They’re creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky – yet The Addams Family has long been one of pop culture’s favourite clan, and with the seminal TV series which debuted in the 1960s, a couple of shortlived animated TV series, two successful movies and even a Broadway musical, this version currently in our cinemas is the first full-length animated film to feature the family.
With this version, co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan wanted to keep things fresh – so they went back to the seminal New Yorker comics by creator Charles Addams starting in the 1930s.
“We went back to the original cartoons to start at the beginning, when Addams first came up with these characters,” says Vernon. “In every iteration, the Addams were already this congealed family unit. We wanted to actually start them in different places and see how they came to be.”
And so the film starts off with Morticia and Gomez’s origin story, as they inhabit an old insane asylum that becomes The Addams Family home, replete with a spirit constantly yelling at them to “get out!” and of course Lurch, the monster-like butler. Eventually kids Pugsley and Wednesday enter the picture as does Uncle Fester.
Added to the brilliant idea to make this latest adaptation of the story an animated film, the team had all the necessary ingredients to breathe new life into this beloved family. “With animation right now, you have more of a believable way to tell stories about things that aren’t necessarily in our world,” says Vernon.
“Of course, any filmmaker has to direct people’s attention where they feel they want to direct it to tell the story,” adds Tiernan.
“But the story itself, like any good story, has got to have heart, it’s got to have something that people can connect to. And this one definitely does.”
The team had all the necessary ingredients to breathe new life into this beloved family
The film features an eclectic voice cast. The filmmakers report that when anyone involved in this project was asked why they wanted to be a part of it, they all offered some variation of: “Well, it’s The Addams Family,” in their reply.
When Oscar Isaac, the team’s number one choice for family patriarch Gomez Addams, signed on, The Addams Family began to feel real. He was soon joined by the likes of Charlize Theron, Nick Kroll and Allison Janney.
Like most people, Isaac was familiar with the TV shows and films, but had a more personal connection. “Raul Julia was one of my favourite actors, and to see him play Gomez (in the 1991 and 1993 films) with such relish definitely made an impression on me when I was young,” he says. “To get to play that role as a homage to him has been really special.”
Charlize Theron, who voices Morticia, was drawn to the enduring legacy of this quirky clan that, in a subversively delightful way, represents what family really means. “I think at the core, why people really respond to the Addams family, is because ultimately they will always be Addams and they take pride in that and never try to change themselves for anybody,” says the actress.
“This is a family that lives to the extreme. But there is something that is very grounded, because even though they’re trying to kill each other, they love each other, and you really see that.”
Janney, who voices Margaux Needler, the neighbour who causes the Addams’ so much trouble, describes the family as “an iconic, classic, ‘American,’ fictional family. They embrace the macabre and the dark and sort of gruesome side of life. And what’s so wonderful about the Addams Family is they have no idea why they’re that weird anyway. It endears you to them.”
Everyone involved in the movie also found the Addams Family’s struggle incredibly topical and important. “It is an immigrant story. They come from the old country to America and set up roots and build their life here. And someone from outside their world comes in and tries to set up a neighbourhood that they don’t fit into, so she tries to run them out,” says Vernon.
“Basically, it’s all about acceptance and how Margaux can’t see past her preconceived notions of what her neighbourhood should be and accept these people that might be outside of her norm.”
“Still, the film is a comedy with lots of dark Addams touches, in the vein of family-friendly horror genre,” says Tiernan.
“It was important to the team to assure that like the best animated movies, The Addams Family would entertain on many levels!”