Hocus Pocus: 20 Year Anniversary

Friday, September 13, 2013

That's right, I said TWENTY years. I'll let that sink in whilst you console yourself - I recommend some "spirits" to take the edge off of that little bit o' information.

While Hocus Pocus was released July 16, 1993, it didn't seem fitting to bring up its anniversary way back in July. In mid-July, we Harris Sisters were bringing you fantastic posts such as Charlie Brown Birthday PartyTrader Joe's Beauty Product Reviews, and Southwest Pasta Salad Recipe. So, I figured it might be fitting to feature this post on Friday the 13th! Super spooky-scary, right?


And it seems like Disney hasn't forgotten this little gem of a movie. They're holding a special 20th anniversary screening of the movie in California in October. Fancy pants!

So for those of you who can't hoof it to California to celebrate, here some factoids about the movie that has achieved cult status as far as Halloween movies go.

20 Facts for the 20th Anniversary of Hocus Pocus


  1. The film was intended to be a Disney Channel Original Movie, but when higher-ups saw the script, they felt it was strong enough for a theatrical release with well-known actors.
  2. The film initially grossed $39,514,713, although it became more popular over the years. Not only is it a cult favorite, but it also can be viewed regularly on television during the month of October. Since the 2000s, it has been a fixture on ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween.
  3. Upon its US release, Hocus Pocus received rather mixed to negative reviews from film critics. For example, Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, calling it "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. The movie was directed by Kenny Ortega, who also directed Newsies, the High School Musical movies, and Michael Jackson's This Is It concert film. He is slated to direct the remake of Dirty Dancing, having choreographed the original Dirty Dancing as well as Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (If you recall, Ferris Bueller's Day Off starred Matthew Broderick, who later married Sarah Jessica Parker - talk about your Six Degrees of Separation!)
  5. Omri Katz was not well at the time of his first audition and was initially rejected for the role of Max Dennison. The role was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio, but was given to Omri Katz when DiCaprio turned it down to appear in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Rosi O'Donnell was originally offered the role of Mary Sanderson, but it was given to Kathy Najimy. O'Donnell claims on her blog that she turned down the offer to work on the movie because she didn't want to be a "scary witch."
  6. The movie takes place on Halloween 1993. The first part of the movie shows Max at school, yet Halloween 1993 was on a Sunday.
  7. When Bette Midler's character Winifred Sanderson takes the stage at the town Halloween Party, she says, "Hello Salem, my name is Winifred. What's yours?" This is a take-off of the famous line, "Hello world, my name is Rose. What's yours?" that is spoken by Mama Rose in the musical Gypsy. Bette Midler played Mama Rose in the television version of Gypsy the same year that Hocus Pocus was released.
  8. Charles Rocket acquired a certain notoriety for swearing on live television during the final moments of the February 21, 1981 episode of Saturday Night Live. There's an in-joke in connection to this where he says to Max, "Watch your language!"
  9. Sarah seemed to be a harmless, ditzy witch throughout most of the movie. Then, she started singing sweetly, luring children out, and confirming her deadly power. Sarah Jessica Parker provided the vocals for "Sarah's Theme/Come Little Children" in the movie.
  10. Despite the common Internet myth that the song Sarah Sanderson sings is a shortened version of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, no references to such a poem exist in any of his works. It does not carry the style or any of the known meters that he would have used. It was written specifically for the film - lyrics by Brock Walsh and music by James Horner (according to the Disney Song Encyclopedia).
  11. After having locked the Sanderson Sisters in the school kiln, the three kids celebrate as they walk to the park. The house shown directly behind Max and Thackery while they talk is the residential edifice Thora Birch would use as her "home" in 1999's American Beauty.
  12. During the final fight in the cemetery, the background music imitates Miss Gulch's (the Wicked Witch's) theme from The Wizard of Oz.
  13. In Hocus Pocus, Sarah Jessica Parker plays a witch who was executed during the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s. While researching her family history for the show Who Do You Think You Are?, Parker was shocked to discover that her 10th great grandmother Esther Elwell was arrested in Salem in the late 1600s for committing "sundry acts of witchcraft" and choking a neighbor to death. Esther's case never went to court and she escaped with her life. Parker said, "It has changed everything about who I thought I was."
  14. The real Salem Witch Trials began during the first few months of 1692 and were finished by October of that same year, though the movie states that the Sanderson Sisters were hanged on October 31, 1693.
  15. Before they go trick or treating, Dani tells Max that there is a full moon out. The movie is set in 1993, but the last time there was a full moon on Halloween was in 1974. The next full moon on Halloween will be in 2020.
  16. Surprising for Disney, this movie specifically links witches to Satan. A museum sign claims he gave Winifred her spell book. And although he never appears in the movie in person, when the Sanderson Sisters happen upon someone dressed in a Devil costume (Gary Marshall), they call him their "master."
  17. In the 1964 Looney Tunes short Bewitched Bunny, Hansel and Gretel turn to Witch Hazel and say, "Ack, your mother rides a vacuum cleaner" before fleeing. Seems like Mary Sanderson was paying attention, as she also rode a vacuum cleaner in Hocus Pocus (although this is a widely noted error in judgement on the writers' part - since vacuum cleaners weren't invented until 100+ years after the Sanderson Sisters were hanged.)
  18. Mary Sanderson may have just been WAY ahead of her time - she also talks about margarine. Her character, having lived 300 years ago, shouldn't have known about margarine, which was invented in 1869.
  19. There were seven statues made of Bette Midler for the final scenes of the movie. One of the statues, along with Winnie's spellbook, is housed at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Orlando, Florida. 
  20. The three little girls who steal the witches' brooms from in front of "Satan's" house are dressed as the sisters themselves: Winifred with red hair and green cape, Mary with black hair and red cape, and Sarah with blond hair and purple cape.
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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

These facts are all really interesting!
One tiny quibble, though: you say that Mary riding a vacuum is an "error in judgement on the writers' part," but the only reason she rides the vacuum in the first place is noted in fact 20--when the three little girls steal their real brooms. Without their brooms, they had to make do with whatever was around if they wanted to fly. Since their house is now a museum, it makes sense a vacuum would be lying around. I don't think Mary says any lines that allude to the fact she knows what she's using as a broom, but she grabs it simply because it's lying next to the items her sisters grab first and it's roughly the right size and shape to be used for flying. So I don't think that should be considered an error on the writers' part.
The margarine thing though--good catch. :)

Misty Turner said...

Who has two thumbs and saw "Hocus Pocus" on the big screen when it came out in 1993? This Harris Sister!

Donna Walkush said...

If you view this YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGY4L07_CmU. It shows when they peek into the museum's close. There's a quick shot that shows what looks to be three "handles" two brooms and a mop or two mops and a broom maybe around 0:49. So, I think that is why many people surmise that given the other option Mary would have chosen a mechanical device that she had never seen before - or even connected it to the same task of a mop or a broom (for flying purposes of course)! ;-)

Jessica said...

My father still can't hear the phrase "a muck" without repeating several times. He's either bewitched, or a giant dork.

Donna Walkush said...

Amuck! Amuck, amuck, amuck, amuck, amuck . . . ;-)

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