It’s the 24th anniversary of the theatrical release of Hocus Pocus. I have already watched the film today and it motivated me to write a tribute and recommendation for the film for those who have or have not seen it. Basically everyone. What can I say about this Disney masterpiece that most of you don’t already know. I would be very surprised to find someone who hasn’t seen this movie let alone heard of it before. I remember the movie I saw this trailer on: Super Mario Bros. and I also remember the day I went to see this movie with my friends the day it was released. Hocus Pocus is one of those movies that parents would show their kids when they reach a certain age. Some movies transition into the next generation of movies and are not forgotten and this is one of those titles. For most families and individuals like myself it has become a Halloween tradition to watch the movie each year around the holiday in Oct. I want to pay tribute and recommend this wonderful children’s movie as one of the best Halloween and Disney films of all time.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Director: Kenny Ortega
Writer: David Kirschner, Mick Garris, and Neil Cuthbert
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Vanessa Shaw, and Thora Birch
Plot: Three Witches known as The Sanderson Sisters need the lifeforce of children to stay young. They are caught and hung for their crimes and now 300 years later they are resurrected to finish what they started and it’s up to 3 children to stop them before the witches suck the life of all the children in Salem.
While I was in my early teen years watching this movie, I didn’t pay too much to how much this movie made or its reputation from others around the world. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 30%, and only a 10 million gain with 39 million dollars at the box office according to Boxofficemojo.com, this movie today as it was back in 1993 was considered a flop. Well that didn’t stop these witches from making a name for themselves. This movie grew to be a cult classic among Generation Xers as the movie to watch when Halloween comes around. ABC Family now known as Freeform airs the witching movie every year during their 13 nights of Halloween line up. Disneyland this year has even incorporated it into their Halloween events and shows during Oct. If the movie flopped and hated among critics, why do people love it so much?
The Heart of Disney is all over it
Disney has a knack for writing fun content that adults and kids can enjoy at the same time. In addition to the animated classics that never go out of style they also contribute with live-action comedies. While this movie is geared towards children having magic, witches, colorful sets, special effects, and slapstick comedy to keep their attention, the dialogue and humor also brings out the kid in any adult. It also helped that the cast are veterans in the game like Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, along with cameos from both Gary and Penny Marshall. Siblings in real life but played husband and wife giving out candy to trick r’ treaters. Only Disney can find a way to make a kid’s movie where witches are trying to kill children but still finds a way to perform a musical number causing anyone who hears it to dance until they die. GENIUS!
The Sanderson Sisters
Roger Ebert who was very anti-Hocus Pocus and hated the film sharing many things he believed went wrong with the movie. One big reason he hated It was the characters of the witches themselves saying, “They don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels”. I definitely disagree with this. Not only did they all come with their own insane bumbling personalities; their compatibility with each other is what brings people back to watch over and over again. These 3 women definitely captured what it’s like to have siblings and to be around them basically 24/7. Pulling off a relationship like The Three Stooges, their physical comedy speaks volumes as they run around constantly relying on each other while navigating this new world they have to adapt to in just one evening. While there is no character development, there personalities along with their special magic abilities catered for catching children, are front and center right from the beginning.
Let’s talk about Mary Sanderson, Kathy Najimy first with her vibrant and happy demeaner. Always enjoys a good laugh and finds delight in anything she does no matter what. A role that almost went to Rosie O’ Donnell, Najimy brings that warmth she brought in as Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act movies. Always with a smile on her face she was perfect for the role. Each sister had a vital signature power that helped them complete the one task that keeps them alive and it all revolves around children. Her skill was that she could smell them amongst anyone. “I smell children” she says in a harmonious tone anytime there are kids around that they can capture. Used as the butt of many jokes in the movie, Mary still stands strong as a loyal sibling to her sisters especially Winifred. A follower but also someone who will do anything to please her sisters and make sure everything gets done and having fun while they do it. One of my favorite scenes of the movie highlights Mary as the caregiver when she suggests the sisters participate in a calming circle before flying into the night looking for the kids.
Next is the beautiful and always salacious Sarah Sanderson. She is considered the pretty one but also the dumb one. She comes off as the one stuck in her childhood never really quite getting what’s going on. Sarah was the one that gave them up to the mob as she blurts out the fact that they were “sucking the lives out of little children” and cause them to be hanged in the beginning of the movie. She is very playful as well but has two things on her mind and that is boys and vanity. So much that she has a love/hate relationship with her sister Winifred because Sarah stole her man Billy Butcherson from her and Winnie caught them in the act. Blood is thicker than water so Billy was punished and the sisters live on. Her special power is that her voice enchants the minds of children and puts them in a trance that makes them follow her voice leading them to their doom. By singing her signature song, “Come Little Children” which SJP sang herself is one of the best scenes of the film as she gets a moment to shine even though the rest of her tribute to the cause is less to nothing. She also has freaky tendencies to be a dominatrix. She likes the fun of poking, hanging, and torturing her men. SJP provided one of the funniest lines and created one of the most familiar memes with her “Amuck, Amuck, Amuck” moment in the movie. When you think of Hocus Pocus, one thing you remember is when Sarah starts chanting and gets her gut punched from an annoyed Winifred.
Last but certainly not least is Winifred Sanderson played by Bette Midler. She is the leader and eldest sister of the three. She is the one who makes up the plans, who executes the spells, who makes the potion, and also despises her sisters to no end but can’t live without them. She is very powerful but also very stubborn and angry. She enjoys being evil and she hates children with a passion. Winnie at all cost wants to stay alive and young forever. There is a bit of selfishness in her and I think if she was given the choice she would always lookout for number one before her sisters. I think she loves her spell book more than she does her sisters. Sarah and Mary are vital to her cause and if they honestly have no more use, she would find them expendable. Her special power is lightning bolts that shoot out of her hands. She uses them to shock her victims and sometimes can use it to move objects. Like throwing Max, the virgin, across the room like a ragdoll. Her other special skill is that mouth of hers. She is the witty one of the group and not afraid to let you know how it is. For Disney, her name calling is on another level.
The Clothes and Costumes
The look for the Sanderson Sisters are loved for their signature look and color palette. These women have motived and inspired so many people when it came time to play dress up for Halloween, cosplay at an event, or even drag shows in the gay community. Just look at the over the top make-up, the big loud wigs, the big gowns, the teeth. This is a drag queens dream. I have seen my share of parodies and shows using the girls as a theme to their show. Todrick Hall even took on the task of recreating the sisters with a spin. Live performances from the infamous and talented drag queen Peaches Christ who used Seattle and Rupaul Drag Race Alum Jinx Monsoon and Bendelacreme to form the sisters in their live show. Little girls would dress up as them for Halloween. It’s also spawn a lot of inspired artwork around the world.
I think you can safely say that this movie has a lot going for it. I can’t explain why it was rejected back in 1993. One could say that a Halloween film about witches released in the month of July is not a smart move but I’m sure Disney had their reasons. Everyone has been begging for a sequel for years now and when it comes to making the final call, it’s pretty much up to Disney as all three women who plays our favorite witches has agreed to come back if Disney made the call. Bette Midler has even gone on record to say this is her favorite film she has made in her career. This movie has a charm that makes this movie stand out different from most Halloween or witch movies. Who doesn’t love witches? There is magic, catchy spell casting, adventure, and wonder all through this movie. If you haven’t seen this film, check it out. It’s a fun and crazy kids film that can be re-watched a lot more after the first go around. If you have seen this movie, I hope it was fun going down memory lane. Celebrating its 24th anniversary I watched the film again and laughed just as much as I did the first time I saw it. I think this movie will continue to entertain many more generations in the future.
Comment your favorite moments from the film below and why you enjoy the movie. Thanks for reading and see you at the movies.