11 Facts About 'Hocus Pocus'

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

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 sequel, which premieres September 30—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, 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 exactly put a spell on audiences 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. Co-star 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.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the Whats Eating Gilbert Grape Premiere
He could've lit the black flame candle. / Barry King/GettyImages

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 and 25th 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).

The film’s 25th anniversary was celebrated with an even bigger bash, complete with musical acts and a costume contest. Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy made appearances as part of the festivities.

11. There’s a Hocus Pocus sequel.

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 was indeed in the works.

The original actresses reprised their roles as the Sanderson sisters, who’ve been accidentally conjured to modern times once again. The film premieres on Disney+ on September 30, 2022.

This article originally ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2022.