Disney Studios released its family-friendly film “Hocus Pocus” on 16 July, 1993 to lack-luster reviews. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy portrayed the Sanderson Sisters, witches who brewed potions to suck the youth from the children of Salem, Massachusetts. The town folk discovered their nefarious plans and hanged them, but not before the sisters killed one girl, Emily Binx, transformed her brother Thackery Binx into an immortal black cat, and unleashed a curse on the people of the town.
Their vow to return after 300 years required a virgin lighting a black flame candle on the night of All Hallow’s Eve. Enter Max Dennison (Omri Katz), unhappy transplant from Los Angeles. He and his sister, Dani (Thora Birch) embark on a Halloween adventure with Max lighting the candle to frighten and impress Alysson (Vinessa Shaw) The witches returned with a desire to punish Salem by stealing their children’s life essences, starting with Dani Dennison.
Joining in the fun, Gary and Penny Marshall entertain the witches as they learn to adapt to the changes of the twentieth century. Thieving trick or Treaters confuse Mary Sanderson’s caninie-like ability to sniff out children. A bus driver cavorts with the “lovely ladies,” promising them children, but maybe not on the first attempt. The eldest and smartest Sanderson sister, Winnie, raises her ex-lover Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones) from hallowed ground to aid their pursuit of the kids.
The inspiration for the movie arose when producer David Kirscner told the story to his children. Encouraged by the kids’enthusiasm,, he published the tale in “Muppets Magazine” before transforming it into a film. Kenny Ortega directed the campy fun. Mark Shaiman arranged Bette Midler’s “I Put a Spell on You” which set the village adults to dancing. James Horner’s “Sarah’s Theme” (also known as “Come Little Children”) finds a haunting lyricism when sung by Sarah Jessica Parker. John Debney produced the film score.
The movie is set in beautiful Salem, Massachusetts and filmed there, in California, and in Marblehead, Massachusetts. To create the talking black cat Thackery Binx, film makers used dozens of real cats and audio animatronics. September, 1994 saw initial VHS USA release Since then, the film has DVD and Blue Ray versions available. The film hit foreign markets in October, 1994 under the name “Abracadabra.”
Despite negative reviews from critics, this 96 minute family-friendly movie was nominated for several Saturn awards in 1994, including best effects, best film-fantasy, best actress (Bette Midler), best supporting actress (Kathy Najiminy), and winning Best Costumes. At the Young Artist Awards, Thora Birch won best youth actress, with the rest of the young cast garnering nominations. With rebroadcasting by Disney and ABC, particularly their “Days of Halloween” specials, the film has obtained a cult status. In July, 2014, rumors circulated of a sequel.