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Why were there thumb people in the first ‘Spy Kids’ movie? The unique characters, explained

Robert Rodriguez, please answer for your crimes.

Image via Dimension Films

Picture this: the year is 2001 and you’re rolling up to your local movie theater to watch Spy Kids, the newest age-appropriate blockbuster all your friends have been telling you about. You park at your favorite mall (of course the movie theater is in a mall — this is 2001, after all) and make your way to the ticket booth. After buying your ticket (you can’t believe tickets cost $5 now!) and ordering yourself a large popcorn, you quietly find your seat just as the previews are ending. You may have survived Y2K, but little do you know that an even more horrific fate awaits you: the Thumb-Thumbs.

Any Robert Rodriguez fan knows that the filmmaker has a penchant for artistic gore, much like his friend and fellow auteur Quentin Tarantino, but nothing could have prepared moviegoers for the Thumb-Thumbs. As the name suggests, Thumb-Thumbs are anthropomorphic thumbs with thumbs for heads (and every appendage, really) who work as Floop’s henchmen in the film. These robots behave only the way Floop programmed them to, and while they’re not technically evil by nature, they’re incredibly disconcerting to watch. What drove Rodriguez to create these characters and why wasn’t he stopped?!

The Thumb-Thumbs in Spy Kids were a childhood invention

Rodriguez began formulating the idea for Spy Kids shortly after creating his short film Bedhead while he was a student at the University of Texas at Austin. His first feature-length film, El Mariachi ⏤ a low-budget neo-Western ⏤ would catapult him into the mainstream, but Rodriguez loved the idea of creating a full-length film revolving around family. In a series of interviews with Creative Screenwriting, Rodriguez shared that he developed a loose plot early on and intended for the movie to be a James Bond adventure film for kids with none of his already-signature gore.

In the same interview, Rodriguez revealed that he first got the idea for the accursed Thumb-Thumbs from artwork he created when he was 13. The art actually helped him win his first art contest ⏤ perhaps they were as equally repulsed and impressed as I am ⏤ and he thought his rediscovered childhood ideas were perfect for a movie made for children. For what it’s worth, Rodriguez seemed equally as surprised by what his childhood imagination could come up with, but decided to roll with it for the sake of the film.

“So cool finding old drawings and you wonder what you were thinking, but that’s the mindset. I wanted this to have the feel like a kid wrote it, shot it, edited it, directed it. What a kid would do.”

While that’s the official reason Rodriguez included the Thumb-Thumbs in Spy Kids, it’s worth mentioning that these Thumb people are literally “all thumbs” and as incompetent as their name would suggest. Whether or not that was his intention, we love a good pun here at We Got This Covered!

Spy Kids: Armageddon is the latest entry in Rodriguez’s franchise, with a Sep. 22, 2023 premiere date on Netflix, but there’s no word yet on whether or not the Thumb-Thumbs will make an appearance.

Staci White
About the author

Staci White

Since the moment she listened to her first Britney Spears CD at the tender age of six, Staci has been a lover of all things pop culture. She graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors in Linguistics and somehow turned her love of music, movies, and media into a career as a freelance writer. When she’s not writing for WGTC, she’s busy fulfilling her own pop star dreams as a singer/songwriter or hanging out at her local coffee shops.