The Addams Family are a group of fictional characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. Earlier Addams had worked in collaboration with his friend Ray Bradbury. In a 2001 interview Bradbury states that after failing to find a publisher, they went their own separate ways, with Bradbury creating the Elliott Family and Addams creating the Addams family.
The Addamses are a satirical inversion of the ideal American family; an eccentric, wealthy family who delight in the macabre and are unaware that people find them bizarre or frightening. They originally appeared as a series of single panel cartoons in The New Yorker magazine, which gained popularity in the 1930s. They have since been adapted to other media, including television series, films and video games.
The family that the cartoons, movies, and television shows are based on is apparently only one surviving branch of the Addams clan. Many other "Addams families" exist all over the world. According to the film version, the family credo is, Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc (pseudo-Latin: "We gladly feast on those who would subdue us").
They reside next to a cemetery and a swamp at 0001 Cemetery Lane, in a gloomy mansion (In The New Addams Family, the address was changed to 1313 Cemetery Lane, in a reference to rival show The Munsters). (Charles Addams was first inspired by his home town of Westfield, New Jersey, an area full of ornate Victorian mansions and archaic graveyards.)
Although they all share macabre interests, the Addamses cannot be considered evil people. They are a close-knit extended family. Morticia is an exemplary mother, and she and Gomez remain passionate towards one another. She calls him "Bubbele", to which he responds by kissing her arms—behaviour Morticia can also provoke by speaking a few words in French. The parents are very supportive of their children, cheering even their smallest accomplishments. The family is unfailingly friendly and hospitable to visitors, in some cases willing to donate large sums of money to causes, despite the visitors' horror at the Addams' particular lifestyle.
Originally none of the members of the Addams family had names, but when the TV show was in development, Charles Addams was asked to provide names for each of the characters. For the father he suggested Gomez or Repelli, for the mother October, for the uncle Fester, for the butler Lurch, for the daughter Wednesday (for being "full of woe"), and for the son Pubert (which he later changed to Pugsley at the behest of ABC).
The Addams family consists of Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, and Cousin Itt. The family is tended to by their butler, Lurch, and Thing, a disembodied hand (sometimes in a box) who is a childhood friend of Gomez.
In the TV series, Gomez is portrayed as a charming, handsome, and successful man, although he has a child-like, eccentric enthusiasm for everything he does. For instance, his personal portrait depicts him as standing gleefully on his head. Though a peaceful man, he is known to be well-versed in many types of combat. He and Morticia fence with foils sometimes.
Gomez has an endless love for Morticia. He studied to be a lawyer, but rarely practices, while taking great pride in losing his cases. Gomez is also quite pleased with the fact that his law class voted him "Least Likely to Pass the Bar".
Gomez is extremely wealthy from inheritance and extensive investments, but he seems to have little regard for money. Although he invests in the stock market, to the point where there is a ticker tape machine in their living area, he seems to play the market primarily to lose. Despite his macabre sense of humor, he is extremely generous and known for going out of his way to help those he considers friends.
Gomez is of Castilian origin and loves to smoke cigars and play destructively with his model trains. Of the names Addams suggested for the family members, "Gomez" was the only one that was not "ghoulish" (in the manner of Morticia or Fester). When asked why he suggested the name Gomez for the character, Addams replied that he "thought he [the character] had a bit of Spanish blood in him." However, Addams had trouble deciding whether the father character was Spanish or Italian. He decided that if he were Spanish, he would be called "Gomez", if Italian, he would be "Repelli". The final choice of first name was left up to actor John Astin.
Morticia's original mother was Hester Frump (played in two episodes by Margaret Hamilton), but her origins were later retconned and she became Grandmama's daughter. (Grandmama subsequently became known as Esmerelda Frump.) Morticia has an older sister named Ophelia. In the sitcom, her marriage brought her uncle Fester into the family.
Morticia is portrayed as elegant, artistic, and musically inclined (opera singing, tango dancing, and playing numerous instruments). She also knits strange items of clothing for various members of the family. She has a crystal ball which Thing hides for her and she sometimes performs magic, though seldom (like lighting candles by pointing at them with her fingertips), however, this is only done when she is alone or with Gomez.
Gomez and Morticia have two children, Pugsley and Wednesday. Wednesday, whose middle name is Friday, was originally—as her name suggests—a quiet, somewhat pathetic child, full of woe. In the TV show she is a sweet-natured, innocent, happy child, largely concerned with her pet spiders. A favorite toy is her Marie Antoinette doll, which she had guillotined. The movies gave Wednesday a much more serious and mature personality with a deadpan wit and a morbid fascination with trying to physically harm or possibly murder her brother (she was seen strapping him into an electric chair, for example, and preparing to pull the switch); she is apparently often successful, but Pugsley never dies. Like most members of the family he seems to be stronger than most humans, requiring a lot more punishment to be killed.
For his part, Pugsley is largely either oblivious of the harm his sister tries to inflict on him, or an enthusiastic supporter of it. In his first incarnation, Pugsley (originally to be called Pubert, a name that would be given to the Addams' third child in the live action movies) was depicted as a diabolical, malevolent child next door. In the TV series, he is a devoted older brother and an inventive and mechanical genius. In the films, he loses his intelligence and independence, and becomes Wednesday's sidekick and younger brother, cheerfully helping her in her evil deeds.
The relationship between the Addams siblings seems to have (at least in part) inspired the one between Billy and Mandy in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, with Mandy and Billy's relationship mirroring Wednesday's relationship with Pugsley).
In the most recent animated series, Pugsley's and Wednesday's personalities seem to be a mix of their previous ones, with Wednesday a happy and somewhat optimistic child, while retaining her sophisticated manner from the movies and Pugsley having regained some of his genius when it comes to chemistry and machines, but his intelligence still seems to be rather underdeveloped at times.
The children appear to be home-schooled, receiving all the education they require from Grandmama and Uncle Fester. An attempt was made to enroll them in the local elementary school, but it did not work out.
In the first movie, the children do attend an elementary school, and in the second movie they are on summer vacation from school.
In the 1993 film Addams Family Values, Gomez and Morticia have a third child, a son named Pubert (voiced by Cheryl Chase), a mustachioed and seemingly indestructible baby with the ability to shoot flaming arrows. Originally conceived by Charles Addams for the character eventually named Pugsley in the '60s TV series, the name was rejected due to fears that network censors would disallow it.
Pubert is referred to in the unrelated 1998 straight-to-video film Addams Family Reunion and the short-lived follow-up series that aired on Fox Family Channel, in which Wednesday states that there used to be a third sibling, but that they ate it.
Fester is a bald, barrel-shaped man with dark, sunken eyes and a devilish grin. He seems to carry an electrical charge and can illuminate a light bulb by sticking it in his mouth. In the original television series, Fester was Morticia's uncle, and therefore technically not an Addams, although at times he claims the family name as his own. In all other animated and filmed content, Fester became Gomez's older brother.
Grandmama is Gomez's mother in the 1960s live-action TV series and also The New Addams Family, where she is given the name "Eudora Addams". In both the movies and the animated TV series, the relation between Grandmama and Gomez seems to have changed from mother-son to mother-in-law. However, according to The Lurch Files website, this is not the case. She's only referenced as Morticia's mother in the movie series, having the name Esmeralda Frump (Most Addams Family fans consider the third movie, which actually gives the name, non-canon, so it's conceivable that Grandmama may have had another name. In the first movie, Morticia and Gomez note that "Mother and Father Addams" were killed by an angry mob, removing any possibility that Grandmama could be Gomez' mother in the movie-verse). Grandmama is a witch who deals in potions, spells and hexes of all kinds. She even dabbles in fortune-telling. Her trademarks are her shawl and frizzy hair. In the original TV series, Mother Frump exists as a separate character from Grandmama. In the animated series, Grandmama is only referred to as "Granny". In the remake of the series (in which Pancho Addams does not appear), she is both Gomez and Fester's mother.
Another member of the family is seen in the form of a disembodied hand named "Thing". Thing has been Gomez's friend since childhood. He (it is implied that he is male) often performs common, everyday tasks such as retrieving the mail, writing a letter or just giving a friendly pat on shoulder, appearing out of ubiquitous boxes or other convenient containers throughout the house. He communicates with Addamses with a Morse-like alphabet, sign language, writing, and knocking on wood. In the movies and in The New Addams Family and the previous series, Thing is an entirely mobile lower arm and hand, severed just below the elbow (In the TV series, the lower arm was often seen). He lives in an upstairs closet made up as a house-within-a-house, though he is also shown to reside in a cigar box.
In addition to Thing, the Addams family also have a tall, ghoulish manservant named Lurch. Lurch serves as a shambling, gravelly-voiced, Frankenstein's Monster-esque butler though he is a considerable 'Jack of all trades'. He tries to help around the house, although occasionally he botches tasks due to his great size and strength, but is otherwise considered quite a catch by the Addamses for his skill at more personal tasks (e.g. waxing Fester's head, amusing the children, etc). Surprisingly, he is often seen playing the harpsichord and organ with a great degree of skill and somewhat uncharacteristic enthusiasm. In Addams Family Reunion, Gomez states that Lurch is not really an Addams, and Morticia replies that Lurch has parts of many families, and that he has the heart of an Addams. In one episode of the 1960's TV series, Lurch's mother comes to visit. She is a short, over-bearing little old lady. Lurch also seems to have a certain level of imperviousness; in Addams Family Values, a 20-pound cannonball is dropped from the top of the Addams' mansion, landing directly on his head, seemingly with no ill effect. In the sitcom, he was capable of speech; beckoned by the pull of a noose-shaped rope which rang a loud thunderous gong he would answer with a signature monotone, brusque and bass-voiced, "You rang?". In the theatrical movies Lurch never spoke, using only grunts, sighs or simple gesticulations. The New Addams Family returned to the original style, right down to the noose bellrope that rang a gong. Lurch also seemed a little bit more polite than his earlier counterparts.
Gomez also has a brother, known as Cousin Itt (spelled as "Cousin It" in the movies and the pinball game), who often visits the family. He is short-statured and has long hair which covers his entire body from scalp to floor. Cousin Itt drives a 3-wheeled car: a Messerschmitt KR175. Although in the series he is shown wearing opera gloves, it is unclear what, if anything, is beneath the hair. He is known to speak in a high-pitched nonsensical gibberish that only the family seems to understand. In the second animated series, Itt is a super-spy for the U.S. Government. In the movies he falls in love with a human woman, Margaret, and marries her after her first husband, Tully the lawyer, is disposed of by the Addams children. He and Margaret go on to have a child in Addams Family Values named "What" (from the obstetrician's reaction). In Addams Family Values, Cousin Itt performs the wedding of Fester, demonstrating he has some sort of title and legal power that is not explained in the movie.
In Latin America, Cousin It is called "Tio Cosa" (Uncle Thing) and he is Morticia's brother. Thing is called "Dedos" (Fingers) or "maozinha" (little hand) in Brazil.
In the original TV series, Thing was generally played by Ted Cassidy (the actor who played Lurch). He was usually a right hand, but Cassidy occasionally used his left, "just to see if anyone noticed".
In the sitcom, references are made to an innumerable collection of bizarre and unconventional creatures such as hawks, bats and alligators although there were a handful with some consistency throughout the various media the family appeared in.
Kitty Cat is the family lion, and can be seen in several episodes roaming around the house. The entire family regards Kitty Cat as they would an average housecat, and seem flummoxed at the notion that Kitty Cat is in any way, dangerous. Pugsley has an octopus called Aristotle, and Wednesday a large collection of spiders with only one she mentions in particular by name, Homer. Coincidentally, in Latin America Gomez is called "Homero" (Homer).
Cleopatra is an African Strangler, a man-eating plant (similar to Audrey 2), belonging to Morticia. The plant eats meatballs made of Yak and other tasty meats specially prepared and more often than not, spoon-fed to her. Morticia had Cleopatra before she and Gomez married, having grown her from a seedling.
The Addams family's mansion has had many different incarnations over the years. It made its first appearance (at least, the interior did) at the same time as Morticia and Lurch, in one of Charles Addams's cartoons. The house was depicted as being a dilapidated mansion that had been condemned (and was seemingly haunted, due to the strange creatures at the top of the staircase). Since then, it had become almost a character itself, and served as the main setting for the rest of the cartoons featuring the Addams family. Stories surrounding the mansion (in video games, primarily) are common, and the house's origins and specific nature are explored more deeply in The New Addams Family than any other incarnation.
In the 1960's TV series, the house was given an address: 0001 Cemetery Lane. Its design was also changed somewhat. Instead of being a dilapidated house, it was now practically a museum filled with odd statues, trophies, and other interesting things. The house also sported a playroom with medieval racks, nailbeds, iron maidens, and stockades for "relaxing."
The house once again became a condemned mansion in the New Scooby-Doo Movies TV show, in which the Addamses made a guest appearance. In the following Addams Family 1970's cartoon, the mansion was mounted on a trailer and dragged all over the world with the globetrotting Addams clan.
The two Addams Family movies in 1991 and 1993, along with the second animated series in 1992, resurrected the mansion's original exterior design from the Charles Addams cartoons. The movie Addams Family Values had the mansion appearing exactly as it did in Charles Addams' drawing of the family about to dump boiling oil on a group of carolers from the roof (a gag that was acted out in the opening sequence of the previous film).
The New Addams Family provided a cross between the original TV show's mansion and the movie/comic strip's mansion. The mansion remained a condemned building (According to Morticia, it had actually been condemned five times), and the interior had various dangerous objects and odd statues just like the original TV show. The entrance gate (nicknamed, appropriately, "Gate" in the original TV show and the 1991 film) was now overgrown with foliage. A cemetery was moved next to the house (a change that also occurred in the two feature films and the 1977 reunion special), and there were now various secret rooms and passages. The mailbox and door knockers seem to be alive. When Gomez and Morticia first moved in as the home's owners (though Gomez and Grandmama had been residents even before then), they thought it was haunted. They regret that it wasn't, "but you can't have everything." But the existence of the ghost of Aunt Minerva proves otherwise. It's also mentioned that the home is made of titanium instead of wood (and is consequently bomb-proof), has 26 (or maybe 27) rooms -- if Fester has made a new addition with his cannon -- and the house has apparently been in the family for centuries. The area surrounding the house can be described briefly as a wasteland, with swamps, a moat, and the like. The address was also changed to 1313 Cemetery Lane in a reference to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, the home of The Munsters.
Guests include Morticia's older sister Ophelia (also played by Carolyn Jones in the sitcom), Morticia's cousin Melancholia and Morticia's mother (and Fester's sister), Hester Frump (played in the sitcom by Margaret Hamilton, wearing her Miss Almira Gulch dress from The Wizard of Oz). The Addamses have many other eccentric relatives who, in the sitcom, are described but never shown—unless they appear in one of the bizarre family portraits seen hanging on the walls.
Most of the Addamses' neighbors are less than understanding of the family's eccentricities. Within the larger community, the Addamses are viewed as eccentric, dangerous, or worse. Both the TV shows and movies deal with outsiders attempting to understand and "correct" the behavior of the family, and remain frustrated and horrified by the things that the Addamses find amusing. The Addamses, for their part, are just the opposite, and are often shocked and horrified at the actions of conventional society.
The second animated series introduced three new regular characters: the Normanmeyers (Norman, Normina, and N.J.), a family of "normal" people living across the street from the Addamses. While Norman and Normina are constantly appalled and shocked at the Addams' macabre behavior, their son N.J. counts Wednesday and Pugsley as his best friends. Norman owns and works at an underwear factory and is utterly obsessed with underwear, decorating the entire Normanmeyer house with an underwear motif, which arguably makes him less "normal" than the Addamses themselves. Norman was played by Rob Paulsen, Normina was voiced by Edie McClurg, and N.J. was performed by Dick Beals.
Unlike The Munsters, which explicitly stated its characters' supernatural identities, the exact nature of the Addamses is never established. They all seem to share a bond with the occult and supernatural. Uncle Fester is often portrayed as something of a mad scientist, and Grandmama as a fortune-teller, but these activities don't really explain the Addamses' seemingly immortal state. The food they live on is inedible or outright deadly for normal humans to eat, and they take an interest in painful activities like walking across minefields or having a sharp pendulum cut them in half.
In the 1960s television series, virtually every member of the family demonstrates some uniquely "non-human" trait:
None of these traits are considered unusual by any others in the family, but treated simply as individual talents that anyone might possess. All take pleasure in enduring such experiences as lying on a bed of nails, being stretched on a rack, and so on.
Occasionally, the 1960s series features guest characters who share the Addamses' tastes, which—along with the fact that the family obviously purchases its yak meat, explosives, etc. from somewhere—implies an entire subculture of people who share the family's tastes (as seen in several Charles Addams cartoons). In contrast, the Addamses themselves consider such things as daisies, chocolate fudge, the Boy Scouts, and other such traditionally "wholesome" things—as well as any distaste for such things as swamps, octopoda, and hanging upside-down from the ceiling—to be odd, if not outright disturbing. Fester once cited a neighbor family's meticulous petunia patches as evidence that they were "nothing but riff-raff". Although the Addamses usually greet "normal" visitors with enthusiasm, these attitudes establish the family as more of an eccentric, old money family that looks down upon the nouveaux riche or bourgeois habits of the outside world.
In 1964, the ABC-TV network created a television series based on Addams' cartoon characters. The series was shot in black-and-white and aired for two seasons in 64 half-hour episodes (September 18, 1964 – September 2, 1966). During the original television run of The Addams Family television series, The New Yorker editor William Shawn refused to publish any Addams Family cartoons, though he continued to publish other Charles Addams cartoons. Shawn regarded his magazine as targeting a more refined readership, and did not want it associated with characters who could be seen on television by just anybody. After the television series was canceled, Shawn ended his boycott and The Addams Family was welcomed back.
In late 1972, ABC produced a pilot for a musical variety show titled The Addams Family Fun-House. The cast included Jack Riley and Liz Torres as Gomez and Morticia (the pair also co-wrote the special), Stubby Kaye as Uncle Fester, Pat Riley as Lurch and Butch Patrick as Pugsley. The pilot aired in 1973, but was not picked up for a series.
A TV reunion movie, Halloween With The New Addams Family, aired on NBC Sunday October 30, 1977. It featured most of the original cast, except Blossom Rock, who had played Grandmama but was very ill at the time; she was replaced by Jane Rose. Gomez's brother, Pancho, is staying with the Family while Gomez goes to a lodge meeting in Tombstone, Arizona. Gomez is jealous of his brother, who once courted Morticia. Halloween is nigh, and Pancho tells the legend of Cousin Shy, who distributes gifts and carves pumpkins (similar to the Great Pumpkin). Actually, Gomez has been lured off by crooks, who've bugged the house in order to steal the Family fortune. Lafferty, the boss, sends Mikey to investigate. Wednesday Senior is home from music academy, where she studied the piccolo (she breaks glass with it). Pugsley Senior is home from Nairobi medical school, where he's training to be a witch doctor. Mikey panics and flees after treading on Kitty Cat's tail. The crooks have a fake Gomez and Morticia to help in their plans, along with two strong-arm goons, Hercules and Atlas. Gomez returns home for the Halloween party and trimming of the scarecrow.
Lafferty poses as Quincy Addams (from Boston) to get in. He has his men tie up Gomez and Morticia and his doubles take their places, confusing Pancho, who's still got the hots for Morticia. Lurch scares off the thugs and terrifies the assistant crook. Fester, trying to be nice, puts Lafferty on the rack. Lafferty tries to escape through the secret passage and steps on Kitty Cat's tail. When the police arrive, they surrender. The Addamses are then free to celebrate Halloween happily.
In the 1990s, Orion Pictures (which by then had inherited the rights to the series) developed a film version, The Addams Family. Due to the studio's financial troubles at the time, Orion sold the US rights to the film to Paramount Pictures. Upon the film's initial success, a sequel followed: Addams Family Values (1993, with worldwide distribution by Paramount). Loosened content restrictions allowed the films to use far more grotesque humor that strove to keep the original spirit of the Addams cartoons. The two movies used the same cast, except for Grandmama, played by Judith Malina in the first film and Carol Kane in the second. A script for a third film was prepared in 1994, but was abandoned after the sudden death of actor Raúl Juliá.
A third film, 1998's Addams Family Reunion, was released direct-to-video, this time by Warner Bros. through its video division. It has no relation to the Paramount movies, being in fact a full-length pilot for a second live-action television version, The New Addams Family, produced and shot in Canada. The third movie's Gomez, played by Tim Curry, follows the style of Raúl Juliá, while the new sitcom's Gomez, played by Glenn Taranto, is played in the style of John Astin, who had played the character in the 1960s. The only actors in this Warner Brother's production to have played in the previous Paramount films were Carel Struycken as Lurch and Christopher Hart as Thing.
The New Addams Family was filmed in Vancouver, Canada, and ran for 65 episodes during the 1998–1999 season on the newly-launched Fox Family channel. Many storylines from the original series were reworked for this new series, incorporating more modern elements and jokes. John Astin returned to the franchise in some episodes of this series, albeit as Grandpa Addams (Gomez's grandfather, a character introduced in Addams Family Reunion). Pubert's absence in the new series (and possibly Addams Family Reunion) was explained in an early episode when Wednesday mentioned that "There were three of us, but Pugsley ate the little one." The cast included Glenn Taranto as Gomez Addams, Ellie Harvie as Morticia, Michael Roberds as Fester, Brody Smith as Pugsley, Nicole Fugere (the only cast member from Addams Family Reunion to return) as Wednesday, John DeSantis as Lurch, Betty Phillips as Grandmama and Steven Fox as Thing.
The name of the show was parodied in the pornographic film "The Maddams Family" starring Ron Jeremy as Uncle Pester.
The Addams Family's first animated appearance was on the third episode of Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies, "Scooby-Doo Meets the Addams Family" (a.k.a. "Wednesday is Missing"), which first aired on CBS Saturday morning September 23, 1972. Four of the original cast (John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan, and Ted Cassidy) returned for the special which involved the Addamses in a mystery with the Scooby-Doo gang. The Addams Family characters were drawn to the specifications of the original Charles Addams comics. After the episode aired, fans wanted more animated adventures featuring the Addamses, and Hanna-Barbera responded in kind.
The first animated series ran on Saturday mornings from 1973–1975 on NBC. In a departure from the original series, this series took the Addamses on the road in a Victorian-style RV. This series also marked the point where the relations between characters were retconned so that Fester was now Gomez' brother, and Grandmama was now Morticia's mother (though the old relations would be revisited in the 1977 TV movie, to keep continuity with the original sitcom). Although Coogan and Cassidy reprised their roles, Astin and Jones did not, their parts being recast with Hanna-Barbera voice talents Lennie Weinrib as Gomez and Janet Waldo as Morticia, while none other than an eight-year-old Jodie Foster provided the voice of Pugsley. Again, the characters were drawn to the specifications of the original Charles Addams comics. One season was produced, and the second season consisted of reruns. A complementary comic book series was produced in connection with the show, but it lasted only three issues.
The remake series ran on Saturday mornings from 1992–1995 on ABC after producers realized the success of the 1991 Addams Family movie. This series returned to the familiar format of the original series, with the Addams Family facing their sitcom situations at home. John Astin returned to the role of Gomez, and celebrities Rip Taylor and Carol Channing took over the roles of Fester and Grandmama, respectively, while veteran voice actors Jim Cummings, Debi Derryberry, Jeannie Elias and Pat Fraley did the voices of Lurch, Wednesday, Pugsley and Cousin Itt. New artistic models of the characters were used for this series, though still having a passing resemblance to the original comics. Two seasons were produced, with the third year containing reruns. Oddly in this series, Wednesday maintained her macabre, brooding attitude from the Addams Family movies, but her facial expressions and body language conveyed the happy-go-lucky, fun attitude of her portrayal in the original television show.
They also appear in an animated M&Ms Dark Chocolate commercial in 2008 as M&Ms themselves as a part of the "There's an M&M in everyone" campaign.
A Game Boy Color game was released in the 1990s for promotion of "The New Addams Family". The game was simply titled "The New Addams Family Series". In this game, the Addams mansion had been bought by a fictional company called "Funnyday" that wanted to tear down the house and surrounding grounds to make room for an amusement park.
In 1994, the actors cast as the Addams in the Addams Family Values film (sans the recently-deceased Raúl Juliá) were in several Japanese TV spots for the Honda Odyssey. The Addams family can be seen speaking Japanese.
In 2007 and 2008, the Addams Family appeared as M&Ms in an advertising campaign for M&Ms Dark Chocolate.