“I was ready to revisit The Addams Family again anyway, but by reading this extraordinary book, my visit cannot come soon enough”
Ok, I admit it, I can’t get the classic theme tune out of my head now!
Most people are aware of The Addams Family in one way or another. Whether it’s from the classic black and white television show (Guilty!), the Barry Sonnenfeld pair of films, the made for tv movie ‘Addams Family Reunion‘ or the new animated version of the property, somewhere down the years, we have encountered them in our lives. And again, there can’t be too many people out there who haven’t heard the classic them tune and have clicked their fingers in time with the characters on screen. I used to do it on a weekly basis back in the day and boy, did my fingers hurt sometimes afterwards!
But I digress. Recently, as mentioned above, a new animated screen version of the film has been released. Although I have yet to see it, I’m chomping at the bit to watch the film. Titan Books have released a tie-in book to go alongside the new film which delves into the art of this new animated movie. With a foreword by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, the co-directors of the new movie and text by Ramin Zahed, I was intrigued to see what the book held in store as I opened the front cover to meet the family once again.
The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie | By Ramin Zahed
We open the book to find a fantastic animated shot of the family’s creepy mansion, exactly as we have come to expect it to look. It’s like meeting and greeting an old friend. We turn the page and are greeted by Morticia and Gomez Addams. They look different to how we have seen them before but they are unmistakable, Morticia all thin and graceful, Gomez looking dapper in his suit and sporting his pencil moustache. They are here to introduce us to the contents page. Almost every character seen in the film will get their own pages devoted to them alongside the locations featured in the movie.
We turn over and come across the foreword by Conrad Vernon. In his own words, he explains his motivations for bringing the family back to the screen, how he went back to the family’s creator, Charles Addams’ original cartoons that appeared in The New Yorker, how he and Tiernan discovered characters in the classic cartoon strips that have never been seen on TV or movies before and how the voice cast fitted this new version of the characters perfectly.
Over the page and we come across Greg Tiernan’s foreword. Here, he goes into his memories of coming home from school and watching the TV version as soon as he got home. He describes his joy at returning to the well that the family had in reserve ready for a new incarnation, about how he and Vernon wanted to go places and show things that had never been seen before and how they want to be respectful and pay homage to Charles Addams and the world he created.
As we turn the page, we enter the world of the film. A wonderful animated shot of Eastfield Estates leaps colourfully out at us, marvelling in all its splendour. But what’s that in the background? What is it that is on top of a large hill? Looking down on the bright, colourful houses and greenery below it as it itself is clouded in darkness and has a large storm cloud over it? Why it’s the Addams Family mansion! Like a classic gothic tale, the mansion watches over the joy and niceness of the town below it with a sense of evil and foreboding. Exactly as it should be. This is the classic world of the Addams’. No sweetness and light here, all we have is gloom and doom.
As we turn the pages in this book, accompanying the full colour and glorious photographs, drawings and representations of what we will see on the screen is a full and in-depth text describing every aspect of the films production, the drawing and animation techniques used in the movie and the inspiration behind some of the decisions made in respect of the overall look seen on screen. I can’t say I’m too surprised to discover that some of the looks of the film were inspired by the classic Mel Brooks comedy spoof ‘Young Frankenstein‘. That film’s production design was right on the mark and it’s only fitting for it to inspire the animated movie’s designs in part.
We come across the main characters from the film. Morticia greets us first. The late actress Carolyn Jones portrayed her in the classic TV show and Anjelica Huston in the two big-screen movies. The character was always elegant and charming with a wicked sense of humour and dress style. The filmmakers discuss how they wanted to preserve her style but to alter it slightly to bring a version of her to the screen that has never been seen before. The book also discusses Actress Charlize Theron’s voice portrayal of the character, giving her more emotion than usual.
We come to Gomez Addams. Here, we have one of my two favourite characters in the whole family. Completely stylish, suave, handsome and completely psychotic, in this new version, he looks amazing. The filmmakers have gone back to Charles Addams’ original design for the character and to my mind, looks better than he has ever done before. He looks happy and unconcerned but under the exterior lurks a wonderfully dark presence. With Oscar Issac providing his voice, Gomez looks to be on top form.
Although he is my second favourite of the family, the world seems to completely love Uncle Fester. And it’s not hard to see why. If we are to take Christopher Lloyds portrayal of the character, we have a loveable, funny creation, one that we shouldn’t but will root for. His design hasn’t changed much down the years. However, the look of him in the new animated movie isn’t quite to my liking. The pages of the book devoted to him go into great detail about his new design and look but I can’t help but think he’s been modelled this time round as a mash-up between Bert from Sesame Street and Gru from the Despicable Me movies. The rest of the family and characters we will meet on screen all get their own pages devoted to them alongside behind the scenes details and the filmmakers thinking behind their designs. An undead (mostly) rogues gallery if you will. All are presented with glorious all colour photographs and production drawings to show us every aspect of their design and appearance.
We come across an implements section, detailing all the gruesome weaponry we shall witness during the events of the movie. Of course, almost all of the weapons are medieval in style, how could they not be? This was a staple of the TV show and movies and fits in perfectly with the family and their gothic style and tone.
We finally come to location designs and vehicles. Every aspect of the Addams family mansion is described here in exhaustive detail. Every nook and cranny, every window fitting and front gate design is examined and it is a joy to see and behold. Every one of the deadly plants cultivated in the greenhouse gets a look in too. Nothing is left out of the section. The vehicles manage to grab a two page spread out but nothing can compare with the look into the mansion and its occupants. This is what makes the book such a standout in my eyes.
We end the book with an anatomy of a scene and a two-page finale marked ‘Conclusions’. Here, we get the inside scoop of the family game night scene present in the film. Various shots of the finished production adorn the pages but many of the pictures seen here are the original production storyboards. It is great to see the storyboarded sequence revealed in all its glory and I can’t wait to see the finished scene in its entirety on the silver screen, just to see how they compare. The conclusion does what it says in its title. It pays tribute to Charles Addams and his work, describes how the world will once again be invited to the family mansion and how the film’s themes resonate with the audience.
I adore all these kinds of the making of or behind the scenes books and this one is no exception. Ramin Zahed has written a fantastic book depicting the art and design of the upcoming movie aided along the way by Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan and the rest of the behind the scenes crew. It is a wonderous book, one that not only enthrals the reader by allowing them to discover every aspect and decision made for the movie but is a visual feast for the eyes. I was ready to go and visit The Addams Family again anyway. By reading this extraordinary book, my visit cannot come soon enough.
Until next time…
They’re creepy and they’re spooky. Mysterious and kooky. They’re altogether ookey. The Addams Family!
The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie by Ramin Zahed is published by Titan Books and is available to buy NOW!
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Indiana Jones and Horror movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!
Editors Note: A big thank you to our friends at Titan Books for sending over our advance review copy.