13 Things You Didn't Know About Hocus Pocus
For many of us, Halloween isn’t complete without a visit from the Sanderson sisters. If you haven’t gotten your fix yet this season, here are a few bits of trivia to tide you over. (You can also still catch the movie on Lifetime tomorrow night, Nov. 1.)
1. The story 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. 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. 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 at #4 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, 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, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”
5. Most of the cast recently 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 it here.
6. The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
7. Doug Jones, AKA Billy Butcherson, is the man behind many other Hollywood creatures: Abe Sapien in Hellboy, el Fauno and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and various creepy characters in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Tales from the Crypt.
8. Even the stars of the film aren’t immune to the allure of the movie: Kathy Najimy recently revealed that she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.
9. Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When she went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. The voice of Thackery Binx the cat was provided by Jason Marsden, who is still good friends with Omri Katz (Max).
13. There could be a sequel in the works! Writer David Kirschner mentioned at the 20th anniversary event that he had recently pitched a sequel to Disney. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!