The Undying Charm of The Addams Family
The Addams Family has always been on the radar for pinheads thanks to the 1992 Pat Lawlor classic game. But for the culture at large? Not as much. Until recently, that is, as The Addams Family has risen back to life in the wake of several recent media projects.
But let’s take a moment to reflect on their past glories as we wait to see what lies in the future for the creepiest and kookiest sitcom family.
The Origins of The Addams Family
The Addams Family is now most famous as a TV and film franchise, but they originated as a cartoon in The New Yorker during the 1940’s. Their creator, Charles Addams, is also their namesake. The first Addams Family TV show began airing in 1964 and was warmly received. Although the show only lasted two seasons, ending in 1966, it left a lasting impression. Reruns aired frequently over the next decade, which allowed the franchise to remain relevant in the lead up to a modern reboot.
An Arcade Smash Hit
The early 90s saw the release of a pair of movies, introducing the family to a new generation and alongside them, a pinball machine released under Midway’s Bally label. It was a huge success, with more than 20,000 machines produced. A number that has yet to be surpassed.
Artist John Youssi balanced past and current iterations, to create a modern but classic-feeling look. Sound designer Chris Granner added authenticity with voiceovers from Raul Gulia and Anjelica Huston (the then-current actors behind Gomez and Morticia Addams), and a faithful reproduction of the Addams Family theme song.
But it’s the game design by Pat Lawlor and Larry DeMar that perhaps makes the strongest impression. The Adams’ Family utilizes a cornucopia of maniacal mechanics to haunt hapless players. The primary feature is the Addams Family mansion, which has twelve different rooms. Each room has unique objectives, accessible only under certain conditions, that each have the potential to give big points. Completing all twelve activates a Wizard Mode, the famed “Tour the Mansion”, and a bonanza of bonuses.
There was also a collector’s edition widely known as “Addams Family Gold” which included gold accents on much of the art and a few bonus features. This version of the game is estimated to be worth well over $15,000 on today’s collector’s market.
A Recent Revival
Recently, The Addams Family has experienced another period of revival through the ongoing Netflix series “Wednesday” starring Jenna Ortega. According to Netflix, Wednesday posted the second highest opening week of any English-language series on the platform. It was also well-received by critics and was quickly renewed for a second season. Fans have already speculated that Wednesday would make for a great new pinball machine as a sequel of sorts to the 90s classic.
In the arcade realm Zen Studios, the makers of Pinball FX, a digital pinball collection, recently announced that Bally’s Addams Family would be joining its lineup of remastered tables. Pinball FX is tapping into the strong affinity pinball players have for Addams Family by using the title to headline its launch of Pinball FX on modern console platforms like PS5 and the Xbox in just a few short days. Given that its known to be a bit of a headache for licensing, the new digital remake has given fans new hope for future projects.
Hopes For a Physical Remake
There are still many clamoring for a physical remake of the original Addams Family pinball cabinet. A 2014 Kickstarter campaign raised over $100,000 dollars from fans for a digital recreation, demonstrating tremendous interest for a game over two decades old at the time. If a physical remake were to happen, it wouldn’t be out of nowhere. Chicago Gaming has built its business on re-releasing a number of classic pinball machines in physical form. Some notable examples being Monster Bash and Cactus Canyon. Fans would no doubt love to see a remake of The Addams Family, particularly given the premium price used machines command in today’s market.
Even if a remake doesn’t happen, we can’t discount the possibility of entirely new games either based on new IP like the aformentioned Wednesday, or set within The Addams Family universe, a la Stern’s recent Jurassic Park table.
The hype surrounding machines like Spooky’s Scooby-Doo has demonstrated an audience for older properties like The Addams Family and the success of the Netflix series provides lucrative financial incentive.
The Addams Family franchise is over eighty years old and is still going strong. Like the undead inevitably rising from the grave, the Addams Family is sure to return to the arcade world in one form or another.