If it’s spooky season, then it’s time once again for Hocus Pocus. The cult classic Disney film, which debuted back in 1993, wasn’t originally thought of as a Halloween film. (It premiered in the summer.) Nor was it a hit; it reportedly lost Disney $16 million. But reruns on the Disney Channel and then on Freeform have transformed the nearly 30-year-old film into a seasonal classic. These Hocus Pocus behind-the-scenes facts may shock those who don’t remember the film’s original debut.
One of the reasons Hocus Pocus has become such a longstanding hit after is that it rewards repeated viewings. The film is deliberately filled with easter eggs and references, the kind that can quickly go over people’s heads in the theaters. For instance, Hollywood staples Gary and Penny Marshall (who are brother and sister) have cameos. Bette Midler makes jokes about her recent TV movie musical Gypsy. And there are visual references to other live-action Disney films scattered throughout the film for eagle-eyed viewers to spot.
Considering how times have changed and movies are viewed, it’s not a surprise Disney+ is working on a sequel film in time for the original’s 30th anniversary. But will it have nearly as many behind the scenes tales to tell? There’s stiff competition in that department.
Here are some secrets from the Hocus Pocus set that’ll make your umpteenth viewing even more magical:
1. ‘Hocus Pocus’ Changed Focus Halfway Through Production
The young cast of Hocus Pocus included future stars like Thora Birch and Sean Murray. But the big names are the Sanderson witches, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. That’s because they originally were the stars of the film.
It wasn’t until filming was nearly complete that Disney decided a movie about scary witches wasn’t kid-friendly enough. The film was re-edited, and the editors cut out five major scenes that would have made the witch sisters’ story far more central.
2. The Film Deliberately Reused Old Disney Costumes
This behind-the-scenes fact is newly relevant, since fans have started noticing Hocus Pocus costumes turning up in later Disney Halloween films like Halloweentown. The truth is, it’s just a tradition at this point, since Hocus Pocus itself reused Disney costumes.
If you look closely at the big party scenes, there are outfits borrowed from Treasure Island, The Sword and the Rose, The Island at the Top of the World, and Tron. There’s also a few from the TV movie of Gypsy, which starred Bette Midler.
3. All The Singing Was Done By The Actors
Hocus Pocus was the second-ever film directed by Kenny Ortega, after his first big musical Newsies. Ortega is now practically a Disney household name, having been the driving force behind the wildly popular High School Musical franchise.
So, of course, Hocus Pocus would have musical numbers, and they weren’t overdubbed. Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker put their musical backgrounds to good use and sang their hearts out in "I Put A Spell On You" and "Come Little Children."
4. Billy Butcherson Originally Had An Entire Dance Sequence
Hocus Pocus has plenty of singing, but what it’s missing is dancing. That seems strange, since Ortega was initially a choreographer, with credits such as Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Pretty in Pink.
It turns out, there originally were dance sequences, including one big one that focused on Doug Jones’ zombie character Billy Butcherson. He even danced as part of his audition. Sadly, the sequence was cut in the decision to make the film more focused on the kids.
5. You Can Visit Allison’s House In Salem
One of the reasons fans love Hocus Pocus so much is that it’s a fantasy based in a particular reality, having been filmed almost entirely in Salem, Massachusetts, using historical sites.
One of those sites is the Roper Mansion, which, in the movie, stands in for Allison’s house. The Roper Mansion is also a museum, since it’s a historical building that dates back to the 1600s. Fans can visit Allison’s house whenever they want — just don’t cast spells where they can catch you.
Hocus Pocus is streaming on Disney+.
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