It’s back on the big scream! The Addams Family have returned in time for Hallowe’en and this time they’re going on a road trip.
In an effort to reclaim their bond with their children, Morticia and Gomez decide to cram Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester and the whole crew into their haunted camper and hit the road for one last miserable family vacation in an adventure across America.
Kevin Pavlovic and Laura Brousseau co-directed alongside Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon moving into production on The Addams Family 2 soon after release of the first production.
Beginnings and Development
Whilst the action in the original film took place primarily in and around the Addams house and neighbouring town Assimilation, the latest movie is set in a range of locations as the Addams travel across the country. It was essential to create an authentic road trip feel, with a realistic sense of distance covered, time passing and difference in the places they are visiting.
“It really needed to feel like you were going to Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon”, explains Laura Brousseau. “From a production standpoint, this film was much more ambitious than the first. There was a lot more asset work to do, and a lot more FX—bigger, more difficult, and more complex FX.”
The “dilapidated elegance” which in the first film drove design choices in and around the Addams’ mansion was used to develop the interior of the Addams’ camper van. Laura asserts, “It’s a character in its own right. It’s very much representative of the Addams themselves and we wanted to bring that same sort of feel to the camper van. We wanted it to be authentic to them, albeit smaller. So we put a lot of effort into creating a rich and varied palette of dark and varnished woods, beautiful, rich-colored carpets and upholstery. Everything is a bit weathered and used, but there are warm, glowing sconces on the walls, jewel-toned stained glass and a wood-burning fireplace. It feels luxurious and comfortable.”
Establishing tone, color and lighting
Production designer Patricia Atchison and art director Chris Souza worked on a color script which would support the sense of distance covered and time passing whilst also supporting the mood and tone of each sequence. So, for example, night-time on the highway would look different to night-time at the Grand Canyon. Patricia and Chris worked closely with the surfacing and lighting teams to make sure these goals could be achieved.
Kevin Pavlovic recalls, “We incorporated cinematography at a very early stage, at previz and after storyboards. We established the color script for the whole film as early as possible, matching the tone and settings from the script. That way, when the camera guys in the previz stage were working, they weren’t just focused on the camera. They would also be aware of the time of day in scenes and getting lighting notes. Lighting usually comes after animation, later in the process, but by incorporating that process into an early stage, it inspired not only the camera work but the animation as well. Everything is working towards a common goal, and by everyone having that information early we didn’t need to revise other departments’ efforts later to make it work.”
Laura agrees that this approach led to more informed and creative staging decisions. “There’s one scene where Wednesday and Lurch end up in this middle-of-nowhere bar that’s mostly lit by neon signs. As our production designers are working with layout and the cameras coming from previz, we know that there are going to be areas of action here or there, like people fighting or playing pool. So we could place neon signs and practical light sources accurately at an early stage; that scene was that much better because of it.”
The Addams Family 2 includes one of the most impressive renditions of Niagara Falls ever seen in an animated feature, and extensive reference footage was used to nail the majestic look and natural feel of the real-life location. Cinesite’s team recreated the stonework, railings and foliage of the actual location and paired it with layered, hyper-detailed effects simulations so that the water moved and retained its color authentically throughout.
“Each department had its part to play in making those real-life environments feel authentic,” explains Laura. “When you’re looking at the color of the water—in CG, you add shaders and lights, and you have something really reflective that includes a degree of subsurface to it. The color can sort of change and feel different, and you’re almost at the mercy of the physics that the computer is calculating. But lighting and compositing put a big effort into making sure that color felt cohesive. They looked at a lot of photographs from the same time of day, with the quality of light that we were going for. They literally were trying to match that very specific Niagara Falls water color as best they could. It’s a testament to a team that is really dedicated, at every step, to making the sets feel big, alive, and authentic.”
Another important location in the film is the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, which the team rendered in all its natural beauty, whist bringing in the familiar shape language of the rest of the film. We see the Canyon at different times of day, as well as its eventual destruction following a series of explosions orchestrated by Pugsley.
Many of the locations created in The Addams Family 2 are more subtle in their impact. One of the most touching sequences takes place on a wooded path not far from the Grand Canyon, where Wednesday, who has decided to run away, realises she is being followed by the ever-faithful Lurch. The evening sun is dappling through the trees and the grass, rocks and foliage are lush and authentic, created from carefully observed location-based reference. The subtle tones of the environment reflect the poignancy of the moment, as we realise that these two characters have more in common than they may previously have thought.
The relationship between Wednesday and her family is central to the story as she embarks on her own journey to discover more about her true identity. Cinesite’s team built upon characters established in the first film, giving us further glimpses into their personalities and evolving relationships.
We also see Uncle Fester go through some metamorphic changes as the result of a scientific experiment by Wednesday, with him growing tentacles, squirting ink and becoming more octopus-like as the story develops, until a spectacular climactic battle where we see the full extent of his transformation.
Find out more about The Addams Family 2 on MGM’s official website.