformation they pass through, which is triggered by eating food after midnight - a physiological reaction, probably related to their biological clock. When this happens, the Mogwai will cocoon itself and emerge as a scaly, slender, grotesque, goblin-like form known as the Gremlin. Gremlins differ vastly from their precursors, not only in appearance, but in behavior as well, being far more mischievous, destructive and hostile.
The Mogwai race was created on a distant planet by a benevolent alien inventor named Mogturmen, who wished to create a species that would be capable of living on any environmental condition, that would be highly intelligent and gentle, and capable of quick reproduction.
Made in an era when the art of genetically engineering new species was becoming extremely popular, the Mogwai experiment was first deemed a success, and Mogturmen's fame was celebrated throughout the three galaxies. So popular were the Mogwai, that the galactic powers ordered that specimens of the new race should be sent to every inhabitable world, hoping that their presence would inspire alien beings to develop peaceful and prosperous civilizations, guided by the Mogwai's vast intellect and kind spirits.
Some of the worlds the Mogwai were sent to include Kelm-6 in the Poraisti Range, Clinpf-A of the Beehive Pollux, and "the third satellite of MinorSun#67672", also known as Earth. Unfortunately, it was demonstrated over the course of the next generations that the Mogwai were actually highly unstable, and that very few individuals would retain their gentle disposition. The vast majority would devolve into the destructive Gremlin-spawning beings that love to spread chaos.
- Gremlins (1984)
- Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
- The word "Mogwai" comes from Cantonese and can be roughly translated as "evil spirit" or "demon". Traditionally, they're said to reproduce during the rains. This might have been the inspiration for how the film's Mogwai and Gremlins spontaneously start budding when they get wet.
- The origins of the Mogwai species were invented by George Gipe, who wrote the film's novelization. In the film itself, there is no mention of them being extraterrestrial. The novel also suggests that the original Mogwai can live for thousands of years and that the reason they are almost incapable of speech is that "they thought so much faster than they could verbalize". The new Mogwai created from the reproductive process have much shorter lives and, although they do show some primitive form of genetic memory, aren't aware of how the reproductive process takes place or what they should do to transform into the Gremlin form. Because of some in-built emotional principle, they are also incapable of killing other members of their own race.