What everyone gets wrong about Thing T. Thing

There’s more to know about this mysterious creature's background.

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Almost as often as Lurch uttered "You rang?" on The Addams Family, we heard Morticia Addams coo, "Thank you, Thing."

The helpful hand was always there to do the family's bidding.

In the Sixties when The Addams Family first aired, the identity of the actor playing Thing was a "closely guarded secret."

Today we know that most of the time it was Lurch actor Ted Cassidy's hand snapping, gesturing, pointing, putting on a record, or lighting Gomez's cigar.

But there were also times when Cassidy couldn't fill in as Thing.

Whenever Lurch and Thing shared a scene, an assistant director named Jack Voglin would fill in.

Nobody could apparently tell the difference between the two tall men's hands, and Cassidy said he'd ordinarily use his right hand, but sometimes he'd use his left, just to see if anyone would notice.

You can see an example of a rare left-handed Thing in the episode "The Addams Family Meets the Undercover Man." Near the end of the episode, Thing hands a letter to the undercover man, spooking him and providing proof of Cassidy’s small intentional goof.

Most people didn’t notice whether Thing was left- or right-handed, though, probably because Thing T. Thing was one of the most curious things in The Addams Family, and according to series writer Seaman Jacobs, the gag of Thing was written to make the audience not become fixated on the hand itself, but to wonder: what did the rest of the creature look like that was attached to that hand?

Jacobs said when The Addams Family movie came out in 1991, original series creators found it off-putting that Thing's original backstory— as a mysterious creature who hides its body and only shows its human hand protruding from various boxes and surfaces — was foregone to show a detached hand running around the movie screen like a spider on five legs.

"We did Thing," Jacobs told the Television Academy. "And they did that wrong in that picture. They showed the hand out there. That was not the idea of our gag. The gag was: what is at the end of the hand? What is connected to the hand? That made no sense to see Thing all by itself."

Jacobs said Thing as originally written was "a whole different concept."

In 1991, when the movie was premiering, executive producer Scott Rudin and director Barry Sonnenfeld defended their decision to "update" Thing.

"In the series, Thing was always in a box," Rudin explained. "We knew we could never get away with that in a movie."

Their idea was to intentionally change familiar aspects of the show to intrigue new viewers, but what their cartoonish version of Thing really did was change the way many people think of Thing.

That means today, a lot of people get wrong Thing's entire backstory, missing out on all the parts of Thing that the TV creators so cleverly had left to the viewers' imagination.

When TV executive producer David Levy was first developing The Addams Family, he actually came up with the original idea for Thing.

He was looking at Charles Addams cartoons, and he saw the cartoonist frequently drew a disembodied head as a recurring character. Levy asked Addams if the character had a name.

"He said, 'Oh, that's The Thing,'" Levy told The Los Angeles Daily News in 1991. "I said, 'Well, we can’t use a disembodied head, not in a television series.' But maybe we could have a hand, but you wouldn't know where it came from. You wouldn't know if it was attached to a body. I wouldn’t call it The Thing, but let’s call it Thing — just Thing. It wouldn't be Thing Addams."

Jacobs thought seeing Thing as a disembodied hand on the big screen turned the daffy comedy of The Addams Family TV show into black comedy, forcing the audience to wonder "what happened" to Thing, rather than "what is Thing?"

Sonnenfield and Rudin called the movie version "the liberation of Thing from its box."

In the movie, Thing definitely finds the spotlight, just as the TV version of the helpful hand became one of the most memorable aspects of the TV show, snapping along to the theme song.

The movie producers knew they needed to cast the right actor to play this more animated version of Thing, and they auditioned many puppeteers and sleight-of-hand performers before finding magician Christopher Hart.

"I showed them some sleight-of-hand skills, and then the director wanted me to do some weird things — show emotion with your hand, make your hand look happy, make your hand look sad, nervous, excited," Hart described the audition process.

Before his next call-back, Hart said he prepared by watching how Disney cartoons personified inanimate objects. That same year The Beauty and the Beast proved any teacup could have an Oscar-worthy personality. Hart found the inspiration he needed.

And while Cassidy and Voglin traded spots shoving their arms through boxes to create the original mysterious being that is Thing, with hardly anyone telling the difference between the two hands, Hart said his version of Thing became, well, its own distinct, inimitable thing.

He claimed any fan of Thing's animated personality in the movie could tell when someone else's hand stepped in. In his eyes, his version was the authentic Thing.

"While I was in Japan, someone else played Thing on some commercials for Addams Family cereal, and my friends could tell immediately," Hart said.

Do you still think of Thing as a hand attached to a mysterious creature never shown onscreen, or did the movie "update" your memory to think of Thing as just a detached hand with a big personality?

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HarcourtFentonMudd 34 months ago
Updating the old classics is rarely a good idea. A disembodied Thing ruins the whole mystery of "what the heck is that...THING?"
Steve2021 34 months ago
I love Thing, Thing had a great personally. That show was way ahead of it's time.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 34 months ago
"Nobody could apparently tell the difference between the two tall men's hands"

This basically shows that Joey Tribbiani WAS right about a market for a "hand twin."
ncadams27 34 months ago
As a kid, I never gave it much thought. It was just funny. People put too much emphasis on trying to explain everything - in reality the need for this detail just makes it less funny.
TijuanaSlim 34 months ago
I always kind of thought OG Thing was something of a 'Tentacle Monster' made up of Human-ish Arms/hands...

but at the same time, Didn't the original series do a couple Gags with Thing reaching out of a normal Mail Box on a Post to grab the mail from the Mail Carrier, meaning he wasn't (always) bound to a larger body
JimmyD 34 months ago
In my opinion you really can't take sixties half hour comedies and translate them into a full length film. But I grew up with the originals so I am probably jaded. The movies always look like they just try to add stuff you wouldn't need if the script was better.
Beatseeker 34 months ago
anybody else have that black box, where you put in a coin, and thing would come out and grab it?
Pacificsun Beatseeker 34 months ago
No, but that would've been some prized prop to have kept from the Show! Maybe it went to John Astin's family.
Peter Beatseeker 33 months ago
I remember them, wish I had one.
Eb 34 months ago
I've read before that Ted Cassidy did most of the Thing shots. I always try to imagine what it must look like to see him lying on the floor with his head underneath a table.
Pacificsun Eb 34 months ago
They probably (eventually) built a platform that he reached through for more maneuverability. He'd have to react to the other actors. 😉
JDnHuntsvilleAL Pacificsun 34 months ago
I seriously doubt that. Ted probably had very long arms and wouldn't need a platform.
F5Twitster 34 months ago
Jacobs said when The Addams Family movie came out in 1991, original series creators found it off-putting that Thing's original backstory...was foregone to show a detached hand running around the movie screen like a spider on five legs."

vinman63 34 months ago
Did Thing ever married lady finger?
Pacificsun vinman63 34 months ago
Made me laugh out loud! 😉
oobusdoobus 34 months ago
Thing was updated for the movie for the same reason a lot of that goes on. they did whatever the CG would handle, be damned if it's any good. just show off those 'puters
Pacificsun 34 months ago
The original version was the right call. I never thought about other parts of Thing. It was just a character itself! I think the movie version appealed to those who already enjoyed Disney's style of animation. Yes, Disney's Teacups (B and the B) were very entertaining!!

I don't imagine Mr. Cassidy got away with spontaneously switching hands on a whim without approval. Which hand was used had had more to do with the camera angle, what else (or who) was in the scene, and what the hand needed to do. (I believe, but would be pleased being given a correction!) that if the scene was filmed with Thing in the box, alone, that the shot could be technically reversed.
GirlNumber3 Pacificsun 34 months ago
hey don't ruin a good story ;)
Pacificsun GirlNumber3 34 months ago
😉 Is it yours? I've often suspected the writers (interns?) peek at the comments just to check on the reactions!! In fact, I'd bet on it! 😉
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 34 months ago
That makes me think: Do you think there's anyone on here that may be a staff writer? Hmmmm Mystery.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 34 months ago
Among the comments, yes. Hint: sometimes you'll read a very non-regular commenter speaking pointedly up about a particular story. But am sure they're encouraged to anonymously review them, just so they can learn. In spite of the typos "we" see I DO think they've much gotten better. Considering how many "words" are written weekly under deadline. Hey, we all make honest mistakes, I can't even proofread my own stuff, especially when they don't have an edit feature. Considering they're writing about stuff 40 years in the past, relying only on second hand information, I also think they do the best they can with that too. I'd be like us writing about ancient history!!

The MeTV goal is to create conversation among the readers!! And that, they do well!!

[ I think MeTV should introduce them ]!
JDnHuntsvilleAL Pacificsun 34 months ago
"Hey, we all make honest mistakes" YES, as shown by your "much gotten". :-o
daDoctah 34 months ago
In the movie RE-ANIMATOR, the guy who comes up with the formula for bringing dead creatures and body parts back to life tries it out on a severed hand to which he's attached a pair of eyes. After administering the serum, this little abomination goes scurrying around and popping up behind people like the "five-legged spider" described in the article above. The movie is incredibly campy but this is probably it's flat-out funniest moment.
retired2019 daDoctah 34 months ago
I love the Re-Animator movie. I think I will watch it tonight!
LoveMETV22 34 months ago
This thing ,that thing, the other thing. I'd like to hear more things about Thing. Good story but is there anything we don't know about Thing yet?
LoveMETV22 34 months ago
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Pacificsun LoveMETV22 34 months ago
How he actually did. I imagine reaching through a box. Making sure the hand was graceful, and Cassidy having to sync up the "bit" with the actors, was tough. He was a big guy, did we read somewhere here, that his was in some sort of box, or just hunkered down under a table. Either way it wouldn't be very easy!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 34 months ago
It's funny last nights episode was one of those hand sharing episodes, Lurch and Thing in the same scene. MeTV times a lot of their stories that way.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 34 months ago
Absolutely! It's very fun that way 😉
Runeshaper 34 months ago
I enjoy both the show and the movies. However, I definitely like the original idea of Thing as a hand attached to a mysterious creature better. I don't know if I ever really thought of Thing as more than a hand, but to me, that concept is truly creative and more fun (-:
Runeshaper 34 months ago
This comment has been removed.
you mean Thing One
harlow1313 34 months ago
Thing could really keep a beat. I always preferred Thing to that preening prima donna, Cousin Itt.
harlow1313 34 months ago
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justjeff 34 months ago
To make on of my ever-present puns... "It don't mean a swing if it ain't got that Thing!" (do wah, do wah, do wah do wah-do wah...)
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lynngdance justjeff 34 months ago
Itt’s Still Rock And Roll To Me -Billy Joel
lynngdance 34 months ago
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Moverfan stephaniestavr5 34 months ago
Will Itt Go Round In Circles--Billy Preston!
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