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 $39.5 million[1]

Hocus Pocus is a 1993 American comedy fantasy film directed by Kenny Ortega, and stars 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 girlfriend in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. The film received mostly negative reviews from critics during its theatrical release but has since become a cult film.[2]


On October 31, 1693, in Salem, Massachusetts, Thackery Binx discovers his younger sister Emily being spirited away to the cottage of the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches. The sisters, Winifred, Sarah and Mary, cast a spell on Emily to absorb her youth and regain their own, killing Emily. Binx confronts them, but the witches transform him into an immortal black cat to live with his guilt. The townsfolk, led by Binx's father, capture and hang the witches, but Winifred's spellbook casts a curse that will resurrect the witches on All Hallows Eve when a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle. Binx remains guarding the cottage to ensure no one summons the witches.

Three hundred years later, Max Dennison uncomfortably moves from Los Angeles to Salem with his family. While they enjoy their time in Salem, Max and his little sister Dani, an enthusiastic trick-or-treater, wander into the house of their friend Allison, whose family owns the Sanderson cottage, now a museum. Max suggests going to the cottage to impress Allison and to "make a believer" out of him, though a scared Dani objects until Max promises to take her trick-or-treating properly the following year as Peter Pan and Wendy (in tights).

Investigating inside the cottage, Max lights the Black Flame Candle. This resurrects the witches, who plot to continue their plan to suck out the souls of all of Salem's children, beginning with Dani. The children escape, while Max steals Winifred's spell book on advice from the talking Binx. 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 that Halloween has become a holiday, and their broomsticks are stolen by three girls. Winifred reminds them that they must achieve their goals before sunrise or they will be disintegrated. 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 literally dance until they die. The children lure the witches to the high school, where they trap them in a kiln to burn them alive. While the children assume the sisters are dead, the witches' own curse revives them, and they kidnap Dani and Binx after Max and Allison open the spellbook. Sarah then uses her siren-like vocals to hypnotize Salem's children and lure them to the Sandersons' cottage.

Max and Allison rescue Dani and Binx by tricking the witches into believing sunrise came an hour early. 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 captures Dani to suck out her soul with the single vial of potion she retrieved from her cauldron. Binx leaps on Winifred, knocking the potion out of her hand into Max's, but Binx is thrown to the ground and mortally wounded.

Max threatens to smash the vial unless Winifred releases Dani. When Winifred threatens to kill Dani if he does, Max drinks the potion. Winifred flies Max into the air and attempts to suck out his soul, but a brief struggle ends up knocking them both back to the ground. Having stepped on hallowed ground, Winifred is turned to stone. The sun rises, causing the witches to disintegrate. Binx dies and his soul is finally freed. He thanks Max, Dani and Allison for their help, and kisses Dani on the cheek, promising to always be with her. Binx reunites with Emily and they walk into the afterlife together.


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. She is very sensitive to people calling her ugly.
  • 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.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, the youngest and most beautiful witch sister; she also is ditzy, childlike 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. She enjoys the company of men and also asks to play with children constantly.
Main cast
  • Omri Katz as Max Dennison, a male teenager who is upset about moving to the small town of Salem. 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. The witches then transform him into an immortal cat, voiced by Jason Marsden.[3] In the present, he guides Max, Dani and Allison in fighting back against the sisters. He is particularly close to Dani, since she reminds 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 William "Billy" Butcherson; Winifred'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 changes his mind to join with the kids to defeat the Sanderson sisters.
  • Charles Rocket as Dave Dennison, Max and Dani's father. He dresses up as Count Dracula at the town hall's Halloween party.
  • Stephanie Faracy as Jenny Dennison, Max and Dani's mother. She dresses up as Madonna at the town hall's Halloween party.
Other cast
  • Amanda Shepherd (uncredited) 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 delinquents.
  • Tobias Jelinek as Jay, another delinquent and Ernie's sidekick.
  • Steve Voboril as Elijah, a boy from a farm in 1693.
  • 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" (referring to Satan). Flattered by this, he wholeheartedly welcomes them into his home.
  • Penny Marshall (uncredited) as the "Devil's" wife. The sisters assume that she 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.[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]

This 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.


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.[4] 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][5] 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,[6] and later to DVD on June 4, 2002.[7] 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.[7] 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.[8] In 2011, an October 29 airing became the lineup's most watched program, with 2.8 million viewers.[9]

On September 4, 2012 Hocus Pocus was released by Disney on Blu-ray.[10]


The film received mixed-to-negative reviews from film critics, though reception has grown to be more warm towards the film. Today, it is seen as a cult classic. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Hocus Pocus has a "Rotten" score of 30%, based on 43 reviews; however, the audience score is a "fresh" 70%, with an average rating of 3.1 stars out of 5.[11] 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."[12] The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote that the film "has flashes of visual stylishness but virtually no grip on its story".[13] 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."[14]


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.[15] Various media outlets such as Celebuzz and Oh No They Didn't have reiterated such claims.[9][15][16] In October 2011, the Houston Symphony celebrated various horror and Halloween classics, including Hocus Pocus, with "The Hocus Pocus Pops."[17]

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.[18]

While on her tour in 2015, Divine Intervention, 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.[19]

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 summon various Disney villains for a villain party.[20]


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.[21]

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 reprising the roles of the Sanderson sisters as well. Disney has yet to greenlight any sequel.[22]

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.[23]


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[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Box office information for Hocus Pocus". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ ‘Hocus Pocus’ Turns 20: Meet the Voice Behind Binx the Talking Cat The Daily Beast, Retrieved July 17, 2015
  4. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 16, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 23, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ Amazon - Hocus Pocus (1993)
  7. ^ a b "Hocus Pocus - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  8. ^ "ABC Family's 11th annual "13 Nights of Halloween 2009" Scares Up Event-Best Deliveries". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved October 30, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "ABC Family’s "13 Nights of Halloween 2011" Scares Up Record Crowd". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Hocus Pocus". July 16, 1993. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Hocus Pocus starts strong, goes flat". The Miami Herald (The McClatchy Company). July 16, 1993. p. 7G. Retrieved August 9, 2010. (registration required (help)). 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Burr, Ty (July 23, 1993). "Hocus Pocus Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Five Reasons Why 'Hocus Pocus' is One of the Greatest Cult Classic Films". International Business Times. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  16. ^ "HOCUS POCUS - Where are they now?". Oh No They Didn't. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Pavilion celebrates Halloween with Hocus Pocus Pops". Your Houston News. Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  18. ^ Billy Stanek (October 22, 2013). "D23 Members Run Amok at the Hocus Pocus 20th Anniversary Screening". D23 (Disney). Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Romano, Nick. "HEY, ’90S KIDS! WATCH BETTE MIDLER RESURRECT ‘HOCUS POCUS’ IN CONCERT". IFC. IFC TV LLC. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Snetiker, Marc (May 27, 2015). "‘Hocus Pocus’ stage show will haunt Disney World this Halloween". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 16, 2015. 
  21. ^ Jen Yamato. "Disney, Tina Fey Developing ‘Untitled Witch Project’ – Not ‘Hocus Pocus 2′ - Deadline". Deadline. 
  22. ^ Michael Kennedy. "Bette Midler & Co-Stars Are Up for ‘Hocus Pocus 2′". Screen Rant. 
  23. ^ https://www.facebook.com/BetteMidler/posts/977316588994476?comment_id=977316902327778&reply_comment_id=977347498991385&total_comments=77&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R9%22%7D.  Missing or empty |title= (help)|title=Facebook.com/BetteMidler Retrieved November 19, 2015

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