By the time this movie was made, all of the adult cast members from the original series had died except John Astin, who had played Gomez. Astin ironically also outlived the movie Gomez, Raul Julia, who died in 1994.
Producer Scott Rudin got the idea of making the movie after shuttling various studio executives around in a van one day. One of them spontaneously started humming the theme song from The Addams Family (1964) series, and the rest of the van's occupants started singing the lyrics. This led Rudin to believe that there was sufficient residual interest in the show and cartoon for him to attempt a feature film.
In the original TV series Grandmama was Gomez's mother and her name was Eudora Addams. In the films she is Morticia's mother and her name was changed to Esmerelda Frump (Morticia's mother in the series was Hestor Frump). This provided a joke for The Addams Family musical. Morticia, angry at Gomez, brings up the time his mother came to visit for a week, "And she's still here, living in the attic." Gomez responds, "My mother? I thought she was your mother!"
Several scenes reference original Charles Addams illustrations, most notably the introduction sequence where the Addams family pours a cauldron of oil on the Christmas carolers, the passenger on Gomez's toy train, the octopus painted on the footboard of Wednesday's bed, and Pugsley with the road sign.
The auction scene in which Morticia and Gomez take turns bidding for an item they themselves donated is based on a similar scene from the episode "Morticia's Favorite Charity" from The Addams Family (1964).
Originally the "Mamushka" scene was supposed to be longer, with a full song describing brotherly love, and both Gomez and Fester naming other famous brothers. Test screenings revealed that audiences felt this song brought the movie to a stand-still. The film shows an edited version with only Gomez and Fester dancing, and Gomez throwing the knives at Fester. The full song can be found on the motion picture soundtrack.
David Levy, who executive produced The Addams Family (1964), filed a lawsuit against Paramount after the film was released. He claimed that many Addams Family character "trademarks" used in the film, including Gomez' fascination with blowing up model trains, the characters of Thing and Cousin Itt, Lurch's fondness for playing the harpsichord, and the passionate tangos danced by Morticia and Gomez, were original ideas created by him exclusively for the TV series and not part of the original Charles Addams cartoons, for which Paramount had purchased the movie rights. The lawsuit was later settled out of court.
In order to gain Morticia's figure, Anjelica Huston wore a metal corset. She also had to get gauze eye lifts, neck tucks and fake nails daily. She told Entertainment Weekly, "Come afternoon, I could be prone to a really good headache from my various bondages. And because I couldn't lie down (in the corset) or rest, it was fairly exhausting".
Director Barry Sonnenfeld had not originally planned to use the theme music from the television series in the movie. He included it in the opening sequence after positive reactions to the early trailer, which included the theme.
The scene when Morticia trims the blooms off the roses is a direct reference to the television series. Also when the Addams family are evicted from the house Morticia is carrying a plant. Though shorter, the plant is identical to 'Cleopatra' Morticia's meat eating, African strangler plant.
Near the end of the movie when the family is playing the "Wake the Dead" game in the family cemetery one headstone in the foreground says Ansel Addams - a clear reference to the famous photographer Ansel Adams.
The house set was built on Stage 3/8, the same stage as the house set from The Addams Family (1964) TV series. When the series was being shot there it was known as General Service Studios, and when the film was being shot there it was called Hollywood Center Studios.
The original director of photography, Owen Roizman, quit the production after about a month to go work on another film. His replacement, Gale Tattersall, had his contribution cut short not long afterwards when he had to quit after being rushed to hospital with a severe sinus infection. Fed up with the situation, director Barry Sonnenfeld took over the cinematography himself, reasoning that if anything happened to him then production would be shut down, so he didn't have much to lose.
The Lady Colyton, who is thanked at the beginning of the credits, is Barbara Barb, who was married to Charles Addams from 1954 to 1956. When the couple divorced, she received copyrights to some of his work as part of the divorce settlement. She later remarried to Henry Hopkinson, Baron Colyton - hence the title.
The actors were concerned about the ambiguity of the big Fester storyline in the script. Initially, it was going to be unknown if Gordon, the man suffering from memory loss that looked just like Uncle Fester, was actually Fester. The actors nominated Christina Ricci, to give an impassioned plea to Scott Rudin and Barry Sonnenfeld two weeks before shooting that Fester should not be an imposter. Sonnenfeld remembered that the only actor to not care was Christopher Lloyd, the man playing Fester.
Some additional characters shown as Addams (relatives which had more emphasis in the original script, but less screen-time) were: Dexter and Donald Addams (the two-headed cousin in matching turtlenecks); cousin Ophelia Addams (revealed to Morticia's sister who looks like a Tennessee Williams heroine); Slosh Addams (a great, fat, toad-like man who was revealed in the script to have "made many a killing on Wall Street"); his child-sized wife, Lois; Digit Addams (a four-armed Addams with an over-aged Heidi-look-alike, complete with thick blonde braids, as his date); and Lumpy Addams (a teenage hunchback cousin in a loud blazer).
Cousin Itt's three-wheeled vehicle is a two-seater Messerschmitt "Kabinroller" (cabin car), produced in Germany during the late 1950s and early 1960s. There is some disagreement as to the particular model; most sources say the vehicle was the KR175 made between 1954 and 1956, although some have specified it as a KR200 model from the early 1960s.
The idea for the film came during a car ride. Scott Rudin, head of production at 20th Century Fox, was riding in a van with other company executives one day after a movie screening. "Everyone was there-(studio chiefs) Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg and (marketing chief) Tom Sherak-when Tom's kid started singing The Addams Family (1964) theme," Rudin told the LA Times. "And suddenly everyone in the van was singing the theme, letter perfect, note for note." The next day, Rudin proposed to Diller and Goldberg that they make an Addams Family movie-and they went for it.
Production began at Orion, which owned the rights to the Filmways TV library and hence the 1960s TV series. However, during production, Orion's financial troubles, which ultimately led to the studio's demise and purchase by MGM, began. Paramount bought the film rights, finished the production, and even produced a sequel. Although Orion did retain foreign distribution rights to the film, which in turn, are now in the hands of MGM, due to their purchase of Orion Pictures.
After Barry Sonnenfeld's agent told him that he would lick a carpet if he couldn't find him a directing job within one year, he found Sonnenfeld a seemingly plum first time assignment helming a high profile movie (in less than a year). As a joke, Scott Rudin let it be known to Sonnenfeld that he wasn't his first choice by putting a different director's name on the back of the director's chair every morning on set. Some of the names that replaced Sonnenfeld's were Joe Dante, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, and Rudin's first choice, Tim Burton.
Owen Roizman, the film's cinematographer, quit to work on another movie. His replacement, Gale Tattersall, stopped production for a couple of days when he needed to be hospitalized for a sinus infection, and never returned. 'Barry Sonnenfeld ended up doing the job himself. In front of the camera, Raul Julia burst a blood vessel in his eye. These incidents led Sonnenfeld to say that say that he felt like there was a "pervasive black cloud" hanging over the movie.
Toward the end of the movie, Morticia is seen telling the Grimms Fairy tale 'Hansel & Gretel' to a group of children. In the first episode of the 1960s Addams Family TV series, the Addams' take issue with the Grimms Fairy tales being read in school because of how violent they were toward dragons and witches.
This film is only one of two Paramount Pictures releases made in conjunction with another major studio while the studio was owned by Paramount Communications (which renamed itself from Gulf+Western in 1989). The other was 1993's "Alive", a joint production with the Walt Disney Company's Touchstone Pictures.
Initially, the film's sole distributor was to be Orion Pictures, which owned the 1960s TV series at the time. Because of Orion's continued financial problems, they sold US rights to Paramount Pictures, which would release the sequel worldwide. This marked the only time since severing ties with Warner Bros. that Orion co-produced one of its films with another major studio, before merging with MGM (who would not co-produce a film with Paramount until 2005) in 1997.
Three weeks into directing, Barry Sonnenfeld was talking to a studio executive who was concerned about the budget for the film when he felt a "tremendous pressure" in his chest, "as if someone was blowing up a balloon inside me," then passed out. He also dealt with sciatica during filming, and had to shut down the Los Angeles production for several days when his wife needed major surgery in New York.
Co-stars (3), known to have attended the most densely packed (UK non-Award), celebrity event 'Save the Rose Theatre' campaigns, public PR day, May 1989. [See artist entry]. Where they did a small impromptu skit upon the characters, as were declared early 1989 as cast. Several TV conference cos-players performed in a short parade including a prop-model of 'Thing', and a fully costumed 'Cousin IT'.