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11 Facts About Hocus Pocus

Stacy Conradt
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus (1993).
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus (1993). / Walt Disney Pictures
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For many

Millennials

,

Hocus Pocus

is a Halloween classic. The 1993 film stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters, a trio of witches from the 17th century determined to achieve eternal youth by sucking the souls of children. Celebrate the spooky season—and get ready for the

Hocus Pocus

sequel, which is set to premiere in 2022—with these 11 facts about the cult-classic Disney movie.

1. Hocus Pocus originated as a bedtime story.

The story for

Hocus Pocus

came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to

Muppet Magazine

(why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. The writers used props to pitch Hocus Pocus to studio executives.

To

pitch the story

to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. Hocus Pocus was not an immediate hit.

Though it’s a cult classic now,

Hocus Pocus

didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly

was particularly

put off

by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. Bette Midler loves Hocus Pocus.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that

Hocus Pocus

is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was

Hocus Pocus

.”

5. Kathy Najimy loves Hocus Pocus, too.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. Hocus Pocus could have starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

The role of Max was

originally offered

to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

(1993).

7. Sarah Jessica Parker is related to a woman famously accused of being a witch.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show

Who Do You Think You Are

to trace her family history, she discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women

accused of being a witch

during the

Salem Witch Trials

. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. Thora Birch revisited the Hocus Pocus neighborhood in American Beauty.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for

American Beauty

(1999).

9. The kids in Hocus Pocus weren't huge fans of the cats.

The kids all hated working with the

cats

. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a

different purpose

—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. Much of the original Hocus Pocus cast reunited for a 20th reunion.

In 2013, most of the cast participated in a 20th-anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

11. There’s a Hocus Pocus sequel in the works.

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a

Hocus Pocus

sequel

. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. Her wish came true: In May 2021, Disney announced that a

Hocus Pocus

sequel is indeed in the works. The

original actresses

will reprise their roles as the Sanderson sisters, who’ve been accidentally conjured to modern times once again. The film is slated to premiere on

Disney+

in fall 2022.

This article originally ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2021.

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