It doesn't have to be Halloween season to watch the cult classic Hocus Pocus, but now that it's October, watching it is somehow even more fun! It was released in 1993, and despite originally being a flop, it would later change a generation. An annual Halloween favorite, Hocus Pocus has been casting a spell over anyone who watches it for the last 24 years. As Home Alone is to Christmas, Hocus Pocus is to Halloween, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
It's the story of three wacky witches, the Sanderson sisters, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. The three were burned at the stake 300 years ago but were inadvertently brought back to Salem, Massachusetts by a teenaged virgin on Halloween night. Having been resurrected, they run around the streets of Salem trying to steal the souls of children so that they may live forever. And then, there's the virgin, his little sister, the girl he's crushing on, a zombie named "Billy," and an immortal cat. Obvious plot holes and silliness aside, any child of the '90s will tell you that actually, Hocus Pocus is a timeless Halloween masterpiece.
Join me in learning about something very few people know about: the behind-the-scenes facts about Hocus Pocus that are sure to put a spell on you. The movie already has, and the secrets and details about its making will only serve to make it that much better. Read on to find out 15 fun facts about the making of everyone's favorite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus.
Pitching The Movie
Nowadays, it's shocking to think that Hocus Pocus may never have come to be. But alas, there was a time before it existed that it was just an idea in someone's head. But that person knew it was a great idea, and thus, he had to get his pitch to Disney just right to make sure it became a reality. To pitch it to Disney, the writers set up a room that was dark and decorated spookily. There were broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling, and 15 pounds of candy corn were scattered throughout the room to make feel and "smell" more like Halloween. The plan worked, and the execs made the wise decision to go ahead with the movie. Can you imagine if they hadn't?
It Bombed At First
Now, this is something incredibly hard to believe, knowing what we know now about Hocus Pocus and its success. It's even become a cult classic, something people around the world love to watch every Halloween (or just because)! But when it was first released, Hocus Pocus wasn't such a big hit. One reason for this could potentially be because someone decided to release it over the summer and not in the fall closer to Halloween. Originally a flop, this movie debuted in fourth place at the box office on its opening weekend and earned just $39.5 million. But it opened against Free Willy and Jurassic Park, two other movies that are arguably pretty awesome, too. It was done this way to avoid opening on the same weekend in the fall that other Halloween movies would come out, like The Addams Family. At first, critics said things like "The only real curses in this film will be yours as you walk up the aisle to leave." Ouch, that's pretty harsh.
13 Allison's House Is Actually The Most Haunted Place in Salem
The character of Allison was played by Vinessa Shaw, and she was the love interest of the film's protagonist, Max (Omri Katz). Her house can be seen in the early part of the movie when Max and Dani (Thora Birch) are trick-or-treating. After overcoming a meltdown, Max and Dani find themselves on the doorstep of a home they decide belongs to "rich people," and they're not wrong. But in reality, the house is actually a museum that you can enter. It's called "The Ropes Mansion" and is located in Salem, Massachusetts. This is one of the only places in the movie that's actually in Salem, where the film is set. Originally built in 1768, it's rumored to be the most haunted place in Salem. Given the town's spooky history, that's pretty impressive. The Ropes Mansion was named after its owner, Nathaniel Ropes, an unpopular judge who died of smallpox in the house. His wife, Abigail, also died in the house when she burned to death a few years later. Rumor has it that they haunt the mansion.
12 The Link to Home Improvement
You may think that the '90s sitcom Home and Improvement and the Halloween movie Hocus Pocus have nothing in common, but you would be incorrect. In fact, the two productions shared something that brought the casts quite close together during filming: a lot! In the early part of the 1990s, both were being filmed on the Disney lot, and as a result, the kids from Home Improvement and the kids from Hocus Pocus became pretty close. Vinessa Shaw, who played Allison in Hocus Pocus, said, "Tim Allen's show Home Improvement was filming, so the kids of Hocus Pocus and Home Improvement were on the lot and high-fiving each other. We hung out with Doug Jones [the zombie, Billy Butcherson] and laughed with him and Sean Murray, and we really just had the best time."
11 The Moths Were Real
Something that very few people seem to know about Hocus Pocus is that the moths that flew out of zombie Billy Hutcherson's mouth were not fake at all. He actually had live moths inside of his mouth! During the scene where Billy, who's a good zombie, cuts open his mouth that his ex-girlfriend Winnie sewed shut upon his death 300 years prior, moths and dust fly out of it. In an interview, Doug Jones, the man who played Billy, explained how they did it: "They used a dental dam-like device to keep them from going down my throat. The first line of action was to have real moths come out of my mouth, so I was wearing a protective, latex sheath in my mouth that tried to keep the moths as dry as possible. They had a moth trainer who came with the moths, and he was an expert on how they flew and what keeps them healthy. Moths are very dry, and if they get moist at all are not going to fly. The key was to keep them as dry as possible so that they would fly out of my mouth and flutter into the air. They would place these moths into the rubbery sheath over my tongue, and the moth trainer used tweezers by their wings from their cage into my mouth. Then, the makeup artist[s], Tony Gardner and Margaret Prentice, would have to run in and lightly tack glue my stitches across my mouth, so that I could take that knife and run that across the pre-cut stitches and cough out the moths and the dust."
10 Human Binx Voiced by Cat Binx
One strange behind-the-scenes fact about Hocus Pocus is that the man who voiced the immortal cat also dubbed over the human version of Thackery Binx. People would normally assume it would be the other way around, but in fact, the producers thought that Sean Murray (the human Binx) had a voice that sounded too "contemporary". So, instead of having him voice the cat Binx, they had Jason Marsden do the voice for both the cat and the human. So, even when it's Sean Murray on the screen, like in the first and last scenes, it's Jason Marsden whose voice you're hearing. In order to be more true to the time period, Marsden's less contemporary voice was used for both, also ensuring that the cat and the human had the same voice as one another.
9 Dozens of Cats Used to Portray Binx
Speaking of Binx, the immortal cat, did you know that he was played by not just one cat, but dozens? For parts of the film (like when he was talking, of course) the cat was an animatronic cat. For the other parts, several real-life black cats were utilized because each brought a different skill to the table. For example, one cat was jumpy, one preferred to just sit still, one would move on cue, and one would cuddle. But they were apparently not as easy to love as Binx was supposed to be. In fact, the kids hated working with the cats because every time a new cat was used, they would have to teach it to trust them, coerce it with treats, etc. That sounds like a lot of work. But it was all worth it because just look how great the movie turned out!
8 Lessons in Broomstick Riding
If you're not an actual witch, riding a broom around takes some practice. Even with all sorts of special effects, the actresses who played Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson had to learn how to "realistically" ride their witchy mode of transportation: the broom -- or, at least in the case of Sarah and Mary in one scene, a mop and a vacuum cleaner. Choreographer Peggy Holmes gave lessons to Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker on how to ride a broom/mop/vacuum cleaner (although how Peggy, herself, knew how to do so wasn't disclosed). Peggy Holmes even rode around in cars with the witches to see how they drove, and then applied her broomstick lessons utilizing their own personal driving styles. Pretty cool!
7 Max and Mary Were Supposed to Be Played By Other People
Surprisingly, the characters of Max and Mary were supposed to have gone to other, more famous actors. Now, we cannot even fathom the main character and the silly witch being played by anyone else at all. But originally, the role of Max was offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What's Eating Gilbert Grape? The role of kooky witch Mary Sanderson was supposed to go to Rosie O'Donnell, but she turned it down because she didn't want to play a "scary witch." Bet she's regretting that now, especially since Mary's the farthest thing from scary. Kathy Najimy, who did end up playing Mary, had her own reservations about it; she was hesitant to play the part because she worried that she may offend real witches.
6 The Devil's Wife is Actually His Sister
Remember that silly scene where Winifred, Sarah, and Mary wind up at the house of the devil? Really, he's just a sleazy old guy dressed up as the devil, but the witches believe that he's truly their "master." This is very pleasing to him but very annoying to his cranky wife. During their visit, the seductress Sarah dances with him, and Mary fools around with the remote control while she watches a commercial for Stainmaster. The devil and his wife were played by Gary and Penny Marshall, who, in real life, are siblings! I am sure this has happened other times throughout the history of film and television, but it's a little strange to think that the woman who's so jealous of the witches hitting on her husband is actually his sister!
5 The "Yabos"
One memorable part of Hocus Pocus was when Max's little sister, Dani, revealed to his crush, Allison, that Max loves her "yabos," which are boobs. Much was made over this word choice, as it hadn't really been heard much before that (and really, not much after either). Why yabos, specifically? One theory is that it was used to retain the film's family-friendly rating. God forbid they used the word "breasts" or "boobs" even though the film also includes the hanging of three women, a cat flattened by a bus, scary witch vs. zombie scenes, and lots of talk about virgins, something sure to raise questions with younger viewers. So, in order to include the sexual attraction Max has for Allison, which did need to be made clear somehow, many people think they simply used a "kid-friendlier" word for boobs. And thus, the "yabos."
4 Originally a Bedtime/Horror Story
Believe it or not, the whole reason Hocus Pocus came to be in the first place was that its creator, David Kirschner, had told it as a bedtime story to his kids. Later on, he wrote up the story he had invented and submitted it to Muppet Magazine, where it gained recognition. Screenwriter Mick Harris told Entertainment Weekly that originally, the story was much scarier than it ended up being. There are some creepy moments in the film, like when the witches chase the kids around the cemetery, but for the most part, it's comical. At first, however, it was a much darker tale involving kids who weren't teenagers but 12 years old, for example. He said, "What I had originally written was about 12-year-olds. The kids being younger and in more jeopardy was certainly more explicitly frightening."
3 The Uncut Version
Like most movies, Hocus Pocus had plenty of scenes that didn't make the final cut. Since it's become so popular over the past two decades or so, many people would love to know what those scenes are. Apparently, they're pretty funny, but they've been rarely seen. When the sisters go to the high school where the kids try to burn them in the oven, the scene was originally extended. The three witches snoop around and end up seeing the school's swimming pool. Sarah and Mary accidentally knock Winifred into the pool, and when they're lured into the oven, you can actually see that Winnie's hair is messed up as if it had been wet. Additionally, there was a deleted shopping-trip scene. The Sanderson sisters shop, drink Witch Hazel, and see babies. Mary licks her lips while looking at a baby she wants to eat but is dragged away by Winifred.
2 Behind-the-Scenes Details
As you can imagine, what a set looks like while filming is vastly different from the finished product, and Hocus Pocus is no different. It took a lot of time, energy, and effort to make the movie what it was, and so, if you were to visit the set while filming was underway, you would've seen things like Sarah Jessica Parker suspended in the air, reading the New York Times. According to IMDB trivia for the film, she spent so much time in her harness in the air, she brought the newspaper up with her to keep herself occupied. You would've also seen two people running around behind Bette Midler during filming. They followed her around with a dictionary of old curse words. Interesting!
1 Historical Inconsistencies and Plot Holes Galore!
Over the years, many types of articles have explored every possible angle of Hocus Pocus, and that includes its glaring historical inaccuracies and gaping plot holes. The movie has been picked apart for all of the facts it got wrong although some people have also pointed out that some of them can be explained. It's also been put under the microscope for having several plot holes, most having to do with the fact that witches who've been dead for 300 years wouldn't know anything about modern times, yet the sisters seem to at certain points in the film.
Sources: thoughtcatalog.com, imdb.com, ibtimes.com