'Hocus Pocus' movie trivia that will make your cauldron bubble
From filming locations to a famous cameo, grab your broom for these behind-the-scenes stories from the Disney classic.
It's Halloween season, which can mean only one thing: repeated viewings of the 1993 Disney classic "Hocus Pocus" starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker (five years before her breakout role in "Sex and the City.") The film opened to ho-hum reviews, but has grown a cult following over the past quarter century since its release. "It's very generational," Najimy explained. "The people that watched it are showing it to their kids. I get a lot of teenagers saying that it's their favorite movie."
David Kirschner, the executive producer of the film, is equally surprised at its staying power. "I still try to understand the legacy of this," he said. "I still try to understand that, because it's thrilling and wonderfully shocking."
As we get ready for the holiday, stockpiling candy corn and coming up with costume ideas, we'll also be turning on the TV for yet another viewing of "Hocus Pocus." We hope you'll join us as we go behind the scenes of our favorite Halloween film.
1. A 'Friends' connection
I was today years old when I found out that the fountain from Hocus Pocus is the same as the one shown in Friends pic.twitter.com/VBBhMUeFfF— 🎃spooky mollie 👻 (@mollie_luise) October 6, 2019
Although the movie is set in Salem, Massachusetts, it was mostly shot on movie studio backlots in Burbank, Calif., near the same spots where scenes from "ER" and National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" were filmed. But there's one scene in particular that has sleuthing fans all atwitter. It was recently discovered that an outdoor fountain in "Hocus Pocus" is the exact same fountain seen in the iconic opening credits to "Friends." But that still doesn't explain why Ross thought it was OK to dress up as a potato for Halloween.
2. It almost starred a pre-'Titanic' Leo
The role of Max Dennison was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio, but he instead chose to co-star with Johnny Depp in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" which was filming around the same time. The lead "Hocus Pocus" character went to Israeli-American actor Omri Katz, whose previous credits included a 1985 CBS TV special with magician David Copperfield. "I had a blast the whole time," said Katz, who is now 43 years old and splits his time between Los Angeles and Israel. "It's just a memory that I will never forget."
3. Sarah Jessica Parker read the newspaper while flying on a broom
The actress appeared on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" where she reminisced about celebrating Halloween as a child, which led to a conversation about the making of "Hocus Pocus." Many scenes featured her attached to a harness and flying around on a broomstick. "It was marvelous," she recounted. "They would call cut – maybe they'd go to lunch or change a lens – and I would just stay up there. And I realized that because the costume was from the 17th century, I could fit an entire New York Times up the back of the corset. And I found that the harness was comfortable. So I would just sit up there and read the Times."
4. The devil is in the details
Real-life Hollywood siblings Penny and Garry Marshall worked on many projects together over their long and storied career – everything from "Mork & Mindy" to "A League of Their Own." But in "Hocus Pocus," they made history by appearing in the film as a married couple. (Well, at least they already shared the same last name.) In the trick-or-treating sequence, which you can watch in the video below, Garry was dressed as Satan and Penny as a modern-day Medusa.
5. It's not technically a Halloween movie
Yes, the movie takes place over the course of one very busy Halloween night. But, strangely, the film itself was released in the summer, the same weekend as the original "Free Willy" film. Disney opted for the July opening date because it didn't want to cannibalize its other Halloween-themed movie, Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," which was set for release in October.
6. The movie featured a very famous song ...
The film and its accompanying soundtrack featured Bette Midler putting her own spin on the 1956 classic "I Put a Spell on You." Midler performed the song during her Divine Intervention Tour in 2015, wearing a costume similar to the one she had on in "Hocus Pocus." A 2010 version of the song by Jeff Beck and Joss Stone was nominated for a Grammy Award.
7. ... And a very famous choreographer
'Hocus Pocus' actress Kathy Najimy (right) speaking at the July, 2019 ceremony honoring Kenny Ortega (left). (Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock)
Disney films are known for their inclusion of at least a few song-and-dance routines. And "Hocus Pocus" is no different. That's because it was directed by Kenny Ortega, an American choreographer famous for working on hit movies like "High School Musical" and "Dirty Dancing," as well as the concert films of Cher, Gloria Estefan and Michael Jackson. He even choreographed the infamous parade sequence in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Ortega, who was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this year, has been interested in dance since his high school days when he was a cheerleader. "I'm always just looking for the rhythm, the timing in everything," he said.
8. There's a scholarly book about the movie
According to the book, 'Hocus Pocus' is very Spielberg-ian in that 'it is spirited, adventurous, wide-eyed, fantastical, family-oriented, and tinged with fear.' (Photo: Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock)
In 2016, entertainment critic Aaron Wallace wrote "Hocus Pocus in Focus: The Thinking Fan's Guide to Disney's Halloween Classic," a lighthearted but scholarly look at the film. The 200-page book features essays on feminism, Spielberg's influence and whether or not "Hocus Pocus" should even be considered a horror film. “Far from the forgotten relic it was destined to become, 'Hocus Pocus' has taken its place alongside 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Harry Potter,' and 'Home Alone' – a bona fide classic that’s sure to stay alive for generations to come," said Wallace, who now hosts a podcast about Disney.
Kicked off the Halloween season last night by hosting #HocusPocus trivia at @gardentheatrefl’s special interactive screening of the film, greeting fans, and signing books. Video to follow! pic.twitter.com/ODbjaPYNui— Aaron Wallace (@aaronwallace) September 17, 2019
9. There's a sequel (sort of).
SO. MUCH. HOCUS. POCUS. 🎃 pic.twitter.com/5tWTm2fdH0— 31 Nights (@31Nights) September 15, 2019
Over the years – especially as the film has grown in its cult status – there's been near-constant talk of a sequel. In October 2016, actress Sarah Jessica Parker was asked about the prospects of a second film. "I would love that," she said. "I think we've been very vocal that we're very keen." Alas, no film (as of yet) has been made. Executive producer David Kirschner is reportedly working not on a sequel, but a remake to air on Disney's Freeform channel, where the original film is airing 27 times this October. In 2018, the year of the film's 25th anniversary, Freeform published a book called "Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel." The novel focuses on the now-married main characters, Max and Allison, and their daughter Poppy. The 17-year-old is a Halloween skeptic.
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