“Hocus Pocus” 30 Years Later – Why It’s Had Such a Legacy (2024)

For millions of people, no Halloween season is complete without watching the early 90s campy gem Hocus Pocus. For many, it’s a beloved classic they grew up with and it represents the peak of Halloween nostalgia. You can’t even turn on the Disney Channel or Freeform in September or October without seeing Hocus Pocus play at least a few times every week.

So it may surprise many to know that it wasn’t always the massive hit we think of today, and to even greater surprise, it wasn’t even released during the Halloween season. Hocus Pocus debuted in mid-July 1993. So in honor of its 30th anniversary, we wanted to take a look back at it, see why it’s made such an impact, and understand its legacy.

Humble Origins
Beginning as an idea by producer David Kirchsner (of Child’s Play fame), the original draft of the script was written by Mick Garris (director of The Stand and The Shining TV movies). Originally titled “Halloween House”, Garris’ script was much darker and closer to actual horror (as opposed to the “family friendly” horror it wound up being). Disney bought the rights, but for reasons not 100% clear, they chose to release the film in mid-July rather than the Halloween season.

It’s possible that Disney didn’t think much of the project (it was rumored that they even considered releasing it as a Disney Channel Original Movie). It’s also possible that Disney didn’t want Hocus Pocus competing with The Nightmare Before Christmas. While that wasn’t released under Disney directly, it was distributed by their subsidiary Buena Vista, and it was another “family friendly” horror movie that did get an October release in 1993.

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As a result, Hocus Pocus underperformed at the box office, and was met with mixed reviews in July of 1993. And had that been the end of the story, the movie would be remembered only by cinephiles and featured on lists of hidden gems you’ve never heard of.

Cult Status
Where Hocus Pocus really took off was the same way so many movies that underperformed became cult classics: home video. For those who grew up in the 90s (like yours truly), Hocus Pocus was a popular movie to rent from Blockbuster every October, and it aired on Disney Channel all the time during that season.

And before long, it was a shared favorite among millions of people, and by the time the 2000s was rolling around, it was already becoming nostalgic. So much so that it’s featured prominently every year at Spirit Halloween, often getting its own section, and to cash in on the nostalgia wave that’s been ever present, it even got a sequel last year (which sadly was kind of a letdown).

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It’s the kind of movie that if you didn’t grow up with it, it’s hard to get into today. But for those who did see it first as children, it has special meaning, and no Halloween season is complete without it.

Why It’s Beloved
I say this as a fan of the movie and with every bit of love and affection for it, Hocus Pocus isn’t exactly a great movie. It’s not compelling cinema but it was never meant to be. It’s campy, it’s cheesy, but it’s endless amounts of fun. It’s like eating too much candy on Halloween, you know it’s not good for you but damn does it taste good.

Part of what makes it work is that the trio of Sanderson sisters know exactly what kind of movie they’re in. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are well aware that this is a cheesy movie and they ham it up accordingly.

Every single scene they’re in, whether it’s being freaked out by modern technology, thinking that a man dressed as the devil actually is, or flirting with a bus driver, you can tell the three of them are just having so much fun with their roles and it’s infectious to the audience.

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Another thing that people seem to love about it is that it’s way edgier than anything Disney would ever release today. For starters, it’s infamously and oddly obsessed with its teenage boy protagonist being a virgin, and drops the word “virgin” more times than a Madonna song. It also literally opens up with the death of a child. Granted, Disney went that far in 2007 with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, but even that was 15+ years ago.

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But most importantly, it’s just a movie that gets you in the Halloween spirit. It’s filled with seasonal imagery, it was shot on location in Salem itself, and it’s a fun movie to watch with the whole family on or around Halloween to get into the spirit (provided you’re okay with your younger kids asking “what’s a virgin?” after the movie says it so many times).

30 years later and we still remember the Sanderson, and every Halloween, we still get “I Put a Spell On You” and “Come Little Children” stuck in our heads. People still dress up as these characters for Halloween, and we still all have fond memories of growing up on it. It’s by no means an Oscar-contender, but its fans know that and don’t care. If you were to encompass everything that is Halloween into one family friendly movie, Hocus Pocus might just be it!

What do you think of Hocus Pocus? Is it a must watch for you every Halloween? Let us know in the comments!

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“Hocus Pocus” 30 Years Later – Why It’s Had Such a Legacy (2024)


“Hocus Pocus” 30 Years Later – Why It’s Had Such a Legacy? ›

It's still an extraordinarily fun picture 30 years later. Hocus Pocus endures because of nostalgia. In the era of TV reboots, remakes, and requels, millennials yearn for their childhood and a simpler time.

Is Hocus Pocus 30 years old? ›

That can only mean one thing: Hocus Pocus season is upon us! This year is a big milestone as the original 1993 movie turns 30 years old. The potion for the perfect Halloween movie is equal parts 90s nostalgia and lovable kooky characters with just a dash of outlandish premise.

Was Hocus Pocus a failure? ›

Hocus Pocus received poor reviews from critics upon its release, which contributed to its box office failure, despite its popularity with audiences.

Will there be a hocus pocus 3? ›

Disney boss Sean Bailey confirmed that Hocus Pocus 3 was in the works in June 2023, following the long-awaited sequel being a hit on the streaming service. Hocus Pocus 2's director, Anne Fletcher, is returning for the new movie, according to TheWrap.

What went wrong with Hocus Pocus 2? ›

This film suffers from a lazy script due to several rehashed lines or sequences from the original film. I get that the writers were aiming for the nostalgia of the original film, but it was completely overdone.

What is the fan theory of Hocus Pocus? ›

The theory began years after the film's initial release, partly because of a key scene that sees Allison sprinkle a canister of salt around her to ward off the witches. After she finishes, Winnie (Midler) calls her a "clever little white witch," leading many to believe that Allison was cut from the same spooky cloth.

How old was Sarah from Hocus Pocus in 1993? ›

The Sanderson Sisters used the life force from a young Emily Binx in Hocus Pocus to appear younger before they were hanged. When they were brought back to life in 1993, they drank from the potion and appeared young again. At this point, Winnie would be about 355 years old, Mary about 354, and Sarah about 350.

Why do people not like Hocus Pocus? ›

Hocus Pocus 2 understands that Hocus Pocus has a lot that doesn't work, including an overstuffed plot, hokey dialogue, and chintzy effects. But what the original did have was a uniquely cartoonish raucousness, the kind of unpretentious silliness that can turn a mediocre movie into a cult favorite.

Why did Leonardo DiCaprio turned down Hocus Pocus? ›

DiCaprio has said he was offered a large sum to be in Hocus Pocus. Nevertheless, he went with his gut and decided to decline the offer, as he was determined to get Arnie Grape's part (in What's Eating Gilbert Grape).

Why is Hocus Pocus inappropriate? ›

While the Halloween violence is minimal, there are numerous sexual innuendos in this movie that are shocking for a movie that seems to be aimed for kids. Examples include the 16 year old brother snuggling a pillow and pretending it's his crush and numerous references to him being a "virgin".

Is there a fourth Sanderson sister Hocus Pocus? ›

It turns out Isabella is the descendant of Elizabeth, the daughter of a fourth, secret Sanderson sister, and she discovers later in the book that she also has magical abilities, similar to Becca in "Hocus Pocus 2."

Is there going to be a Moana 2? ›

The sequel is coming out sooner than you think: Moana 2 will be released in theaters on Nov. 27, 2024. Coincidentally, the movie will come out the same day as the anticipated film adaptation of Wicked, which some are already claiming will be the theater kid version of Barbenheimer.

What is the black cat's name on Hocus Pocus? ›

Thackery Binx is one of the tritagonists in Hocus Pocus. He was transformed into an immortal black cat in the beginning of the film. During it, he finds himself growing attached to Dani Dennison.

Why is her smile backwards in Hocus Pocus 2? ›

Najimy said there's a simple explanation for the change. “It's on the other side mainly because it's so hard for me to do it on the side I did it on 30 years ago,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly.

Why is there no binx in Hocus Pocus 2? ›

In fact, the same goes for all the original kids who don't reappear in Hocus Pocus 2. When asked about the potential return of Max, Dani, Allison, and Binx, Fletcher said she decided to avoid it as she couldn't find a way to include them in the story organically. Binx not returning was for the best.

Why is the ending of Hocus Pocus 2 so sad? ›

The somber moment is the film's greatest lesson. Winifred asks Becca and her "coven" to do a spell to reunite her with Mary and Sarah. Becca, Izzy and Cassie succeed but sadly, it just means Winifred dies to join her sisters. Winifred lets out one last, "Sisters!" before vanquishing.

How old are Hocus Pocus? ›

Hocus Pocus was released July 16, 1993, and came in fourth place on its opening weekend, grossing $8.1 million. It dropped from the top ten ranking after two weeks of release. The film was released the same day as Free Willy.

What age level is Hocus Pocus? ›

Movie at a glance

Silly spells and campy adventure ensue as Max and his friends try to stop the witches from sucking the life out of Salem's children. Hocus Pocus is too scary for young children and is best suited to pre-teens.

How old is Hocus Pocus 1? ›

Hocus Pocus was released in July 1993, receiving mixed reviews and becoming a box office failure for Disney (via Box Office Mojo). Over the past three decades, however, Hocus Pocus garnered a cult following thanks to regular TV showings, and it has become an annual must-watch in millions of households.

How old are the Hocus Pocus people? ›

The three actresses also played the lead roles in the original Hocus Pocus. Bette Midler is now 76 years old while Jessica Parker is 57 and Najimy is 65. Read on to find out more details about their roles and previous work.


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