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 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. The film received negative reviews from critics during its theatrical release.


On October 31, 1693 Salem, Massachusetts; Thackery Binx, a teenage farmer discovers his sister has been spirited away by the three witches, Winifred, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson. He chases Sarah leading Emily into the woods and comes across their home where he learns they plan to steal her life force to make themselves younger. He faces them, but is overpowered by Winnie's magic and he is too late to save Emily. Now more youthful, the sisters turn Thackery into a black cat, immortal so that he may always know his guilt for allowing his sister to die. The trio are then caught by the townsfolk who have the sisters hanged, but not before they make a curse that they will be resurrected by a virgin during the full moon of All Hallows Eve.

Three hundred years later on October 31, 1993, Jacob Bailey High School's new student Max Dennison has moved with his family to Salem from Los Angeles and is having trouble fitting in; the girl he likes, Allison does not reciprocate his feelings because he doesn't believe in Halloween, and he has his shoes stolen from a pair of bullies; Jay and Ice. His little sister Dani then has their parents make him take her out for trick or treating. After an argument and subsequent apology to Dani, she and Max come across a rich house where Allison happens to live. Expressing an interest in the Sanderson sisters to get with Allison, Max convinces Dani to accompany them to the sisters' home-now a museum that had been shut down years prior-in order to show Allison that he too believes in magic. While there, despite the thwarting attempts of a black cat, Max lights the Black Flame Candle, which holds the powers to resurrect the dead, and the sisters are resurrected. The cat reveals himself to be Thackery Binx and convinces Max to steal Winifred's spellbook to prevent them from remaking the life potion. The witches track the kids down at a cemetery, but are unable to catch them on hallowed ground, Winifred resurrects her former lover Billy Butcherson as a zombie to hunt down the children who escape into an old crypt and the witches lose them. Attempting to acclimate to the 20th century, they encounter a bus whose driver (with Sarah in his lap) inadvertently runs over Binx, revealing his immortality to Dani. Meanwhile, the sisters encounter a man dressed as Satan and believing him to be real, they drive a rift between him and his wife (who is mistaken for Medusa due to the curlers in her hair), during which their broomsticks are stolen, and the night's events are deduced by an infuriated Winifred.

The kids go to the Halloween party at town hall where their parents went to, but Billy and then the sisters intervene. The witches enchant the partygoers to dance until they die, but again lose the children. Going to their high school, they lure the sisters into a kiln and burn them alive; with the sisters apparently dead, Dani invites Binx to come live with them as her cat and they return to the Dennison home, unaware that the magic prevents the sisters from dying as long as the candle is still lit. The sisters run across Jay and Ice who insult them, and they have them caged as they try to remember the spell without the book; but this proves fruitless and they resign themselves to die at sunrise. Seeking a solution for Binx being a cat, Max and Allison open the book, revealing their location to the witches who surprise them and kidnap Dani and Binx, taking back the spell book. Sarah uses her mesmerizing singing to lure Salem's children to the sisters' cottage. Allison and Max trick the sisters into believing sunrise is an hour early and flee with Dani, kicking over the potion. But the sisters soon catch up with them at the cemetery as they hope to hold them off until sunrise. Billy reveals his true colors by turning on Winifred and defending Dani, when she tries to help him after his head is kicked off, Winnie grabs Dani to force her to drink the last vial of the Life Potion. Binx knocks the potion from her hand and Max drinks it, sacrificing his life for his sister. Before Winnie can suck his life force out, Max knocks her off of her broom, while Allison, Dani and Billy cause Mary and Sarah to go flying high into the sky. Winifred is unable to suck out Max's life force due to being on hallowed ground, making her powers ineffective, she suddenly turns to stone and Max manages to free himself from her grip. As the sun rises all three sisters explode into dust.

With their spell broken, Binx's spirit is freed and he is able to rejoin his sister in the afterlife. He bids a fond farewell to Dani and Max before leaving with his sister. During the credits, the parents are back to normal, exhausted from hours of dancing leave the town hall, Mr. and Mrs. Dennison calling Salem a party town in comparison to LA. The scene then shifts to the Sanderson house where Jay and Ice are singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in their boredom, and the eye on Winifred's spellbook opens as if looking for its masters.


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. 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.[2] 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. 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 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, 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 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 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.

According to IMDb, filming locations in Salem[3] included:

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


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]

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.[10]


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."[11] The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote that the film "has flashes of visual stylishness but virtually no grip on its story".[12] 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."[13] 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.[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]


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.[19]

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.[20]


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’ Turns 20: Meet the Voice Behind Binx the Talking Cat The Daily Beast, Retrieved July 17, 2015
  3. ^ Hocus Pocus (1993) Filming Locations http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107120/locations
  4. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 16, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  5. ^ "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 23, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  6. ^ Amazon - Hocus Pocus (1993)
  7. ^ a b "Hocus Pocus - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  8. ^ "ABC Family's 11th annual "13 Nights of Halloween 2009" Scares Up Event-Best Deliveries". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  9. ^ a b "ABC Family’s "13 Nights of Halloween 2011" Scares Up Record Crowd". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  10. ^ "Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  11. ^ "Hocus Pocus starts strong, goes flat". The Miami Herald (The McClatchy Company). 1993-07-16. p. 7G. Retrieved 2010-08-09. (registration required (help)). 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Burr, Ty (1993-07-23). "Hocus Pocus Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  14. ^ "Hocus Pocus". July 16, 1993. 
  15. ^ a b "Five Reasons Why 'Hocus Pocus' is One of the Greatest Cult Classic Films". International Business Times. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  16. ^ "HOCUS POCUS - Where are they now?". Oh No They Didn't. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  17. ^ "Pavilion celebrates Halloween with Hocus Pocus Pops". Your Houston News. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  18. ^ Billy Stanek (October 22, 2013). "D23 Members Run Amok at the Hocus Pocus 20th Anniversary Screening". D23 (Disney). Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Jen Yamato. "Disney, Tina Fey Developing ‘Untitled Witch Project’ – Not ‘Hocus Pocus 2′ - Deadline". Deadline. 
  20. ^ Michael Kennedy. "Bette Midler & Co-Stars Are Up for ‘Hocus Pocus 2′". Screen Rant. 

External links[edit]