Hocus Pocus (1993 film)

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Hocus Pocus
Theatrical release poster
by Drew Struzan
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Produced by David Kirschner
Steven Haft
Screenplay by Mick Garris
Neil Cuthbert
Story by David Kirschner
Mick Garris
Starring Bette Midler
Sarah Jessica Parker
Kathy Najimy
Omri Katz
Thora Birch
Vinessa Shaw
Music by John Debney
Cinematography Hiro Narita
Edited by Peter E. Berger
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • July 16, 1993 (1993-07-16)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $39,514,713[1]

Hocus Pocus is a 1993 American horror comedy film directed by Kenny Ortega and starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witches, the Sanderson Sisters, who are inadvertently resurrected by a cynical teenager, his younger sister, and his crush in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. Despite receiving negative reviews from critics during its theatrical release, the film proved popular enough to gain a cult following on home video and remains a firm Halloween favorite.


In 1693, Thackery Binx, a teenage farmer living in Salem, Massachusetts, discovers his little sister Emily has been spirited away by the three Sanderson sisters—Winifred, Mary, and Sarah—who intend to regain their youth by absorbing the life force of children through their witchcraft. Entering the witches’ cottage, Binx fights off Mary and Sarah, but is subdued by Winifred before he can save Emily. The sisters advance on Emily and absorb her life force, acquiring both youth and beauty. They then turn Binx into an immortal black cat, so that he may live forever with the guilt of failing to save his sister. A furious mob led by the Binx parents capture the sisters and prepare to hang them, but Winifred casts a spell from her book which will resurrect the sisters on Halloween when a virgin lights their black-flamed candle. After the sisters die, Binx, still as a cat, goes up to his father in a futile attempt at being recognised, but is left behind. For the next three hundred years, Binx remains at the cottage to guard the black-flamed candle from ever being lit to prevent the witches return, so that no other child may suffer Emily's fate.

On October 31, 1993, teenager Max Dennison struggles to come to terms with moving from Los Angeles to Salem, although he quickly develops an interest in a fellow student named Allison. Local bullies Jay and Ernie harass Max on his way home, and he is further frustrated when he has to take his mischievous little sister Dani trick-or-treating where he is humiliated again by Jay and Ernie. Max and Dani meet Allison at her house, and when Dani strikes up interest in the Sandersons, the trio venture to their old cottage turned into a museum. Trying to prove the stories false, Max lights the candle, resurrecting the witches, who try to take Dani prisoner. Max sets off the building’s sprinkler system, distracting them, then Binx appears and instructs Max to steal Winifred’s spell book. Realizing they have been tricked, the Sandersons give chase.

Binx leads the children to a graveyard, where the witches cannot land their brooms because it is hallowed ground, so Winifred summons Billy Butcherson (her former lover whom she poisoned after learning he had an affair with Sarah) from the dead. Billy unenthusiastically follows Winifred’s orders and pursues the children and Binx across town with the witches not far behind whilst they explore the modern world. The children venture to the town hall Halloween party which Max’s parents Dave and Jenny are attending. The Sanderson sisters crash the party and perform a song and enchant the adults to dance until they die. The children lead the witches to the high school where they trap and burn them in the basement.

However, the witches survive and return home in despair. They were only revived for Halloween night and will turn to ash at sunrise unless they take the life force of a child, for which they need their spell book. Back home, believing there to be a way to undo Binx's curse, Max and Allison open the spell book, which unwittingly alerts the Sandersons to its location. The witches capture Dani, Binx, and the spell book and fly back to their cottage, with Sarah bringing Salem's children to them with her mesmerizing singing. Max and Allison use the Dennisons' truck headlights to trick the witches in to thinking it is sunrise, and rescue Dani and Binx and flee to the graveyard. The witches only have enough potion to take the life of a single child, and while they could choose any child, Winifred makes it personal and decides it must be Dani. Billy appears but turns on Winifred to aid the children and Binx, defending Dani around Billy’s grave and using salt as a weapon against the witches. Despite their efforts Winifred captures Dani and attempts to force the potion into her. From the trees however, Binx leaps on Winifred and knocks the potion out of her hand, saving Dani. Binx is then grabbed by Winifred and thrown into a rock below where he suffers mortal injuries.

Max then manages to get hold of Winifred's potion and threatens to smash it if Dani isn't given back to him, while Winifred threatens to kill Dani if the potion is smashed. Max breaks the standoff by drinking the potion himself. Winifred releases Dani and grabs Max but he is much stronger and puts up a fight. Dani, Allison, and Billy attack Mary and Sarah to prevent them from helping Winifred. Max manages to push Winifred off her broomstick and they both fall to the ground. Winifred grabs Max and begins to absorb his life force but quickly turns to stone because she is standing on hallowed ground. Just then, the sun rises and the three witches explode in to ash.

With the fight over, Billy returns to his grave and goes back to sleep. With the witches dead, the curse they put on Binx is broken and he dies from his injuries, leaving Dani devastated. However, his ghost appears to Dani, Max, and Allison, thanking them for lighting the candle and stopping the Sanderson sisters, finally freeing him. The ghost of Emily then appears for Binx and he gives a tearful Dani a goodbye kiss on the cheek, assuring her that he will always be with her. With brother and sister finally reunited, they walk off together into the afterlife, with Max comforting Dani as they watch on.

Meanwhile, Jay and Ernie, who had been kidnapped and caged by the sisters, are singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in their boredom. The eye of the spell book below them opens up and looks around for its dead mistresses. As the credits roll, the adults (including the Dennison parents) are shown emerging from the Town Hall, covered in sweat and complimenting on how Salem knows how to throw a party, unaware they were enchanted.


The Sanderson Sisters
  • Bette Midler as Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson, the buck-toothed leader of the Sanderson sisters. She is the eldest and the wickedest of the sisters, as well as the most intelligent. She has a great knowledge of dark magic, and has a disturbing maternal affection for her sentient spell book. Her robes are green and she rides a corn broom when her broom is stolen.
  • Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, the second witch sister. Often complimenting and comforting her domineering older sister Winnie, she likes to eat children. Her powers are smelling children and she tends to act like a canine. She sports a crooked mouth and a bizarre hairstyle. Her color is red and she rides a vacuum cleaner when her broom is stolen.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, the youngest and most beautiful witch sister; she also is ditzy and vague. Her powers are mesmerism (by singing a siren song), which she uses to lure children to feed upon their life force. She has a sadistic sense of humor and likes to play torturous games with people. Her somewhat revealing robes are purple and she rides a mop when her broom is stolen. She also asks to play with children constantly.
Main cast
  • Omri Katz as Max Dennison, a teenager upset at having to move to the small town of Salem from Los Angeles. He is initially contemptuous of Halloween, but is persuaded by his sister, Dani, to go out. He has a crush on local girl Allison from his class and strives to impress her. He inadvertently releases the Sanderson sisters from beyond the grave by lighting a black enchanted candle resurrecting them. Although he bickers with Dani, they still clearly love each other, as he willingly drank the potion Winnie planned on feeding her, thereby sacrificing himself for his sister. His character is shamed throughout the film for being the key in resurrecting the three ancient witches.
  • Thora Birch as Dani Dennison, Max's younger sister. She is around the same age as Emily was, which is the reason why Binx bonds closely with her. She is more level-headed than Max and is somewhat spoiled, such as screaming when he refuses to take her trick-or-treating, but is nonetheless very brave and is very upset when Binx dies, although cheers up when his ghost comforts her. She argues with Max, but they evidently care about each other.
  • Vinessa Shaw as Allison, Max's love interest and native Salem resident. Her wealthy family owns pieces of the town's history, including the Sanderson Sisters' cottage giving her an in-depth knowledge of the witches and their past.
  • Sean Murray as Thackery Binx; originally a teenager from 1693, he follows his little sister Emily into the woods where he fails to prevent her death at the hands of the Sanderson sisters. They then curse him to be an immortal cat, voiced by Jason Marsden. In the present, he guides Max, Dani and Allison in fighting back against the sisters. He is particularly close to Dani, due to her reminding him of Emily, and warns Max, "Take good care of Dani, Max. You'll never know how precious she is until you lose her."
  • Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson; once Winifred Sanderson's lover (now a zombie), Billy was caught "sporting with" Sarah and was punished by Winnie. Having been poisoned, in death Winnie sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle. Upon cutting the stitches he insults Winifred, saying to Max that he has waited centuries to tell her what he really thinks of her. He then joins side with the kids to defeat the Sanderson sisters.
  • Charles Rocket as Dave Dennison, Max and Dani's father.
  • Stephanie Faracy as Jenny Dennison, Max and Dani's mother.
Other cast
  • Amanda Shepherd as Emily Binx, Thackery's sister who was lured in by Sarah Sanderson and had her life force sucked out by the sisters while Thackery watched.
  • Larry Bagby as Ernie / "Ice", the leader of a group of high school bullies.
  • Tobias Jelinek as Jay, another bully and Ernie's sidekick.
  • Steve Voboril as Elijah, a boy from a farm in 1693.
  • Norbert Weisser as Mr. Binx, the father of Emily and Thackery.
  • Kathleen Freeman as Miss Olin, Max's and Allison's teacher.
  • Garry Marshall (uncredited) as "The Devil", a man wearing a devil costume who the Sanderson sisters assume to be their "Master" (referring to Satan). Flattered by this, he wholeheartedly welcomes them into his home.
  • Penny Marshall (uncredited) as the "Devil's" wife. The sisters assume she's Medusa because of her curlers, which look like 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 300 years ago by three witches.[citation needed]

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. 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."[citation needed]

The film is set in Salem, Massachusetts, but most of it was shot on sound stages in Los Angeles studios. However, most exteriors were filmed in Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts during two weeks of filming with principal cast.

According to IMDb, filming locations in Salem[2] included:

  • Pioneer Village, Forest River Park - West Avenue
  • 318 Essex Street - Exterior of Alison's house
  • 4 Ocean Avenue - Exterior of Max's house
  • 65 S. Washington Square - Exterior of Max's high school

North of Toronto, Ontario


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.

Songs are adapted from the film's end credits.


Hocus Pocus was released in the United States and Canada on July 16, 1993, opening in fourth place with $8.1 million.[3] Following a sophomore gross of $5.2 million, the film fell out of the top ten, ending its domestic box office run with $39.5 million.[1][4] The film was released to foreign markets in October 1994.

Home media and television[edit]

The film was released to VHS in North America on September 9, 1994,[5] and later to DVD on June 4, 2002.[6] 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.[6] 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.[7] In 2011, an October 29 airing became the lineup's most watched program, with 2.8 million viewers.[8]

As of September 2010, it is the most played film on the television station RTÉ in Ireland.

On September 4, 2012 Hocus Pocus was released by Disney on Blu-ray.[9]


Upon its U.S. release, Hocus Pocus received rather mixed to negative reviews from film critics. 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."[10] The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote that the film "has flashes of visual stylishness but virtually no grip on its story".[11] 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."[12] On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Hocus Pocus has a "Rotten" score of 33%, based on twenty-four reviews; however, the audience score is a "fresh" 70%, with an average rating of 3.1 stars out of 5.[13]


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.[14] Various media outlets such as Celebuzz and Oh No They Didn't have reiterated such claims.[8][14][15] In October 2011, the Houston Symphony celebrated various horror and Halloween classics, including Hocus Pocus, with "The Hocus Pocus Pops."[16]

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.[17]


A rumor spread that not only was Disney developing a sequel to Hocus Pocus and that Tina Fey was on board as a producer. However, Fey addressed that the movie was not to be a sequel to Hocus Pocus. [18]

Bette Midler said she is ready and willing to return. She also says her co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are interested in reforming the Sanderson sisters as well. Disney has yet to greenlight any sequel.[19]


Year Association Category Result
1994 Saturn Awards Best Actress — Bette Midler Nominated
Best Supporting Actress — Kathy Najimy Nominated
Best Supporting Actress — Sarah Jessica Parker Nominated
Best Fantasy Film Nominated
Best Special Effects Nominated
Best Costumes 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[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Box office information for Hocus Pocus". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  2. ^ Hocus Pocus (1993) Filming Locations http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107120/locations
  3. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 16, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  4. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 23, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  5. ^ Amazon - Hocus Pocus (1993)
  6. ^ a b "Hocus Pocus - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  7. ^ "ABC Family's 11th annual "13 Nights of Halloween 2009" Scares Up Event-Best Deliveries". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  8. ^ a b "ABC Family’s "13 Nights of Halloween 2011" Scares Up Record Crowd". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  9. ^ "Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  10. ^ "Hocus Pocus starts strong, goes flat". The Miami Herald (The McClatchy Company). 1993-07-16. p. 7G. Retrieved 2010-08-09. (registration required (help)). 
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (1993-07-16). "Review/Film; Bette Midler, Queen Witch in Heavy Makeup". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2010-08-09. 
  12. ^ Burr, Ty (1993-07-23). "Hocus Pocus Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  13. ^ "Hocus Pocus". July 16, 1993. 
  14. ^ a b "Five Reasons Why 'Hocus Pocus' is One of the Greatest Cult Classic Films". International Business Times. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  15. ^ "HOCUS POCUS - Where are they now?". Oh No They Didn't. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  16. ^ "Pavilion celebrates Halloween with Hocus Pocus Pops". Your Houston News. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  17. ^ Billy Stanek (October 22, 2013). "D23 Members Run Amok at the Hocus Pocus 20th Anniversary Screening". D23 (Disney). Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  18. ^ Jen Yamato. "Disney, Tina Fey Developing ‘Untitled Witch Project’ – Not ‘Hocus Pocus 2′ - Deadline". Deadline. 
  19. ^ Michael Kennedy. "Bette Midler & Co-Stars Are Up for ‘Hocus Pocus 2′". Screen Rant. 

External links[edit]