The Addams Family and Its Rich History
The macabre, gothic series was originally created by Charles Addams in 1938 for The New Yorker, often times relying on dark humor not too unsimilar to some panels for Gary Larsen’s Farside comic strip series. The distorted body shapes helped lend the series an air of familiarity tinged with an ‘off’ feeling.
In the 1960’s, the comic strip series was adapted to the small screen of televisions everywhere. The names were one of the immediate breakthroughs of the television series, often conjured up mental imagery of the dead or diseased such as with Morticia (morticians) and Uncle Fester (festering wounds and sores). One of the rather smaller known changes was that Pugsley was changed from Pubert, a name that would re-appear in Addams Family Values. Wednesday’s name actually comes from a children’s nursery rhyme, Monday’s Child originally being published in 1838.
The series started airing on ABC on September 18th, 1964 and ran for two seasons ending on September 2nd, 1966 after 64 episodes. The show is as much known for its introduction of the Addams Family theme, complete with finger snaps, from composer Vic Mizzy as the humor and characterization. The show was known for being more comedic in tone and lighter, reminiscent of the 1960s era that the show was being aired on television.
Given the short lived success of the television shows, the Addams Family found itself in the animated realm starting in 1973 on NBC after an appearance on The New Scooby-Doo Movies (Scooby-Doo Meets The Addams Family) made in 1972 and featuring several of the 1960s cast members reprising their voices including John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez Addams and Morticia Addams respectively.
In an interesting twist, what became commonplace lore actually started in the animated series with Fester becoming Gomez’s brother and Grandmama becoming Morticia’s mother. Despite lasting only one season with the second featuring re-runs, the animated series featured some unique fun facts such as actress Jodie Foster, then 10 years old, serving as the voice of Pugsley Addams. Other alterations were also made to less success such as the Addams’ traveling around in an old RV style vehicle. Gold Key Comics would publish a 3 issue series in October 1974 adapting series from the animated cartoon.
By 1977, demand had taken hold and the Addams Family were back, reuniting (with the exception of actress Blossom Rock, whom was ill at the time and replaced by Janet Rose) for Halloween With the New Addams Family. The plot was set up around Cousin Shy, a character similar to The Great Pumpkin with a family of crooks intending to steal the family fortune, another aspect somewhat later lifted for the more well known movie series. One small alteration is that the family now have Wednesday Jr. and Pugsley Jr. making the two originals under the name Sr. The made for television movie aired on October 30th, 1977.
That would be the last appearance of the family until Barry Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family feature film released on November 22nd, 1991. The plot revolved around the return of Uncle Fester after 25 years in a plot to steal the Addams Family fortune under the control of lawyer Tully Alford and loan shark Abigail Craven aka Dr. Pinder-Schloss. One of the hallmarks of the movie, aside from the fantastic set design, was the ability to heavily rely on the darker tone and sense of humor of the original comic strips written by Charles Addams. The movie is a blast to watch with great performances from Raul Julia as Gomez, Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Christopher Lloyd as Fester, and Elizabeth Wilson as Abigail Craven. The film itself carried several tenets created much earlier in the ‘evolution’ of the Addams Family such as Fester being Gomez’s brother and Gomez likely being rich due to inheritances from deceased family members in comparison the 1960s series that featured Gomez more prone to gambling and making purposeful bad decisions that ended up working out financially.
Following up on the success of the 1991 feature film and pre-empting the sequel, ABC ran a cartoon series from 1992-1993. Unlike the early 1970’s version, this skewed closer to having situations arise at home and featured actor John Astin reprising his role as Gomez Addams along with celebrity Rip Taylor taking over the voice of Fester. The series tended to mix and match the 1960s television series character wise to the brooding, darker tone and several elements from the hit 1991 film. Despite this, the cartoons were less macabre and dark as a result of being part of the Saturday morning cartoon blocks of the time.
Released on November 19th, 1993 the sequel film Addams Family Values is arguably even better than the original 1991 movie. The plot revolves around serial killer Debbie Jellinski played by Joan Cusack, whom marries Uncle Fester as a way to kill him off and inherit the fortune of the Addams Family. A notable subplot is Wednesday and Pugsley being sent to summer camp by Debbie as a way to get them out of the picture. The film has a bevy of great performances throughout with many proclaiming the summer camp plot as a highlight, particularly the performance of a young Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams bringing probably the purest form of the original Charles Addams cartoons to the screen with a lot of deadpan, one line deliveries helped by Mercedes McNab’s role opposite her as Amanda Buckman. The two camp counselors, played by Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski are equally a riot. As mentioned earlier, the name of Pugsley’s character was changed from Pubert and in this movie, the birth of a new baby coincides with him being christened Pubert in a nod back to the 1960s series.
After Raul Julia’s sudden death, which cancelled any plans for a 1994 film in the franchise, the Addams’ would stay quiet until 1998 when a fairly forgettable direct to video was released called Adams Family Reunion featuring Tim Curry as Gomez Addams and Darryl Hannah as Morticia Addams. It was originally served as a reboot of the franchise and intended to be a focal point for the new Fox Family series, The New Addams Family. The television show actually ran for 65 episodes, one longer than the 1960s series, starting in October of 1998. Glenn Taranto took over the role of Gomez Addams and Ellie Harvie played Morticia Addams. As a fun nod to the history, actor John Astin took on the role of Grandpa Addams. The television series married the 1960s comedic, brighter tone with the darker edge of the 1990’s films particularly with bigger roles for Wednesday and Pugsley.
Overall, the Addams Family have largely remained intact for over 40 years with very little variation outside of elements being played up lighter or darker. While many fans of the family will fondly remember the 1991 and 1993 film versions or the 1960’s television series for those whom are older, it’s worth going out of your way to check out some of the more obscure history of the family namely the 1973-1974 and 1992-1993 cartoon series. Just remember to stay spooky and kooky!
Credit to variety.com for feature image