Since 1993, the Disney film Hocus Pocus has been a perennial Halloween favorite
Hocus Pocus Celebrates 29th Anniversary
It’s been 27 years since the world was graced with the beloved cult-classic, Hocus Pocus, and the film has been a perennial Halloween favorite ever since. Dreamed up by David Kirschner, Hocus Pocus was inspired by a conversation the American Tale producer had with his young daughter as they watched a neighbor’s black cat cavort through their yard. “What if,” we imagine Kirschner considering, “It wasn’t a cat at all, but a boy cursed by some seriously sinister yet silly witches!” Kirschner said in 2015 “Halloween is a huge deal in our home, and it has been since our daughters were little,”. “It speaks to me in a way that becomes so emotional for me and always has.” The fantasy film starred Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker as three dopey 17th century Salem witches (aka the Sanderson Sisters) who suck the life forces of children to stay young. Fast forward 300 years later to 1993, and the Sanderson Sisters are accidentally resurrected from the dead on Halloween, thanks to a tie-dyed hippie teen named Max who’s accompanied by his little sister and the girl of his dreams, Allison. The three of them, along with immortal talking black cat Thackery, take on the witches and their evil spells to save the town of Salem. Hocus Pocus was released July 16, 1993, and came in at #4 at the box office with $8,125,471. It dropped from the top 10 after two weeks of release. The film was released the same day as Free Willy. The unusual summer release of Hocus Pocus is said to be due to Disney not wanting it to compete against their other Halloween-themed film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was due for release the coming October by Touchstone Pictures. Over the years, through various outlets such as strong DVD sales and annual record-breaking showings on Disney Channel and Freeform’s 13 Nights of Halloween, the film has achieved cult status. In July 2014, it was announced that Disney was developing a supernatural-themed film about witches and that Tina Fey was on board as a producer and star. However, Deadline debunked rumors that the film was a sequel to Hocus Pocus. In November 2014, Bette Midler said in an interview that she was ready and willing to return for a sequel. She also said her co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy were interested in reprising the roles of the Sanderson sisters as well but stressed that Disney had yet to greenlight any sequel*. In November 2015, Midler stated in a Facebook Q&A that “after all these years and all the fan demand, I do believe I can stand and firmly say an unequivocal no” in response to a question about a sequel. Unlike other cult films, Hocus Pocus didn’t generate its status by slipping into the mystery after its theatrical release. It rose ruthlessly, bolstered by the constant TV airings which help bring in a new crowd every year. Miller, who still considers the film one of her favorites she’s ever done, thinks the movie took off for another reason. “We made it before the tidal wave of Halloween happened,” she told Katie Couric. “Now it’s like huge. It’s huge—kids, grown-ups, everyone takes part in it. This movie was kind of like the beginning of the wave. “While the rise of Halloween is another conversation, she’s not wrong about how major the holiday has become — and how prevalent the film has remained thanks to its spooky ties.
*Recently in 2022 Hocus Pocus 2 finally premiered
Article and Video by Ken Warren, 2017/18 originally published for the 25th Anniversary of Hocus Pocus
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