“They might be scary, weird, creepy, and macabre, but The Addams Family is our secret envy. If only our family dinners could be so much fun!” So said author H. Kevin Miserocchi in his 2010 book, The Addams Family: An Evilution.
There is so much truth in what Mr. Miserocchi writes. How else can one explain the fact that every generation has gotten their version of The Addams Family? From their debut by creator Charles Addams in 1938 as cartoons in The New Yorker magazine, to the wildly enduring TV sitcom (and its unforgettable “snap-snap” theme song) that debuted in 1964, and from the big-budget live-action Addams Family films in the early 90s, to the Broadway musical, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth, that bowed in 2010.
Today’s generation is getting their version of The Addams Family, first with a new, computer-animated film in 2019, which was so popular that it spawned the new sequel, aptly titled Addams Family 2. However, this wasn’t the first time this “mysterious and spooky” Family was brought to life through animation.
The Family was fittingly first brought to cartoon life as “guest stars” on The New Scooby-Doo Movies in 1972. The series would feature Scooby and the gang joining forces with real-life and fictional celebrities to solve mysteries.
The episode “Wednesday is Missing” had the “Scooby Gang” meeting The Addams Family when the Mystery Machine breaks down in front of the Family’s dilapidated mansion. Soon after, Wednesday Addams is kidnapped, and the Great Dane and those “meddling kids” help the Addams find her.
With this first animated appearance of The Addams Family, the live-action sitcom’s cast – John Astin (Gomez), Carolyn Jones (Morticia), Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester), and Ted Cassidy (Lurch), returned to voice their cartoon counterparts. However, the characters’ designs were based more on Charles Addams’s original cartoons than how the Family looked on the sitcom.
Unfortunately, this is the only episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies not to be included with the series’ release on home video (according to IMDB, this is reportedly due to a legal issue with the Charles Addams estate).
However, the episode must have demonstrated to Hanna-Barbera that The Addamses looked quite at home on Saturday morning, as they got their animated series the following year (appropriately titled The Addams Family).
Once again, Hanna-Barbera used the design of Addams’ original work. However, not all the original voice cast returned. Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy reprised their roles of Uncle Fester and Lurch, respectively. Voice acting veterans rounded out the cast with Lennie Weinrib as Gomez and Janet Waldo as Morticia. Interestingly, future two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster was also part of the voice cast…as Pugsley!
The show also added some animated elements, like transforming the Addams mansion into an RV-like vehicle that came with an array of unique “gadgets,” as well as adding the Addams’ pets, Ali the alligator, Ocho the octopus, Mr. B. the vulture, and Kitty, the lion.
It would be almost two decades before The Addams Family would get animated again (once more, by Hanna-Barbera). The blockbuster success of the 1991 live-action film brought the Addams back to the forefront and back to Saturday mornings in 1992.
This version seemed to merge the Charles Addams look with its own, stylized design. Unlike the 1972 animated show, this one utilized the famous sitcom’s theme song as its opening. In an exciting twist, actor John Astin was back as the voice of Gomez on this show. Also in the cast: comedian Rip Taylor as Uncle Fester, Broadway icon Carol Channing as Granny Frump, and vocal superstar Jim Cummings as Lurch. Also of note, Don Lusk, an animation legend who had worked on such Disney classics as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp, directed several episodes of the first season of this Addams Family.
In recent years a pair of popular CG animated features revived the Addams’ clan. And now, Tim Burton has the restored the Family’s status in the hit Netflix live action series Wednesday – bringing the characters back for new generation – a generation who truly identify with and embrace this seemingly unembraceable family. It was just announced that second season of Wednesday will begin streaming next year.
As author H. Kevin Miserocchi perfectly noted of Charles Addams’s work: “His genius remains timeless amid a world that constantly changes its focus.”