“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)

FAQs

Why is Hocus Pocus so iconic? ›

Hocus Pocus endures because of nostalgia. In the era of TV reboots, remakes, and requels, millennials yearn for their childhood and a simpler time. There's a reason we got a completely unnecessary sequel last fall. But more importantly, Hocus Pocus defines an entire generation of horror fans.

Why is Hocus Pocus 2 so bad? ›

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.

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.

Is there going to be a Hocus Pocus 3? ›

Hocus Pocus 3 is officially in the works, with the Sanderson Sisters potentially returning for a new adventure. The new movie is being created with "full idealism," according to screenwriter Jen D'Angelo. "We're still in the story phase; we're still working on it," she told EW in October 2023.

What does Hocus Pocus symbolize? ›

/həʊkəsˈpʌʊkəs/ Hocus-pocus is an illusion or a meaningless distraction that tricks you in some way. Some people believe in astrology, while others think horoscopes are nothing but hocus-pocus.

Why do people not like Hocus Pocus? ›

Hocus Pocus, as a film, makes little sense. The plot, about a coven of witches who seek to eat children, involves a talking cat, a boy who despises trick-or-treating, and far too many mentions of virgins lighting candles.

Why is Hocus Pocus not appropriate? ›

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Hocus Pocus has some scenes that could scare or disturb children aged 5-8 years. For example: The witches kill Thackery's little sister, Emily. They suck her life from her body and leave her sitting limply in a chair.

Who turned down a role in Hocus Pocus? ›

Here's Why Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down the Starring Role in Hocus Pocus. Before Omri Katz was cast as Max Dennison, Leonardo DiCaprio was offered the role, but he turned it down.

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.

Did Leonardo DiCaprio turn down Hocus Pocus? ›

Leonardo DiCaprio had the chance to play the lead role of Max Dennison in 1993 cult classic fantasy comedy movie Hocus Pocus, but ultimately turned it down.

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.

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."

Why do people love the movie Hocus Pocus? ›

Hocus Pocus is the very definition of a cult classic. Regarded as a flop at the time of its release, it has gone on to become a global phenomenon, becoming a permanent fixture at Halloween. It has everything you could ever want from a spooky Disney movie: scares, thrills, strong characters, and lots of funny moments.

What is the main idea of Hocus Pocus? ›

It follows a villainous comedic trio of witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenage boy (Omri Katz) in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. The film was released in North America on July 16, 1993, by Walt Disney Pictures.

Why is Hocus Pocus the best Halloween movie? ›

The cast is legendary.

They all have such great chemistry; you immediately believe they've been sisters for 300 years. Each of the sisters has such a tightly defined personality, which makes every scene so much fun. You also can't forget about Thora Birch, who was just a little kid when this movie was made.

What is inappropriate in Hocus Pocus? ›

Sex, Romance & Nudity. A candle must be lit by a virgin to bring the witches back to life -- there are several mentions of "the virgin." Passing reference to an unfaithful lover. Characters flirt and nearly share a kiss.

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