37 Facts About Hocus Pocus (1993) That You Haven’t Heard Before

The iconic Halloween comedy Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy came out in 1993. It focuses on three infamous witches who are accidentally resurrected by Max Dennison (Omri Katz) on Halloween night in Salem, Massachusetts. Our Hocus Pocus facts include which comedian was offered the role of Winifred Sanderson before Bette Midler, why Mary Sanderson is called Mary and how real moths flew out of Doug Jones’ mouth!

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The iconic Halloween comedy Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy came out in 1993. It focuses on three infamous witches who are accidentally resurrected by Max Dennison (Omri Katz) on Halloween night in Salem, Massachusetts. Our Hocus Pocus facts include which comedian was offered the role of Winifred Sanderson before Bette Midler, why Mary Sanderson is called Mary and how real moths flew out of Doug Jones’ mouth!

“It's just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!”

What is the plot of Hocus Pocus?

The Sanderson Sisters steal away Emily Binx in 1693 and are pursued by her brother Thackery who ends up being transformed into a black cat cursed to live forever. Emily is killed by Winifred, Sarah and Mary and the sisters are made young again. They are later captured and sentenced to hanging by the townspeople. Winifred casts a spell which says that the sisters will be resurrected during a full moon on All Hallows’ Eve if an innocent teen lights a candle with a black flame in their cottage. Thackery Binx guards the cottage in cat form to make sure that this never happens.

In 1993, Max Dennison and his sister head out trick-or-treating (much to his dismay) with Max’s crush Allison. The trio visit the Sanderson Sisters’ cottage which is now an abandoned museum. It is here that Max accidentally resurrects the sisters, meets Thackery and steals their coveted spell-book.

1. Hocus Pocus Was Released In The Summer!

Despite it being a staple of Spooky Season, Hocus Pocus was actually released on the 16th of July 1993 by Walt Disney Pictures. It has since become a cult classic after multiple reruns at Halloween however when it was released, Hocus Pocus was not well received. 

Producer David Kirschner has said in interviews that the July release date was chosen due to the fact children were off school.

2. Hocus Pocus Originally Made A Loss!

Hocus Pocus was both a critical and commercial flop on release. It made US$8.1M and lost Disney around US$16.5M during its theatrical run. It came in fourth place in the opening weekend rankings and dropped out of the top 10 only two weeks after its release. 

In October 2020, Hocus Pocus was re-released in 2,570 cinemas making US$1.0 million over the weekend!

According to The Numbers, Hocus Pocus has achieved more than US$1M DVD sales each year since its release. 

3. There Is A Hocus Pocus Documentary

In 1994, a TV documentary all about the making of Hocus Pocus named Hocus Pocus: Begin the Magic was released. It was also released on the Blu-Ray version. 

In 2018, a special named Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash was filmed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and it features many of the main cast. Sharon Osbourne and her daughter Kelly, hosted a Hocus Pocus themed costume contest in the special.

4. Producer David Kirschner Made Up The Plot Of Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus’ Producer David Kirschner came up with the idea for the film when he and his young daughter were sat outside and his neighbour’s black cat walked by. Kirschner told his daughter a made up tale of how a cat was once a boy who was cursed by three witches three hundred years ago. 

5. Hocus Pocus Was Originally Called Halloween House

Mick Garris wrote the screenplay for Hocus Pocus and bought it to Walt Disney Pictures in 1994. Hocus Pocus originally had a working title of Halloween House! It was originally much darker and scarier than the version that was released. The main characters were also 12 years old. 

6. Hocus Pocus Was Pitched To Steven Spielberg

Hocus Pocus was originally pitched to Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment but as Spielberg considered Walt Disney Pictures as a competitor, he refused to co-produce it.

7. Winifred Was Written For Cloris Leachman

After several re-writes of the script, Hocus Pocus’ future seemed uncertain and slow however the production was excelled when Bette Midler expressed an interest in being involved. The role of the lead Sanderson Sister Winifred was originally written for prominent performer Cloris Leachman before being given to Bette Midler. 

8. Leonardo DiCaprio Was Offered The Role Of Max Dennison

Before the role was played my Omri Katz, Leonardo DiCaprio was originally offered the role of Max Dennison. He declined to star in Lasse Hallström’s What's Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993.

9. Daytime Scenes Were Filmed In Salem, Massachusetts

Principal Photography was started on the 12th October 1992. Despite the film being set in Salem, Massachusetts, most of it was filmed on sound stages in Burbank in California. Daytime scenes were filmed in both Salem and Marblehead during two weeks of filming with the main cast. Production was complete on the 10th February 1993. 

• The Old Town Hall in Salem was used for the setting of the Halloween Party. 

• Phillips Elementary School is where the witches were trapped in the kiln. 

• The exterior scenes of Max’s house were filmed on Ocean Avenue in Salem. 

• The Old Burial Hall in Marblehead is where Max is accosted by Ice and Jay.

• The living history museum named Pioneer Village, which recreates the city of 

Salem as it was in the 17th Century, was used for the flashback scenes set in 1693.

The cemetery set was filmed at the largest soundstage at Walt Disney Studios but it did have a touch of reality and eccentricity! Real birch and elm trees were removed and up-rooted from the east coast to be included on the set. 

10. The Score Was Created In Two Weeks!

Hocus Pocus’ score was originally meant to be produced by James Horner but he became unavailable at the last minute so John Debney stepped in to score the film in just two weeks. Horner did write a theme for Sarah Jessica Parker named “Come Little Children” which featured in Intrada’s Complete Edition.

11. Hocus Pocus’ Soundtrack Does Not Include The Main Theme!

19 tracks were released as Hocus Pocus’ original score but many fans have downloaded their own due to the official release missing out the main opening sequence music.

Other songs include “I Put A Spell On You” by Jay Hawkins, arranged by Marc Shaiman and performed by Bette Midler. 

12. There Is A Scholarly Book Written About Hocus Pocus

In 2016, critic Aaron Wallace wrote the first full-length book released about the film called “Hocus Pocus in Focus: The Thinking Fan's Guide to Disney's Halloween Classic”. It focusses on the film’s major themes including musical moments, sibling rivalry, horror, feminism, virginity, nostalgia and Spielberg-esque style.

13. The Sanderson Sisters Starred In Disney Video Games

The Sanderson Sisters starred as characters in Disney Video Games including Disney Magic Kingdoms and Disney Heroes: Battle Mode.

14. Doug Jones Had Real Moths In His Mouth!

Doug Jones revealed at the 20th anniversary screening of Hocus Pocus that the moths coming out of his mouth at the end of the film or actually real! He wore a “mouth-rig“ which is a small latex pocket attached to dentures that blocked off Jones‘s own throat so when he opened his mouth the moths could fly out instead of inward!

15. Sarah Jessica Parker Enjoyed The Flying Stunts

Sarah Jessica Parker has said in interviews that she was really comfortable wearing the harness and flying broom so instead of being lowered back to the ground during takes she would instead stay up in her harness reading a copy of The New York Times while suspended!

16. Sarah Jessica Parker Is Actually Related To A Salem “Witch”

During an episode of the genealogy programme, Who Do You Think You Are? Sarah Jessica Parker found out that her 10th great grandmother Esther Elwell was actually arrested in Salem Massachusetts in the late 1600s for committing acts of witchcraft and murdering her neighbour. The case didn’t go to court and she escaped with her life but the accusation ended the Salem witch trials!

17. Kathy Najimy’s Dog Stars In Hocus Pocus

The Devils dog in Hocus Pocus actually belonged to Kathy Najimy.

18. Hocus Pocus Has Been The Theme Of Salem’s Halloween Parade

For the 2018 annual Haunted Happenings parade in Salem Massachusetts, Hocus Pocus was chosen as the theme to coincide with its 25th anniversary. The Salem National Park Service made a doll of Winifred Sanderson dressed in one of their uniforms for the parade.

19. The Cat Thackery Had To Be Redesigned To Be Less Scary

The special effects company Rhythm and Hues created the CGI version of Thackery Binks the cat. They went to great lengths to make sure that his facial features were similar to a real cat but the studio found it too realistic and thought that it might be too scary for young audiences. To make factory look a little less scary, the special effects team made his things a lot smaller and much less pointed.

20. Sarah Jessica Parker Ate The Spider!

It was revealed in the 2018 25th anniversary Hocus Pocus Special that Sarah Jessica Parker actually ate the spider!

21. Several Scenes In The Trailer Did Not End Up In The Film

There are several scenes that appear in original trailers for the film that were not actually included in the released version. This includes the scene in which Mary and Sarah push Winifred into the school swimming pool and the witches meeting up with Billy where they complain about his smell. Mary and Winifred also inspected lockers in the school and Mary snacks in a grocery store before being dragged out by Winifred. 

22. Hocus Pocus Has A “Gypsy” Reference

When Bette Midler’s character famously takes the stage at the Halloween party, she says the line, “Hello Salem, my name is Winifred. What’s yours?“ This is a parody of the famous line spoken by Madame Rose in the musical Gypsy. Bette Midler actually played Madame Rose in the TV version of Gypsy in 1993 which is the same year that Hocus Pocus came out!

23. Bette Midler Had Many Old Curse Words Suggested To Her

According to Thora Birch in 2013, Bette Midler had two people “running around behind her with dictionaries of old curse words“ while filming.

24. Sean Murray’s Voice Was Dubbed For Thackery Binx

Thackery Binx Was animated by filming scenes with a real cat and then replacing its head with a CGI model. Sean Murray played the human version of Thackery But Jason Marsden dubs his voice over Sean Murray’s voice in both the human and cat forms. This is because the production team felt that Murray sounded to contemporary and thought it might be more realistic if Binx had an affected accent from the same time period as the witches.

25. Billy’s Mouth Is Sewn As A Number 13

Billy’s mouth is sound shot by stitches in the pattern of XIII which is the Roman numeral for the number 13-unlucky for some!

26. The Last Witch Trial Involved A Winifred!

The last witch trial in New England was of a mother and daughter who are both named Winifred in 1697.

27. Several Real Cats Played Thackery Binx

Several cats were used on the Hocus Pocus set to perform Binx’s variety of tricks. According to humane Hollywood, the crew chose which cat to feature on set during each scene individually based on the animals skill and personality. 

28. Kathy Najimy Was Worried About Offending Real Witches

Kathy Najimy was originally reserved to take on the role of Mary on Hocus Pocus. She worried about offending real witches by stereotyping a fictitious version of them.

29.  Bette Midler Was Inspired By Two Famous Film Witches

Bette Midler used Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch Of The West from The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Angelica Huston’s Grand High Witch from The Witches (1990) as inspiration for Winifred Sanderson.

30. Max’s Tie Dye Shirt Includes The Sanderson’s Colours

The tie dye shirt Max wears in the classroom scene has the same colours as each of the three Sanderson sisters; Winifred’s Green, Sarah’s Purple and Mary’s Red.

31. Max Doodles About The Grateful Dead

In early versions of Hocus Pocus, Max can be seen doodling on a bit of paper in the classroom after his teacher has finished telling the story of the Sanderson sisters. The doodle reads “The Grateful Dead“ with a marijuana leaf also drawn.

32. So What Happened To Jay and Ernie?

In 2018, a sequel Hocus Pocus book was released which document to Jay and Ernie’s fates. The pair were eventually rescued and one of them went on to become the high school principal and the other was a park ranger so he could join search and rescue operations to help people lost and trapped as he knew how it felt to be in such a situation.

33. Rosie O’Donnell Was Offered The Role Of Winifred

Rosie O’Donnell was originally offered the role of Mary in Hocus Pocus however on her blog, she claims to have turned down the offer due to not wanting to work with Bette Midler who she called a “scary witch “in real life”.

34. J Lo Auditioned For Sarah Sanderson

Before the role of Sarah Sanderson went to Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez actually auditioned. 

35. So Why Are The Sanderson Sisters Named Sarah, Mary and Winnie?

Sarah Sanderson is obviously named after Sarah Jessica Parker who plays her but you may not know that Mary is also named after Kathy Najimy! Her middle name is Mary. Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson is named after Winnie Gillis from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years.

36. The Hocus Pocus Book Lives In The Planet Hollywood Restaurant

There were seven Bette Midler statues in the scene in which she bursts in the sunlight toward the end of Hocus Pocus. One of the statues, along with the book, is looked after at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Orlando, Florida.

37. The Friends Fountain Makes An Appearance In Hocus Pocus

When Dani and Allison dance after burning the Sanderson Sisters alive, the fountain in the background was also used in the opening credits of Friends!

Hocus Pocus Facts - 37 Facts About Hocus Pocus (1993) That You Haven’t Heard Before

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