As a cartoonist, he created hundreds of bizarre & macabre works, only about 50 of which included characters now known as “The Addams Family”. TV & Movie rights were given to his second wife as part of their divorce, and, although he helped in it’s creation by naming & expanding the characters, he hated the show.
His cartoons, being single moments frozen in time, forced the observer to fill in the blanks as the punchlines and results of the actions therein were often implied rather than shown. I think he felt that fleshing out the characters cheapened his work. However true that may be, the TV show, and later the movie, were, at least, generally faithful to what he had created. Gags from his cartoons were used frequently, and the “Addams” feeling of macabre whimsy was ever-present, even as the characters were expanded beyond anything he’d ever defined.
That’s why I was particularly disappointed in the musical: so many missed opportunities to create something funny that fit into the “Addams Family” canon. By my count, only 2 cartoons were referenced, the songs were mostly unmemorable, and the story, which involves Wednesday getting all lollipops & sunshine over a boy, was an absurd departure from anything Addams. That said, the set design was amazing, and I’m glad I saw the show, especially since I had the opportunity to go backstage afterwards to inspect the sets and props. I just wished the writers had read the cartoons, watched the show, or seen the movie.
After getting home from the show, I re-watched the movie to see if fuzzy memories were sprouting unfair comparisons, and felt vindicated when 2 cartoons were referenced within the first 2 minutes. I quickly lost count of cartoon references, often unsure if a given gag was actually pulled from a cartoon, or simply felt like it was. Every character was better, but most notably, Nathan Lane can’t touch Raúl Juliá’s fantastic performance of Gomez Addams.
If you’re a big “Addams Family” fan and like musicals, go ahead and check it out. You’d probably be more satisfied buying a Charles Addams book and renting the first movie, however.