When MGM agreed to resurrect The Addams Family for a new animated film The Addams Family 2, they were just excited to bring this belovedly creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky clan to a new generation. Little did they know that the first movie would be a hit, with not only young fans flocking to see it, but original fans hungry for nostalgia.
MGM was so keen on the movie — after the success of the first one — that putting together the second was a whirlwind, says producer Gail Berman.
But the tight timeline made everyone more determined than ever to deliver an amazing product. And it helped that everyone involved truly loved the first movie and the Addams.
‘We had to get a script that worked. Great story is hard,’ says Berman. ‘But because Wednesday, the sarcastic soul of the Addams brood, is such a strong character, we were able to create a lot around her.”
Amazing fight scenes, Addams wackiness, and a giant sea creature come into play. And The Addams prove that family first is the best philosophy — with few tricks up their sleeves to keep people on the edge of their seats
Sequels are never easy, but in the case of The Addams Family, finding an innovative new angle for any re imagining is particularly challenging
How do you create new scenarios while still keeping the Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, and crew that audiences love?
For director Conrad Vernon, who also helmed the first movie, creating a story that operated on many levels was important. “I’ve always tried to entertain everybody,” he says. “I have parents telling me all the time how much they enjoy sitting down to watch The Addams Family with their kids. And I have siblings who have children, who are always happy to have things that appeal to them, too.”
“We heard several pitches from several different writers, and this one just resonated the most. We got a writers’ room together with a lot of great people that included Al Gough and Miles Malar in it, who are the guys who are doing Wednesday for Netflix,” Berman says.
The team began to explore what it was like to divide such a close family. What types of internal and external things could cause stress to this fiercely loyal clan.
“We wanted to start to figure out internal struggles that any family would go through, and the writers thought it’d be really interesting to play with the idea of, what if Wednesday isn’t an Addams. And it really gave us some nice drama,” Vernon says. “You don’t have to believe that Wednesday isn’t actually an Addams in order to get wrapped up in the story, because she could be taken away whether she’s an Addams or not.
On the literally external front, the Addams Family has always shined in their interactions with “normies,” aka normal non-Addams-adjacent people. So a road trip across the country was the perfect way to facilitate not only interactions with normies, but encounters with people in different states from all walks of life.
Says Oscar Isaac, who voices Gomez: “This sequel continues the journey into seeing their dynamic. Whereas the first one was very much about the neighborhood, that neighborhood now expands to the entire country. And so we get to see the family and all their strangeness, learning about themselves as they interact with all the different wonderful types of people that live in the US.”
But taking the Addams Family out of their house, which is basically another member of their family was risky. Enter the amazing Addams RV, an extension of their house that served as the ultimate macabre backdrop.
“One of the great things about the Addams family, if not the best thing, is not just them being the other, but being the other among people. So people can react to them. And we thought, wouldn’t it be fun to take the items to places where lots of different kinds of people could react to them,” Berman says. “The idea of taking them on the road was so delicious, but how do we leave that house? So the great way to do it was to essentially put the house in the RV.” (Although they did leave Grandma in the house to have her own story.)
Audiences have grown to love all of these beloved characters and are always surprised by the new additions, but one of the things that keeps bringing people back to the table is the humour that the writers have been able to weave throughout the movie.
“First and foremost I would say the movie is really funny. The movie really kind of lives and breathes in its kind of dry sense of humor, its oddness of pointing out the weird and the obscure and the things that I guess feel so counter to what you would think of as a family,” says Theron.
As Morticia, Charlize Theron — who has two kids of her own — channels the icon, while paying homage to Angelica Houston’s Morticia of ‘90s Addams movies fame. And though Theron said she was initially surprised to be considered for the role, she quickly said yes and just as quickly said yes to the sequel. Not only because it was the rare movie she’s in that her kids can see, but because of her experience on the first one.
“When you first see Morticia, you can have pretty conceived ideas about who she might be, but deep down inside she’s just a great mom who loves her family deeply and makes raising her kids and being the matriarch of the family her priority,” Theron says. “The thing I love the most about her is that she’s so unapologetic for the way she stands up for her kids while also standing up for the weirdness and the kind of dark — not what people consider normal or, warm and fuzzy.”
Creating a film is hard. Creating an animated film requires even more nuance. But creating an animated film during a pandemic?
Producer Alison O’Brien was tasked with choreographing all the pieces of the puzzle, from liaising with the animation house to the broader details of overall schedule and budget to the nitty gritty: number of shots, many characters, special effects, and what kind of resources it takes to put that together on a certain timeframe, had her work cut out for her.
“Animation always takes longer because you’re making a movie one frame at a time. So, I have to hand it to everyone involved for really showing their professionalism and their talent and their skill in putting this out in record time,” Vernon says.
While putting together a live action film is like cooking, you can add a dash of ingredients here and there as you adjust for what you want from the end product, assembling an animated film is more like baking — an exact science. You have to measure all the ingredients carefully for the chemistry combinations to give you what you want. It’s very hard to tweak along the way. So you have to be sure that the medium works.
“I thought doing The Addams Family in animation would give it a new spin and a new twist,” Vernon says of the initial idea for reimagining the franchise. “But I also believed we could use it to play homage to original Charles Addams — a brand new version paying homage to the very first version. And I thought that that was different and interesting enough to introduce this family to a new, uh, to a new generation.”
“I love the live action films. I think that this property and these characters have been so well tended in that. But I do think there’s an exaggerated nature that you can pull off with animation and things you could never get away with in live action,” Berman says.
“Plus I think this franchise animated plays really well for young children. Yeah. And I don’t think it’s scary to them at all because I’ve watched the audiences with young children. The story could be very scary but it works really well for families in animation.”
Animators and designers needed to work in sync from all across the country — even across the world. It was like they were taking their own Addams road trip, but via the information superhighway. And many people who worked on the first movie were available and got involved.
The Addams Family Legacy
The Addams Family legacy is even more far-reaching and wide than their road trip. Fans of all ages love this family because of how fun and creepy they are, but also because they are a real example of what family means.
“The thing about the Addams Family is as strange as they are, we see how much they love each other,” Isaac says. “We see how kind they are and even though the things that they love are seemingly dark and off-putting and scary to a lot of people, for them, it just brings them a lot of joy. And I think that joy is very infectious.”
For every quirk there is an equal moment of “yes, that’s what my family is like too,” even though no one is homicidal or trying to bond as a family by going down Niagara Falls in matching barrels. Families fight, they worry about each other, they smother their kids, they sass their parents, and ultimately they find the core that bonds them. In the case of the Addams, it’s unorthodox, sure, but it is always supremely cool.”
Theron agrees. “There’s always a celebration behind characters who live within their authenticity and don’t apologizing for who they are. They look after each other and I think that sense of family love, family commitment, family trust is something that in the space of their weird world, they’re kooky, dark, macabre world, is something that’s really beautiful to watch. That’s the core of what has sustained this story and this family for so long — since the 30s. That’s a huge achievement.”
And while the Addams family teaches us about coming together, Wednesday gives audiences the okay on sometimes feeling other. How we all worry that we don’t belong — and hopefully realize that we can and we do. And how family (blood relatives and the families we make and choose), makes us feel loved and accepted.
Says Kroll: “I think the message of ‘it’s okay to be different’ is a good one. Because I think in our heart of hearts, a lot of us feel outside of the group. The truth is we all have that in us. And so I think the Addams Family embrace who they are. They’re never ashamed of the kind of family they are. And that’s an empowering message.”
At the end of the day, The Addams Family 2 is a fun-filled RV ride. People of all ages loved the first one and the second one is packed with references to things audiences know and love and innovative and laugh-out-loud Addams situations.
“It’s a true adventure,” Moretz says. “We literally go on the road with them, we jump on this camper, and the story doesn’t stop until the ending. The crescendo is massive. It’s a huge payoff at the end: the big action sequence. It’s filled with all the things that we all need after being stuck at home. It’s really a wonderful break from reality for a second to jump into the Addams ’world… and to go on a family fun-filled ride.”
Dan Hernandez & Benji Samit [Screenplay by & Story by] are writer-producers whose television credits include Central Park, the Peabody-nominated One Day at a Time, The Tick, Super Fun Night, and 1600 Penn. They recently created the Disney Channel original show Ultra Violet, which is in production. Dan and Benji currently serve as showrunners of Hulu’s upcoming adult animated comedy Koala Man, and are developing multiple shows under their overall with 20th Century Television, in both the animated and live action spheres. In film, Dan and Benji wrote Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the duo is working on features for multiple studios, including Netflix and Disney. In 2019, they were spotlighted as one of Variety’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch.”
Ben Queen [Screenplay by] is a writer/producer who works in both Film and Television. He is the writer of Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 and Cars 3 and also the creator and executive producer of the NBC half-hour comedies A to Z and Powerless and the Fox action drama DRIVE. He recently wrote the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Bear, and is currently adapting A Note Of Explanation for Netflix with 3dot Productions producing. He lives in Los Angeles with his family and a cat.
Susanna Fogel [Screenplay by] is a director, screenwriter, and novelist. At age 14, she premiered her first short film at the Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals, becoming the youngest director in their histories. Most recently, she cowrote the acclaimed comedy Booksmart, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA and a WGA Award. Prior to that, she directed and co-wrote The Spy Who Dumped Me. She has also worked extensively in television, most recently directing the first two episodes of the breakout HBO Max series The Flight Attendant. Other work includes episodes of Gillian Flynn’s remake of the British series Utopia (Amazon), Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories (Apple), and the pilot for Amazon’s hit drama The Wilds. Next up, Susanna will direct a biopic for Big Beach and a thriller adaptation of the 2017 viral New Yorker short story Cat Person. She is also developing an original drama series for Paramount Plus set in the American Embassy in Moscow in 1977. Susanna is an avid writer of satire whose pieces have been featured in The New Yorker. Her first novel, Nuclear Family, was published by Macmillan in 2017