Animation Cel-ebration
July 28, 2023 posted by Michael Lyons

Creepy, Kooky and Cartoony: Addams Animated Adventures on TV

“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.”


  • Wednesday Addams in a pink dress? The horror… the horror!

    No discussion of the Addams Family in animation is complete without mentioning the Addams-inspired Gruesomes, who appeared in several episodes of The Flintstones contemporaneously with the original sitcom. Like the Addamses, the Gruesomes — Weirdly, Creepella, and their son Goblin or Gobby — had a pet spider, a pet octopus, and a pet carnivorous plant. If Hanna-Barbera ever had plans for a spin-off, they never came to fruition.

    • Lol! Somehow seeing Wednesday Addams in a pink dress kind of works, oddly enough. And totally agree that you simply can’t chat about The Addams Family cartoons without shedding light on The Gruesomes.

      • As it happens, the colour scheme of the parlour set in the original AF sitcom was bright pink and gold! Hard to imagine in black-and-white, but such garish colours were perfectly in keeping with the house’s Second Empire style decor.

        • Ah! That’s very interesting. Thanks for the info, Paul 🙂.

  • Mike, there is speculation – and I’m inclined to agree – that it is John Astin holding out for more money that is keeping that The New Scooby-Doo Movies episode from DVD/Blu-ray rather than any static from the Addams estate. All the other animated adaptions have been released to home video without any issues, Also, Astin is the only surviving original cast member to have provided a vocal performance. Zoinks!

  • Don’t forget Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, who were at least second cousins to Gomez and Morticia.

    • Yet another early media reference to the cartoons comes from a rather unexpected source.
      When the venerable western Gunsmoke originally began on CBS radio in 1952, actors Parley Baer and Howard McNear’s roles were simply called “Chester” and “Doc Adams.” Baer ad-libbed the surname “Proudfoot” for his character (renamed “Chester Goode” for the TV show). Radio’s Matt Dillon was William Conrad (later of Rocky and Bullwinkle). Since Adams was originally a rather ghoulish character who openly gloated over each autopsy fee, Conrad dubbed him “Doctor Charles Adams.” (On TV he was Galen Adams).
      And if you really want to feel like it’s a small world, Baer later appeared in six episodes of The Addams Family as “Henson,” though Henson’s position was subject to change.
      The original cartoons were easily available to the general public through the 40s and 50s. There were regular hardback anthologies, and these could eventually be found on spinner racks everywhere as Pocket Book paperbacks. One of the collections featured an introduction by Boris Karloff, whose butler from James Whale’s The Old Dark House was reprised in the Family panels (the character was originally bearded), which owed a lot of their general atmosphere to that movie as well. (William Castle’s weak remake, which nearly doomed the original’s survival on film, made the Addams connection overt).
      Sorry to be bubbling over with so much trivia. I’m an Addams fan!

  • Snooper and Blabber wound up with Mr.(Peter Lorre sounding) and Mrrs.(Talullah Bankhead) Evil Scientist back in 1959!

    • Yes, but as you say, Super Snooper, like Rocky & Friends, debuted in 1959, five years before the Addams Family sitcom, and those characters don’t appear to have been influenced by the New Yorker cartoons at all. The Gruesomes, on the other hand, were definitely inspired by the Addamses.

      • Actually, Boris and Natasha WERE Addams stepchildren. In an interview by John Province for Hogan’s Alley, Alex Anderson said:

        Anderson: It wasn’t until later, when Bill Scott came along and went into production, that he brought in Natasha and Boris, who were based on the Addams Family cartoons by Charles Addams. From that point on, the show took on a totally different aspect, and I certainly credit Bill for taking Rocky and Bullwinkle into a new genre.

        The New Yorker cartoons had gained a lot of attention by that time,. Mad Magazine featured a faux-Addams panel of Morticia by Wally Wood in the March 1959 issue (“If Comic Strip Artists Drew Editorial Cartoons”) and there was an early stab at merchandising before the show with cloth dolls of Wednesday and her brother, then tentatively called “Gorgon.”

  • I find the Addams’ shtick to generally be rather thin, but the 1992-93 Animated series had some fun elements, including some lively animation and their cartoonishly square neighbour, underwear manufacturer Norman Normanmeyer (husband to Normina and father to a second Norman). I kind of thought the character was inspired by then-and-former-by-Season-2-President Bush, but apparently Rob Paulsen modeled the character on Paul Lynde, so maybe not.

  • It should be noted that the animation of the 1973 Addams Family series was outsourced to the Halas & Batchelor Studios (especially known for their 1954 feature ANIMAL FARM) in England. This gave the series a loose and ‘fresh’ look (which I particularly like it) rarely found in other Hanna-Barbera productions of the period (perhaps in WAIT TILL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME).

  • Mr. & Mrs. J. Evil Scientist (aka Boris and Goonda) looked a great deal like Charles Addams’ characters in the old New Yorker comics. They made three memorable appearances with Snooper & Blabber and one with Snagglepuss and I can’t look at them without thinking of Gomez and Morticia.

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