The Addams Family: The cartoons, TV series, movies, musical and merchandise – article

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The Addams Family is a group of fictional characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. The Addams Family characters include Gomez, MorticiaUncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday, Pugsley, Pubert Addams, Cousin Itt and Thing.

The Addamses are a satirical inversion of the ideal American family; an eccentric, wealthy clan who delight in the macabre and are unaware, or do not care, that other people find them bizarre or frightening. They originally appeared as an unrelated group of 150 single panel cartoons, about half of which were originally published in The New Yorker between their debut in 1938 and Addams’s 1988 death.

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Addams’s original cartoons were one-panel gags. The characters were undeveloped and unnamed until the television series production.

Gomez and Pugsley are enthusiastic. Morticia is even in disposition, muted, witty, sometimes deadly. Grandma Frump is foolishly good-natured. Wednesday is her mother’s daughter. A closely knit family, the real head being Morticia—although each of the others is a definite character—except for Grandma, who is easily led. Many of the troubles they have as a family are due to Grandma’s fumbling, weak character. The house is a wreck, of course, but this is a house-proud family just the same and every trap door is in good repair. Money is no problem. — Charles Addams

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The family appears to be a single surviving branch of the Addams clan. Many other “Addams families” exist all over the world. Charles Addams was first inspired by his home town of Westfield, New Jersey, an area full of ornate Victorian mansions and archaic graveyards.

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Although most of the humour derives from the fact that they share macabre interests, the Addamses are a close-knit extended family. Morticia is an exemplary mother, and she and Gomez remain passionate towards each other.

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The parents are supportive of their children. The family is friendly and hospitable to visitors, in some cases willing to donate large sums of money to causes, despite the visitors’ horror at the Addams’s peculiar lifestyle.

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Characters:

Gomez – master of the Addams household and the Addams patriarch, married to Morticia and the father of Wednesday and Pugsley. In the original cartoons in The New Yorker, he appeared tubby, snub-nosed and with a receding chin.

In the 1960s television series, Gomez was portrayed as a naive, handsome, and successful man, although with a childlike, eccentric enthusiasm for everything he did. Though a peaceful man, he was known to be well-versed in many types of combat; he and Morticia fenced sometimes.

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Gomez professed endless love for his wife, Morticia. He had studied to be a lawyer, but rarely practiced, one of the running jokes being that he took great pride in losing his cases. Gomez was depicted as extremely wealthy, through inheritance and extensive investments, but he seemed to have little regard for money.

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Morticia Addams – matriarch of the Addams Family, a slim woman with pale skin, clad in a skin-tight black hobble gown with octopus-like tendrils at the hem. Her visual aspect suggested that of some kind of vampire. She adores her husband, Gomez, as deeply as he does her.

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Gomez and Morticia had two children, a son called Pugsley and a daughter called Wednesday. In the television show she was a sweet-natured, innocent, happy child, largely concerned with her fearsome pet spiders.

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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 was apparently often successful, but Pugsley never died. Like most members of the family, he seemed to be inhumanly resilient.

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For his part, Pugsley was largely oblivious to the harm his sister tried to inflict on him, or an enthusiastic supporter of it, viewing all attempts as fun and games. In his first incarnation in The New Yorker cartoons, Pugsley was depicted as a diabolical, malevolent boy-next-door. In the television series, he was a devoted older brother and an inventive and mechanical genius. In the movies he lost his intelligence and independence, and became Wednesday’s sidekick and younger brother, cheerfully helping her in her evil deeds.

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Fester is a bald, barrel-shaped man with dark, sunken eyes and a devilish grin. He seemed to carry an electrical charge, as he could illuminate a light bulb by sticking it in his mouth. In the original television series, Fester was Morticia’s uncle. In all subsequent animated and film media, Fester was Gomez’s older brother, save for The New Addams Family where Fester is portrayed as Gomez’ younger brother.

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Grandmama is a witch who deals in potions, spells, hexes, and even fortune-telling. Her trademarks were her shawl and grey, frizzy hair. Charles Addams originally named the character Grandma/Granny Frump in his notes for the adaptation of the cartoons to television in 1965, thereby making her Morticia’s mother.

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“Thing” as created by Charles Addams, was a shy creature mostly seen in the background of Addams’s drawings; however, the television series suggested it was a disembodied hand named “Thing“, and was Gomez’s friend since childhood. He (it is implied in the original television series that the character is male) often performed common, everyday tasks such as retrieving the mail, writing a letter, or just giving a friendly pat on the shoulder, appearing out of ubiquitous boxes or other convenient containers throughout the house. He communicated with the Addamses with a Morse-like alphabet, sign language, writing, and knocking on wood.

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Lurch served as a shambling gravelly-voiced butler, unscarred yet reminiscent of Frankenstein’s Monster, and a funereal but obedient “jack of all trades”. He tried to help around the house, although occasionally he botched 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, such as waxing Uncle Fester’s head and amusing the children (to whom he was deeply devoted).

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Surprisingly, Lurch was often seen playing the harpsichord or organ with great skill and uncharacteristic passion.

Cousin Itt, as so named by the television series producer, who frequently visited the family, was short-statured and had long hair that covered his entire body from scalp to floor. Although in the series he was shown wearing opera gloves, it is unclear what, if anything, is beneath the hair.

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Buy The Complete 1960s TV series from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

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The Addams family’s mansion had many different incarnations over the years. 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.

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In the 1960s television series, the house was given an address: 0001 Cemetery Lane. Instead of being a dilapidated house, it was now practically a museum, filled with odd statues, trophies, and other interesting knick-knacks. The house also sported a playroom with medieval racks, nailbeds, iron maidens, pillories and stocks, used for family relaxation.

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The house once again became a condemned mansion in the New Scooby-Doo Movies television show, in which the Addamses made a guest appearance. In the subsequent Addams Family 1970s cartoon, the mansion was mounted on a trailer and dragged all over the world with the globetrotting Addams clan.

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The two Addams Family movies in 1991 and 1993, along with the second animated television 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’s drawing of the family, about to dump boiling oil on a group of carollers from the roof (a gag that was acted out in the opening sequence of the previous film).

The first film reveals the mansion to have a cavernous, pillared, vaulted-ceilinged canal system deep underneath it, traversable by gondola boat to reach the family vault, itself a cluttered room filled with childhood mementos, home movies, and a bar which revolves around to reveal vast halls filled with countless gold doubloons and other treasure.

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Unlike The Munsters, which explicitly stated its characters’ supernatural origins, the exact nature of the Addamses is never established. They all seemed to share a bond with the occult and supernatural. Uncle Fester was often portrayed as something of a mad scientist, and Grandmama as a potion maker, and Morticia states that her study is spells and hexes in the 1991 movie The Addams Family but, these activities don’t really explain the Addams’s seemingly immortal state. Much of the food they live on is inedible or outright deadly to normal humans, and they take an interest in painful activities like walking across minefields or having a sharp pendulum cut them in half.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY

Television series, episodes, and films

In 1964, the ABC-TV network created The Addams Family television series based on Addams’s cartoon characters. The series was shot in black-and-white and aired for two seasons in 64 half-hour episodes.

The very wealthy, endlessly enthusiastic Gomez Addams (John Astin) is madly in love with his refined wife, Morticia (née Frump) (Carolyn Jones). Along with their daughter Wednesday (Lisa Loring), their son Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax – whom it was reported died of a heart attack the day after we posted this overview), Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), and Grandmama (Blossom Rock), they reside at 0001 Cemetery Lane in an ornate, gloomy, Second Empire-style mansion, attended by their servants: Lurch (Ted Cassidy), the towering butler, and Thing (billed as “itself”, but portrayed by Cassidy and occasionally by Jack Voglin), a disembodied hand that usually appears out of a small wooden box. Occasionally episodes would feature other relatives such as Cousin Itt (Felix Silla), Morticia’s older sister Ophelia (also portrayed by Carolyn Jones), or Grandma Frump, Morticia’s mother (Margaret Hamilton).

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Much of the humour derives from their culture clash with the rest of the world. They invariably treat normal visitors with great warmth and courtesy, even though their guests often have evil intentions. They are puzzled by the horrified reactions to their own good-natured and normal behavior, since the family is under the impression that their tastes are shared by most of society. Accordingly, they view “conventional” tastes with generally tolerant suspicion. For example, Fester once cites a neighboring family’s meticulously maintained petunia patches as evidence that they are “nothing but riffraff”. A recurring theme in the epilogue of many episodes was the Addamses getting an update on the most-recent visitor to their home, either via mail, something in the newspaper, or a phone call. Invariably, as a result of their visit to the Addamses, the visitor would be institutionalized, change professions, move out of the country, or suffer some other negative life-changing event. The Addamses would always misinterpret the update and see it as good news for their most-recent visitor.

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The tone was set by series producer Nat Perrin who was a close friend of Groucho Marx and writer of several Marx Brothers films. Perrin created story ideas, directed one episode, and rewrote every script. As a result, Gomez, with his sardonic remarks, backwards logic, and ever-present cigar (pulled from his breast pocket already lit), is sometimes compared to Groucho Marx.

Cover Date: 10/30/65

The television series featured a memorable theme song, written and arranged by longtime Hollywood composer Vic Mizzy (who also wrote the score for William Castle’s The Night Walker). The song’s arrangement was dominated by a harpsichord, and featured finger-snaps as percussive accompaniment. Actor Ted Cassidy, in his “Lurch” voice, punctuated the lyrics with words like “neat”, “sweet”, and “petite”. Mizzy’s theme was popular enough to enjoy a release as a 45rpm single, though it failed to make the national charts.

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Buy The Addams Family theme on MP3 from Amazon.co.uk

The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)

The Addams Family’s first animated appearance was on the third episode of Hanna-Barbera’s The New Scooby-Doo Movies, 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.

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The Addams Family characters were drawn to the specifications of the original Charles Addams cartoons. After the episode aired, fans wanted more animated adventures featuring the Addamses, and Hanna-Barbera obliged.

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The Addams Family Fun-House (1972)

Meanwhile, in late 1972, ABC produced a pilot for a live-action musical variety show titled The Addams Family Fun-House. The cast included Jack Riley and Liz Torres as Gomez and Morticia, Stubby Kaye as Uncle Fester, Pat McCormick as Lurch and Butch Patrick (who had played Eddie Munster in The Munsters) as Pugsley. The pilot aired in 1973, but was not picked up for a series. Judging by the image below, we can see why!

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The Addams Family  (1973–1975)

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 changed so that Fester was now Gomez’s brother, and Grandmama was now Morticia’s mother.

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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 a ten-year-old Jodie Foster provided the voice of Pugsley. One season was produced, and the second season consisted of reruns. The show’s theme music was completely different and had no lyrics and no finger snaps.

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A complementary comic book series was produced in connection with the show, but it lasted only three issues.

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Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977)

A television reunion movie, Halloween with the New Addams Family, aired on NBC Sunday, October 30, 1977.

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The Addams Family: The Animated Series (1992–1993)

The Addams Family (1992 animated series) – The remake series ran on Saturday mornings from 1992–1993 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.
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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.
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New artistic models of the characters were used for this series, though still having a passing resemblance to the original cartoons. Two seasons were produced, with the third year containing reruns. The original Vic Mizzy theme song, although slightly different, was used for the opening.

The New Addams Family (1998–1999)

The New Addams Family was filmed in Vancouver, Canada, and ran for 65 episodes (one more than the original TV series) during the 1998–1999 season on the then 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 “Grandpapa” Addams.

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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.

Theatrical feature films

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The Addams Family (1991)

In the 1990s, Orion Pictures (which by then had inherited the rights to the series) developed a film version, The Addams Family (released on November 22, 1991). Due to the studio’s financial troubles at the time, Orion sold the US rights to the film to Paramount Pictures. It took $191,502,246 at the box office.

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Buy The Addams Family (1991) on Blu-ray from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Addams Family Values (1993)

Upon the last film’s success, a sequel followed: Addams Family Values. Loosened content restrictions allowed the films to use far more grotesque humour that strove to keep the original spirit of the Addams cartoons (in fact, several gags were lifted straight from the single panel 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.

Buy Addams Family Values on DVD from Amazon.com

Addams Family Reunion (1998)

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Released direct-to-video on September 22, 1998, 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. The third movie’s Gomez, played by Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show; It), follows the style of Raúl Juliá.

Cancelled film

In 2010, it was announced that Illumination Entertainment, in partnership with Universal Pictures, had acquired the underlying rights to the Addams Family drawings. The film was planned to be a stop-motion animated film based on Charles Addams’s original drawings. Tim Burton was set to co-write and co-produce the film, with a possibility to direct but it was eventually cancelled.

Reboot

On October 31, 2013 it was announced in Variety that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will be rebooting The Addams Family as an animated film with Pamela Pettler writing the screenplay, however this has not come to fruition, so far…

Adult features

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Inevitably, as with The Munsters, there are adult-entertainment takes on the family’s exploits, namely The Maddams Family – with Ron Jeremy as Uncle Fester – and The Addams Family XXX. According to online reviews, the latter seems to be the better of the two…

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Video games

Five video games released from 1989 to 1994 were based on The Addams Family.

  • Fester’s Quest (1989) was a top down adventure game that featured Uncle Fester.

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  • In 1992, two versions of The Addams Family were released by Ocean Software based on the 1991 movie; an 8-bit version for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, as well as a 16-bit version released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Atari ST and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. ICOM Simulations published The Addams Family video game for the TurboGrafx-CD in 1991.

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  • The games’ sequel, The Addams Family: Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt (1993), also by Ocean Software, was based on the ABC animated series and was released for NES, SNES, and Game Boy (although the latter two were just 8-bit remakes of the first SNES game, swapping Pugsley and Gomez’s roles).

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  • Addams Family Values (1994) by Ocean was based on the movie’s sequel and returned to the style of gameplay seen in Fester’s Quest.
  • 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.

Pinball

The Addams Family (pinball) – A pinball game by Midway was released in 1992 shortly after the movie. It is the best-selling pinball game of all time!
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Books

The Addams Family

This first novelization of the television series, written by Jack Sharkey, was released near the end of the show’s second season by Pyramid Books in 1965. The book details the family’s arrival in their new home, and explains how it got its bizarre décor. The arrival and origins of Thing are explained. Each chapter reads as a self-contained story, like episodes of the television show. The novel concludes with the Addams family discovering that their lives will be the basis for a new television series.

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The Addams Family Strikes Back

“The Addams Family Strikes Back” by W.F. Miksch tells how Gomez plans to rehabilitate the image of Benedict Arnold by running for the local school board. The tone and characterizations in this book resemble the TV characters much more closely than in the first novel. Cousin Itt appears as a minor character in this story, but as a tiny, three-legged creature rather than the hairy, derby-hatted character seen on television and in the movies. The novel was published in paperback form by Pyramid Books in 1965.

The Addams Family: An Evilution

The Addams Family: An Evilution – a book about the “evilution” of The Addams Family characters, with more than 200 published and previously unpublished cartoons, and text by Charles Addams.
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Buy The Addams Family: An Evilution from Amazon.co.uk

Merchandising: Games and Toys

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The success of the 1960s TV series spawned a vast array of merchandising including a board game and target game, both from Ideal.

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The success of the 1990s feature films led to further merchandising of all kinds, plus arcade games.

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Advertising

In 1994, the actors cast as the Addamses in the first two films (sans the recently deceased Raúl Juliá) were in several Japanese television spots for the Honda Odyssey.The Addamses—most prominently Gomez (for whom a voice actor was used to impersonate Juliá while footage from Addams Family Values was seen) and Morticia—are seen speaking Japanese.

In 2007 and 2008, the Addams Family appeared as M&Ms in an advertising campaign for M&Ms Dark Chocolate.

Musicals

The Addams Family (musical) – In May 2007, it was announced that a musical was being developed for the Broadway stage. Veterans Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the plot, and Andrew Lippa wrote the score. Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott directed and designed the production. Featured in the cast were Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, Annaleigh Ashford as Wednesday, and Nathan Lane as Gomez. In addition, Kevin Chamberlin played Uncle Fester and Zachary James played Lurch.

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Buy musical original cast recording on CD from Amazon.co.uk
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The Broadway production closed on December 31, 2011 but the production went on national tour and has been adapted for the stage around the world since…

Doubtless, Charles Addams’ unique creation will live on further in many new and different incarnations…
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More Addams Family merchandise…

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Fancy dress costumes

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Buy Addams Family Psychobilly t-shirt from Amazon.co.uk

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Buy The Addams Family Barbie Doll Giftset from Amazon.com

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Wikipedia | Related: The Munsters

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Categories: 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, animated, cheesy horror, comedy horror

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1 reply

  1. Great article. I enjoyed it.

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