Hocus Pocus (1993 film)

Hocus Pocus
Theatrical release poster
by Drew Struzan
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Mick Garris
  • David Kirschner
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Hiro Narita
Edited by Peter E. Berger
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • July 16, 1993 (1993-07-16)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $39.5 million[2]

Hocus Pocus is a 1993 American comedy horror fantasy film directed by Kenny Ortega, starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker; written by Neil Cuthbert and Mick Garris, and based on a story by Garris and David Kirschner. It follows the villainous trio of witches, who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenage male virgin in Salem, Massachusetts.

Although it was not a critical or commercial success when first released, Hocus Pocus has become a cult film,[3] largely from annual airings on Disney Channel and Freeform (formerly ABC Family).


In 1693 on October 31, near Salem, Massachusetts, Thackery Binx sees his little sister, Emily, spirited away to the cottage of three witches. There, the Sanderson sisters, Winifred, Sarah and Mary, cast a spell on Emily to absorb her youth and regain their own, killing her in the process. Thackery confronts the witches who transform him into an immortal black cat to live with his guilt for not saving Emily. The townsfolk, led by Binx's father, capture the witches. But before being hanged, Winifred's spellbook casts a curse that will resurrect the witches during a full moon on All Hallows Eve when any virgin lights the Black Flame Candle. Thackery guards the cottage to ensure no one summons the witches.

Three hundred years later on October 31, 1993, Max Dennison is feeling unsettled from his family's sudden move from Los Angeles to Salem. Max takes his younger sister Dani trick-or-treating, where they run into Max's new crush Allison. Allison mentions that her family owns the Sanderson cottage as a museum. Max, in an effort to impress Allison, invites her to show him the Sanderson house to convince him that the witches were real.

Investigating inside the cottage, Max lights the Black Flame Candle and inadvertently resurrects the witches, who plot to continue their plan to suck out the souls of all of Salem's children, beginning with Dani. Escaping, Max steals Winifred's spellbook on advice from Thackery. The witches pursue them to a cemetery, where Winifred raises her unfaithful lover Billy Butcherson as a zombie to chase them on foot. The witches try to acclimate to the 20th century, but are horrified when they discover Halloween has become a holiday. The witches plan to achieve their goals or they will be disintegrated at sunrise. They pursue the children across town using Mary's enhanced sense of smell. Max, Allison and Dani find their parents at a Halloween party at the town hall, where Winifred enchants the partygoers to dance and sing until they die. At Jacob Bailey High School, the children trap the witches in a kiln to burn them alive. While celebrating, the witches' curse revives them again. Not realizing that the witches haven't truly died, Max and Allison open the spellbook in an effort to reverse the spell on Binx. The open spellbook reveals the location of the group, and the witches track them down and kidnap Dani. Sarah then uses her siren-like singing to mesmerize Salem's children, luring them to the Sandersons' cottage. Max and Allison rescue Dani and Thackery by tricking the witches into believing sunrise came an hour early.

Back at the cemetery, Max runs into Billy, who cuts open his stitched up mouth and insults Winifred, joining Max to protect Dani. The witches attack and Winifred attempts to suck out the soul from Dani with the single vial of potion she retrieved from her cauldron. Thackery leaps on Winifred and knocks the potion out of her hand into Max's, but is then thrown to the ground and mortally wounded. Rather than smashing the vial, Max drinks it in order to force the witches to take him instead of Dani. As the sun rises, Winifred is unable to drain Max's life force from him after falling into the hallowed ground, and soon turns to stone and is disintegrated to dust along with her sisters.

As the satisfied Billy returns to his grave, Thackery dies, freeing his soul. He thanks Max, Dani and Allison for their help, and bids farewell to them, before he and Emily walk into the afterlife. As the end credits begin, the exhausted partygoers are freed from the spell and return home. Meanwhile, at the Sandersons' cottage, Jay and Ernie, two male bullies who earlier tormented Max and Dani, remain imprisoned in their cages while passing the time singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". The film ends with Winnie's spellbook opening its eye, implying that Winnie's last words re-activated the resurrection spell.


  • Bette Midler as Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson, the buck-toothed oldest Sanderson sister and leader of the trio.
  • Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, the middle sister, often complimenting and comforting her domineering older sister, Winnie. She can smell children and hunts them down.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, the youngest and most beautiful sister. She has the ability to entrance children with her siren-like singing.
  • Omri Katz as Maximilian "Max" Dennison, a teenager originally from Los Angeles, California who moves to Salem, Massachusetts with his family. Max is angry at his parents for making them move to Salem. He is responsible for bringing back the Sanderson sisters 300 years later on Halloween night.
  • Thora Birch as Danielle "Dani" Dennison, Max's spoiled 8-year-old sister and an enthusiastic trick-or-treater. Dani is addicted to candy and looks up to Max.
  • Vinessa Shaw as Allison Watts, Max's love interest and a wealthy native Salem resident, who forms a close bond with Dani.
  • Sean Murray as Thackery Binx; originally a teenager from 1693, he follows Emily into the woods, where he fails to prevent her death at the hands of the Sanderson sisters. The witches transform him into an immortal cat, voiced by Jason Marsden.[4]
  • Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson, Winifred's lover and a zombie. He died on May 1, 1693 after Winifred found him sporting with her sister Sarah, poisoned him and sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle, so he couldn't tell her secrets, even in death.
  • Charles Rocket as David "Dave" Dennison, Max and Dani's father.
  • Stephanie Faracy as Jennifer "Jenny" Dennison, Max and Dani's mother.
  • Amanda Shepherd as Emily Binx, Thackery's younger sister, who died on October 31, 1693 after the witches drain her life force.
  • Larry Bagby as Ernie "Ice", the leader of a group of high school delinquents and Jay's best friend.
  • Tobias Jelinek as Jay, another delinquent and Ernie's best friend.
  • Steve Voboril as Elijah Morris, Thackery’s best friend in 1693, who worked as a farmhand on the Binx family’s farm.
  • Norbert Weisser as Mr. Binx, Emily and Thackery's father.
  • Kathleen Freeman as Miss Olin, Max's and Allison's teacher at Jacob Bailey High School.
  • Garry Marshall (uncredited) as "The Devil", a man wearing a devil costume whom the Sanderson sisters assume to be their "Master".
  • Penny Marshall (uncredited) as the "Devil's" wife, who the sisters assume is Medusa due to her curlers, which resemble snakes.


In the 1994 TV documentary Hocus Pocus: Begin the Magic, and on the film's Blu-ray release, producer David Kirschner said he came up with the idea for the film one night. He and his young daughter were sitting outside and his neighbor's black cat strayed by. Kirschner invented a tale of how the cat was once a boy who was changed into a feline three hundred years ago by three witches.

Hocus Pocus started life as a script for a special original film for the Disney Channel, to be produced by one of the smaller studios owned by The Walt Disney Company. The script, however, caught the eye of Walt Disney Studios, who decided that the film was strong enough to carry well-known names and to attract a cinema audience. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally offered the lead role of Max for a large salary, but declined it in order to pursue What's Eating Gilbert Grape.[5][6] The idea to cast Bette Midler was partly inspired by Midler's Golden Globe-nominated performance in a milestone motion picture for The Walt Disney Company on its Touchstone Pictures line, Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Midler, who plays the central antagonist of the film, is quoted as saying that Hocus Pocus "was the most fun I'd had in my career up to that point".

Principal photography began on October 12, 1992. The film is set in Salem, Massachusetts, but most of it was shot on sound stages in Burbank, California. However, its daytime scenes were filmed in Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts during two weeks of filming with principal cast. Production was completed on February 10, 1993.


The musical score for "Hocus Pocus" was composed and conducted by John Debney. James Horner was originally slated to score the film, but became unavailable at the last minute, so Debney had to score the entire film in two weeks. Even though he didn't score the film, Horner came back to write the theme for Sarah (sung by Sarah Jessica Parker, more commonly known as "Come Little Children") which is featured in Intrada's Complete Edition of the score.

Debney released a promotional score through the internet containing 19 tracks from the film. Bootlegs were subsequently released across the internet, primarily because the promotional release missed the entire opening sequence music.



The film received negative reviews from film critics, at the time of release. Reception has since grown to be more positive towards the film, and it has become a cult film. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 30%, based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Harmlessly hokey yet never much more than mediocre, Hocus Pocus is a muddled family-friendly effort that fails to live up to the talents of its impressive cast."[7]

The Miami Herald called it "a pretty lackluster affair", adding this comment: "Despite the triple-threat actress combo, Hocus Pocus won't be the Sister Act of 1993. There are a lot of gotta-sees this summer, and this isn't one of them."[8] The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote that the film "has flashes of visual stylishness but virtually no grip on its story".[9] 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"; and stating that while Najimy and Parker "have their moments of ramshackle comic inspiration, and the passable special effects should keep younger campers transfixed [...] the sight of the Divine Miss M. mugging her way through a cheesy supernatural kiddie comedy is, to say the least, dispiriting."[10]

Home media and television

The film was released to VHS in North America on September 9, 1994,[11] and later to DVD on June 4, 2002.[12] Following the film's release on the latter format, it has continued to show strong annual sales, raking in more than $1 million in DVD sales each October.[12] In the mid to late 1990s, the film was rebroadcast annually on ABC and Disney Channel before switching over to ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween lineup in the early 2000s. The film has continuously brought record viewing numbers to the lineup, including a 2009 broadcast watched by 2.5 million viewers.[13] In 2011, an October 29 airing became the lineup's most watched program, with 2.8 million viewers.[14]

On September 4, 2012, the film was released on Blu-ray.[15] Disney will be re-releasing the film on Blu-ray and Digitial HD on September 2, 2018 as part of the film's 25th anniversary.[16]


Over the years, through various outlets such as strong DVD sales and annual record-breaking showings on ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween, the film has achieved cult status.[17] Various media outlets such as Celebuzz and Oh No They Didn't have reiterated such claims.[14][17][18] In October 2011, the Houston Symphony celebrated various horror and Halloween classics, including Hocus Pocus, with "The Hocus Pocus Pops."[19]

On October 19, 2013, D23 held a special screening of Hocus Pocus at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, to honor the 20th anniversary of the film. Nine of the cast and crew gathered for the screening, and hundreds of D23 members attended. Returning members included Kathy Najimy, David Kirschner, Thora Birch, Doug Jones, Vinessa Shaw, and Omri Katz.[20]

During her Divine Intervention Tour, Bette Midler appeared on stage dressed as Winifred Sanderson. Her Harlettes appeared with her dressed as Mary and Sarah, and the three of them performed the film's version of "I Put a Spell on You".[21]

On September 15, 2015, the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular was introduced at the Magic Kingdom as a part of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. The show introduces new actresses as the Sanderson Sisters, who try to make a villain party and summon or attract various Disney villains in the process.[22]

In September 2016, entertainment critic Aaron Wallace published Hocus Pocus in Focus: The Thinking Fan's Guide to Disney's Halloween Classic, the first full-length book written about the movie. The book includes a foreword by Thora Birch and afterword by Mick Garris. Billed as a "lighthearted but scholarly look at the film," the book analyzes the movie's major themes, which it identifies as festivity, nostalgia, home, horror, virginity, feminism, Broadway-style musical moments, sibling rivalry, "Spielbergian" filmmaking style, Disney villain traditions, and more. Wallace also analyzes Walt Disney World's Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular as part of the movie's legacy and includes "the largest collection of Hocus Pocus fun facts and trivia ever assembled," complete with extensive endnote citations.[23][24][25]

Possible sequel and confirmed remake

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.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

In June 2016, actor Doug Jones mentioned that Disney had been considering a sequel, and behind the scenes discussions were in place to possibly continue the series.[29]

In October 2016, Sarah Jessica Parker was asked by Andy Cohen about a sequel. Her response was, "I would love that. I think we've been very vocal that we're very keen."[30]

In Hocus Pocus in Focus: The Thinking Fan's Guide to Disney's Halloween Classic, author Aaron Wallace identifies several potential approaches for a sequel, but notes that the project's biggest challenge is the Walt Disney Studios' interest in tentpole projects that promise very high box office returns.[31]

In September 2017, screenwriter Mick Garris admitted that he was working on a script for Hocus Pocus 2 and that it would potentially be developed as a television film for Disney Channel, Freeform or ABC.[32] It was later confirmed that it will instead be a remake to air on Disney Channel, with The Royals writer Scarlett Lacey attached to write, and the original film producer David Kirschner executive producing.[33][34] The following month, Midler said she was not fond of the idea of a remake and she would not be taking part in it.[35]


Year Association Category Recipient Result
1994 Saturn Awards Best Actress Bette Midler Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Kathy Najimy Nominated
Sarah Jessica Parker Nominated
Best Fantasy Film Hocus Pocus Nominated
Best Special Effects Hocus Pocus Nominated
Best Costumes Hocus Pocus Won
Young Artist Awards Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy Thora Birch Won
Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy Vinessa Shaw Nominated
Best Youth Actor Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy Omri Katz Nominated
Best Youth Actor Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy Sean Murray Nominated
Best Youth Actor in a Voice Over Role - TV or Movie Jason Marsden Nominated

See also


  1. "Hocus Pocus (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. July 30, 1993. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  2. "Box office information for Hocus Pocus". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  3. Chaney, Jen (October 28, 2015). "The Magical Tale of How 'Hocus Pocus' Went From Box-Office Flop to Halloween Favorite". Yahoo.com. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  4. 'Hocus Pocus' Turns 20: Meet the Voice Behind Binx the Talking Cat The Daily Beast, Retrieved July 17, 2015
  5. "Leonardo DiCaprio Reveals What Movie He Turned Down Even After Being Offered "More Money Than I Ever Dreamed Of"". E! Online. February 12, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  6. "Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down 'Hocus Pocus' And 'More Money Than I Ever Dreamed Of'". Huffington Post. February 12, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  7. "Hocus Pocus (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  8. "Hocus Pocus starts strong, goes flat". The Miami Herald. The McClatchy Company. July 16, 1993. p. 7G. Retrieved August 9, 2010. (Registration required (help)).
  9. Maslin, Janet (July 16, 1993). "Review/Film; Bette Midler, Queen Witch in Heavy Makeup". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  10. Burr, Ty (July 23, 1993). "Hocus Pocus Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  11. "Amazon.com: Hocus Pocus [VHS]: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, Larry Bagby, Tobias Jelinek, Stephanie Faracy, Charles Rocket, Doug Jones, Karyn Malchus, Kenny Ortega, Bonnie Bruckheimer, David Kirschner, Jay Heit, Mick Garris, Neil Cuthbert: Movies & TV".
  12. 1 2 "Hocus Pocus - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  13. "ABC Family's 11th annual "13 Nights of Halloween 2009" Scares Up Event-Best Deliveries". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  14. 1 2 "ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween 2011" Scares Up Record Crowd". TV By the Numbers. Archived from the original on November 6, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  15. "Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  16. ""Hocus Pocus," "Nightmare Before Christmas" 25th Anniversary Blu-rays announced by Disney for September". Insidethemagic.net. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  17. 1 2 "Five Reasons Why 'Hocus Pocus' is One of the Greatest Cult Classic Films". International Business Times. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  18. "HOCUS POCUS - Where are they now?". Oh No They Didn't. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  19. "Pavilion celebrates Halloween with Hocus Pocus Pops". Your Houston News. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  20. Billy Stanek (October 22, 2013). "D23 Members Run Amok at the Hocus Pocus 20th Anniversary Screening". D23 (Disney). Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  21. Romano, Nick. "HEY, '90S KIDS! WATCH BETTE MIDLER RESURRECT 'HOCUS POCUS' IN CONCERT". IFC. IFC TV LLC. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  22. Snetiker, Marc (May 27, 2015). "'Hocus Pocus' stage show will haunt Disney World this Halloween". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  23. Newsdesk, Laughing Place Disney (August 30, 2016). "Author Aaron Wallace Announces First-Ever Book Dedicated to Disney's "Hocus Pocus" - LaughingPlace.com".
  24. "New book about 'Hocus Pocus' now available". September 21, 2016.
  25. "Hocus Pocus in Focus: A Hocus Pocus Book for The Thinking Fan".
  26. Jen Yamato. "Disney, Tina Fey Developing 'Untitled Witch Project' – Not 'Hocus Pocus 2' - Deadline". Deadline.
  27. Michael Kennedy. "Bette Midler & Co-Stars Are Up for 'Hocus Pocus 2'". Screen Rant.
  28. "No Hocus Pocus 2 Retrieved November 19, 2015".
  29. "Dream Ninja Turtles Movie Crossovers MOVIE FIGHTS!!". Screen Junkies.
  30. "Sarah Jessica Parker on 'Hocus Pocus 2': "I Would Love That"". October 7, 2016.
  31. Wallace, Aaron. Hocus Pocus in Focus: The Thinking Fan's Guide to Disney's Halloween Classic. Pensive Pen Publishing 2016. Epilogue. http://www.aaronwallaceonline.com/book/hocus-pocus-book-thinking-fan-disney/
  32. Thompson, Simon (September 26, 2017). "Joe Dante And Mick Garris Talk 'Gremlins,' 'Hocus Pocus' Sequel And 'Nightmare Cinema'". Forbes. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  33. Andreeva, Nellie (September 28, 2017). "'Hocus Pocus' TV Movie In Works At Disney Channel".
  34. "Disney Channel working on 'Hocus Pocus' remake". Entertainment Weekly. September 28, 2017.
  35. "Bette Midler slams upcoming Hocus Pocus TV remake: 'It's going to be cheap!'". Entertainment Weekly. October 31, 2017.
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