Written by Nishanthini Ganesan
Created by late cartoonist Charles Addams, The Addams Family franchise took its baby steps in the late 1930s as a series of one-panel cartoons that were published in the American newspaper, The New Yorker. They were nothing more than a dark parody of the classic American family, but this was just the beggining and the characters, other than their distinctly macabre sense of humor, were still undeveloped.
None of the characters in The Addams Family cartoons even had names until the 1964 sitcom based on the comics was put into production. Charles Addams, father of The Addams Family was asked to do the honours and Morticia, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsley, and the rest of the Addams Family’s quirky names came to be.
The 1964 The Addams Family sitcom had 64 episodes split into 2 seasons with John Astin starring as Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as Morticia. Critics of the film often stated that Carolyn Jones was “too pretty” for the role but she soon earned her praise as Morticia Addams. The Addams Family theme song that soon became synonmous with the franchise was also introduced.
The series broke ground with the portrayal of Morticia’s and Gomez’s relationship. Never before, or possibly ever since, had a couple been so physically intimate or intensely in love with each other on television. It was even joked about that Morticia and Gomez Addams seemed to be the only 1960s TV parents even remotely capable of having children. The Addams Family was also one of the last network series to be filmed in black and white. Though not succesful in its two years on television, the sitcom soon became a cult favorite after it was discontinued.
The second Addams Family sitcom, The New Addams Family was shown on Fox Family from October 1998 to August 1999. It did not contain the original theme song but rather a faster-paced tune that still had the classic finger-snapping. The series ran for 65 episodes split into 2 seasons, and consisted of remakes of the original 1960s Addams Family episodes, as well as newly-written ones. Apart from the lack of originality in the plot-lines, The New Addams Family earned praise for putting a modern twist to the original characters, but still keeping to the essence of The Addams Family.
The first animated The Addams Family cartoon series ran from 1973 to 1975 on NBC with only 16 episodes. The first animated appearance of the family however was on Episode SDC-3 of Hanna-Barbera’s The New Scooby Doo Movies. It aired on the American television station CBS on the 23rd of September, 1972.
The first Addams Family feature film, The Addams Family, opened on November 16, 1991. It grossed $191,502,246 worldwide at the box office and became the seventh highest-grossing film of 1991.
It was after the successful release of this film that the second Addams Family cartoon series began production. This animated series became part of the popular Saturday Morning Cartoons and was aired from September 1992 to November 1993. New characters such as the Addams Family’s next-door neighbours, the Normanmeyers were introduced into the franchise. California toy manufacturer Playmates Toys also bought the rights to The Addams Family and produced a series of nine Action Figures based on the characters of the second animated series.
In 1993, the second Addams Family feature film, The Addams Family Values, opened at #1 in the box office with a reported total earnings of $14,117,545. Many of the original cast members in the movie came back for the second film, including Angelica Huston and Raul Julia who reprised their roles as Mortica and Gomez Addams. The film’s earnings were a sharp decline from the first film, with The Addams Family Values only grossing a total of $48,919,043 at the box office. However, it was better received by critics, and got a 75% out of 35 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Almost 2 decades later, The Addams Family Broadway Musical officially opened on the 8th of April, 2010. It celebrated it’s 500th performance on June 16 2011 and by that time, according to Playbill, had grossed over $62 Million. This September, the production is set to embark on its National Tour of the US with its first show at the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans.
With an illustrious past and a bright future ahead, The Addams Family is one franchise that has shown success in not only film, but animation and television. It has been tried and tested by time and has secured itself among the lists of all-time cult favorites.
So here’s to the wierd, the gloomy, the eecentric, the different, and the downright macabre. Because if there is anything that Hollywood has proved endearing to an audience, it’s us.