The genius of the late Charles Addams and his iconic creations, the Addams Family, isn’t that they’re strange and weird. Nor is it that they’re aesthetic touchstones for goths. The brilliance of Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Uncle Fester is that they’re all just a happy family living their best lives.
It’s we who are bizarre.
“The thing with the Addams Family is they are timeless,” animation filmmaker Greg Tiernan tells Inverse. “They would exist in exactly the same way as the 20th-century as they are right now. The Addams has always been viewed by the outside world as weird and strange and somewhat frightening, but they don’t define themselves as being anything other than who they are. That could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people in this day and age.”
Adds Conrad Vernon, “Everyone reacts to the Addams Family in the same way. From the ‘30s to the ‘60s to the ‘90s to now. They’re always objectional. It’s how the Addams react to the outside world that’s new and interesting. They are more accepting of people than [the people] against them. It’s fun to see through their eyes the eras they’ve lived through.”
In theaters Friday, The Addams Family is a new animated film starring the iconic American family who snap to their theme song. Starring Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, and Nick Kroll, the film drops the Addams in New Jersey, 2019. There, the kooky family confronts a reality TV fixer-upper, Margaux Needler, voiced by Allison Janney, who wants to bulldoze their home to sell an impeccably manicured (and branded) suburban enclave before her show’s premiere.
Co-directed by Tiernan and Vernon, the duo behind 2016’s Sausage Party, the film more closely mimics the visual style of Charles Addams’ comics for The New Yorker than the ‘90s films that defined millennial childhoods.
“I’m not a fan of just redoing movies for the sake of redoing movies,” Vernon tells Inverse. “When we were starting out with this, we needed to make this film stand out. The TV show and the films had references to the New Yorker cartoon, but they were subtle. Because it was live-action, it gave them license to go in a different direction. [Being] animated gave us the opportunity to create a world based on Charles Addams’ creations.”
That included the filmmakers “doing away” with what they called “Easter egg” colors that characterize most family animated films. “We wanted to make sure Charles Addams’ original vision was represented,” says Vernon. “We used a lot of deeper, darker colors. We got macabre with the setting.”
Placing the Addams in the modern age was more than just giving Thing — a creepy, sentient, decapitated hand — a smartwatch. Their antagonist, a larger-than-life lifestyle personality and social media influencer, proved to be the timely foil, even if Margaux Needler didn’t start out that way.
“We started her as a nosy busy body who felt she was the moral and aesthetic compass of the neighborhood,” Vernon says. “She would take it upon herself to rid the neighborhood of this awful family, when we ran into a wall: Why would anyone listen to her?” A throwaway comment in the writer’s room turned Margaux into an HGTV-shaped nightmare.
“We thought that was a hilarious idea,” says Vernon. “Not only is it funny, it gives her the power to tell people what to do. She’s on TV and she can ruin people’s reputations and she can intimidate people. That’s the way she became this home fixer-upper, and at that point, we just took it one step further. She fixes an entire neighborhood.”
Margaux isn’t meant to be a cheap Trump analoge — “Hair notwithstanding,” jokes Tiernan — but it’s not hard to see how Margaux represents a kind of American conformity than the Addams’ individuality.
“It’s just a general message of acceptance,” Vernon says. “Espcially in today’s times with immigration, it’s improtant for people to remember that family is family. With the Addams, they may look strange and weird on the outside. But when you get behind closed doors, you see the love and respect they have for each other is something to aspire to.”
The Addams Family hits theaters October 11.