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A brief history of The Addams Family, from comic strip to cinema hit


They’re creepy, and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, and they’ve also been around for over half a century… It can only be The Addams Family.

This oddball brood is set to hit UK screens very soon in a star-studded, 3D animated family adventure. Featuring the voice talents of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Finn Wolfhard and many more, The Addams Family looks set to be an enjoyable Halloween romp that adults and children will enjoy.

But how did it get to this? How did The Addams Family become such a gargantuan success? Let’s take a look…

(Not so) humble beginnings

The creator of The Addams Family was one Charles Addams. Born in 1912, he grew up to be a cartoonist and The Addams Family was just one of his many creations.

He first started sketching them in 1938, and they were mostly published in The New Yorker. That’s right – even from the very beginning The Addams Family was already a hit commodity, appearing in one of America’s most influential magazines.

In the early days, the characters were just one-panel drawings, designed by Addams to be the opposite of the “ideal 20th-century American family”. They had no names and, at first, there wasn’t even any dialogue to go along with the panels – just the family participating in weird and ghoulish activities.

Look Ma, we’re on TV!

Addams was approached by TV executive David Levy, who wanted to turn his cartoon creations into a show. He’d seen Addams’s drawings in a bookshop and instantly knew it would prove to be hit.

Firstly, that meant giving the characters names and more well-rounded personalities. Levy aimed to create characters that were not grotesque monstrous weirdos, but a loving family who just lived a little differently from everyone else. So, Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Thing, Cousin It, Grandmama Addams and Lurch were born.

The TV series first aired in 1964, ran for two seasons and was extremely popular. This was followed by several revivals, an animated series, a Halloween special and even a crossover with Scooby-Doo.

It wasn’t all good news though – New Yorker editor William Shawn didn't want his publication associated with the TV show and refused to publish the cartoon strip. However, in 1987 The Addams Family returned following Shawn’s retirement.

From page to big screen

Tragically Addams died in 1988 and missed what became the most popular incarnation of his beloved characters.

In 1991, Paramount released the first feature-length, live-action Addams Family movie. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, who went from Coen brother cinematographer to film-maker in his own right, it starred Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia along with Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester and budding child star Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams.

The film was a hit, making over six times its budget and garnering an Academy Award (Best Costume Design) and Golden Globe nomination (Anjelica Huston – Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical). Sequel Addams Family Values followed in 1993, but didn't achieve the same level of success.

The film led to a resurgent interest in Addams’s creation, spawning another TV series, more cartoons and even a sell-out musical. And oddly enough, a pinball machine based on the game is the bestselling pinball machine of all time.

The brand new Addams Family

That bring us to 2019, and the latest incarnation of The Addams Family. This is the group’s first 3D outing and the first time they’ve been treated to the CGI animation treatment. It has a star-studded A-list voice cast and two established animation directors (Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, of the decidedly non-family-friendly Sausage Party). It also boasts a new song from Christina Aguilera, named 'Haunted Heart'. No doubt Charles Addams would be proud of the fact that his creation endures to this day.

The Addams Family
will be released in Cineworld cinemas nationwide from 23rd October. Will you be watching it with your own little monsters this Halloween? Let us know @Cineworld.

Marvyn Wilson is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.