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This darker take on ‘Hocus Pocus’ would have cast a very different spell on Disney die-hards

‘Hocus Pocus’ originally had a very different concept.

Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Image via Matt Kennedy / Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Gather ’round sistas, it’s time to grab your brooms and pointy boots because we’re traveling back to the origins of everyone’s favorite witchy film, Hocus Pocus

The iconic Disney film might not have been born with the same hype that surrounds it now, but it became a must-watch during spooky season for fans of all ages. It’s hard to imagine Halloween without the Sanderson sisters, and with the movie’s staying power, we’ve never had to. From Freeform’s 31 Days of Halloween to costume stores and decor, there’s Hocus Pocus magic everywhere. 

So, you might be surprised to know that the original story for the beloved film was initially very different. In a recent deep-dive into the lore of Hocus Pocus, The Wrap provided fans with a quote regarding the movie’s first premise. So what did Hocus Pocus look like in the early days? What storyline could we have fallen in love with almost three decades ago? Let’s take a look. 

What was the original idea on the drawing board?

The Wrap spoke with Mick Garris, producer of Hocus Pocus, who shared that the movie was initially a darker version of the story. Not only did it hold more fear in its grasp, but the characters were also younger all around.

“Originally, it was almost exactly what you see on the screen, except it was a little darker, and the kids were 12. You know, when I wrote it, 12 years old is that time where your life really changed and the things you embrace at 12 are the things that stick with you for the rest of your life, particularly movies, and books, and TV shows, and stories. And Halloween has a much deeper resonance to a 12-year-old than to a 16-year-old who was just going out and stealing all the 12-year-olds’ candy from them. But really, it was just a bit darker. You know, I came up with the darkness of Billy Butcherson, and his head coming off, and that sort of thing. Still comedic, but in a darker mode. But it was very similar to the movie that existed.”

The story would have followed a similarly laid path, but there would have been more moments that left you feeling spooked and eerie. The Wrap also talked about the iconic title, which is something Neil Cuthbert brought to life. Garris notes that a particular line stuck when it was uttered.

“He crafted the cheeky line that young Max (Omri Katz) says that is later mocked by Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler): ‘It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus!” And it was that line that stuck for the title.'”

It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus is something we say often, and not just during spooky season — it’s a constant in our vocabulary. The line is plastered on shirts, cups, and decor during the Halloween season and yelled during trick-or-treat nights from all the little Sanderson sisters running wild.

Speaking of running wild, The Wrap also shared details of that epic Halloween party in the film. You know the one, and we’re still a little bit upset we’ve never been to Sanderson’s bash before.

Was that iconic Halloween party as exciting as it looked?

The Halloween party in Hocus Pocus, where the witches put all of the adults in town under a spell, looked like the party of our dreams. Costumes, singing, and excitement, oh my! Calling it everyone’s favorite moment in the film, Thora Birch explained that it was the kind of moment people hope to be a part of.

“It was like the best Halloween party ever. I mean, nobody was miserable. Like, usually in situations like that, where you have a big crowd, or a lot of extras, and you’re doing a big sequence, it can get miserable. It could get boring and you can get all of that. I didn’t hear one single complaint. Everybody loved being in their costumes, they loved knowing where their places were. It actually kind of had a party atmosphere. But then just hearing her, seeing her on stage and watching them singing that song… you wanted to dance, you know?”

Hearing Bette Midler on stage singing the most iconic song of the movie? We can’t imagine how iconic that would have been, for not just the main cast but also the extras who got to soak that moment in. The movie as a whole is a piece of film history, but if we look at Halloween movies i general, it’s hard to think of another film moment like that one. Nothing quite fits the bill.

From Halloween parties to age differences in the characters, we’re so glad everything worked together to unfold exactly the way it did. Whether a box office flop or a cult favorite, Hocus Pocus is a piece of magic that we can’t get enough of. 

About the author

Ashley Marie

Ashley Marie is a staff writer, beat leader, Disney fanatic, and Yellowstone expert. When she's not filling her friends in on all the entertainment news they can handle, she's drinking her go-to Starbucks order — a caramel macchiato, thank you — and wishing she was at Disney World or spending time at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. With a focus on positivity and kindness in journalism, Ashley has been writing for a decade and hopes to keep bringing you articles for decades to come.