Blu-Ray Review: “Hocus Pocus” Anniversary Edition
by Alex Reif | Aug 31, 2018
It’s been 325 years since the Sanderson Sisters were hanged by the Salem townsfolk. That means it’s been 25 years since the witches came back to life in 1993 to terrorize Max, Dani, and Allison on All Hallows Eve. In celebration, Disney is re-releasing Hocus Pocus in a brand-new Anniversary Edition with bonus features for the first time ever on September 2nd!
Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) Sanderson are back for one night of frightful fun in this highly quotable comedy. When teenage Max lights the Black Flame Candle to impress a girl he has a crush on, he accidentally brings three of Salem’s most terrifying witches back to life. Along with a talking cat named Binx, these kids will spend their Halloween trying to stop the witches from sucking the lives of children before sunrise if they want to send these “Hags” back to hell where they belong.
It’s not hard to pinpoint exactly why Hocus Pocus works so well. For starters, the trio of lead actresses are divine in their roles. Their vanity and inability to keep their emotions under control represent some of our most embarrassing character traits amplified for comedic effect. On top of their appeal, it’s one of the few family-friendly Halloween films that can be enjoyed by the entire audience, young and old alike.
The popularity of Hocus Pocus has grown astronomically over the years, thanks to perennial airings on Disney’s cable networks every fall. I went from being the only person I knew who had seen it (and liked it) to one of millions of super fans who can quote every line. For evidence of the film’s current pop culture status, one need only visit the Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party to see the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” stage show starring none other than the Sanderson Sisters! It’s a sweet ending to a film that originally released in July 1993 with little notice.
For years, fans have been begging for any kind of “Special Edition” treatment and Disney has finally acquiesced to our demands. This new Anniversary Edition provides two noteworthy bonuses, although you’ll soon see that not everything is included and there’s room for improvement.
We ? Hocus Pocus: Trivia and Treats Edition (1:35:05) – The main bonus feature on this release offers a new way to watch the film. Rather than offering an assortment of featurettes and deleted scenes in a submenu, they exist as a picture-in-picture experience during the film. While mostly fun, it’s a real shame that these same video features aren’t available separately in full screen.
The back of the box advertises this feature as “A spellbinding way to experience the film with deleted scenes, fun facts and trivia, cast and crew commentary, concept art and storyboards, behind the scenes secrets, and more!” All of that is true, except for the ‘Cast and crew commentary,” which is a lie. There is not a commentary track that plays between video clips like you would expect. Instead, there are archival interviews sporadically that offer insight, but no newly recorded footage or audio by any of the cast or crew.
As for the deleted scenes, there are 3 of them plus 2 extended scenes. Unfortunately, the two most famous scenes (the locker and swimming pool) are both here only in the form of pictures from the set and script excerpts. Since they were both used in the original ad campaign, their absence is puzzling. Another sequence with photos and script pages involves the witches at a grocery store shopping for ingredients to make candy crows.
The pop-up trivia and fun facts are often informative and insightful, but not always. Sometimes it exists just to make bad jokes, like when Ice is introduced and it just says “Baby!” at the bottom of the screen. Other fun items include a Virgin Counter and “Spell-A-Long” lyrics to every spell the sisters recite, including the songs.
Overall, it’s a fun way to watch the film with behind-the-scenes insight, but it leaves you wanting more.
Original 1993 Production Featurette (4:38) – A short featurette from 1993 used to promote the film. Many of the interviews featured in this are recycled in “We ? Hocus Pocus.”
This release reuses the same HD video transfer from the 2012 Blu-Ray release. It retains a decent amount of grain and retains the film’s original soft esthetic, while bringing out details previously unseen in standard definition, including costume textures and some flying wires.
The primary audio track is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. It fills the rear speakers with score while most of the audio remains in the front channels. Other tracks include French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Packaging & Design
Hocus Pocus Anniversary Edition comes in a standard Blu-Ray case. No slipcover was produced and inserts include a code for a Movies Anywhere digital copy and a flier for Disney Movie Club.
The disc opens with an Entertainment Industry Foundation anti-smoking PSA. The menu features the spell book flying into Winifred’s hand, which opens to reveal the main menu.
This Anniversary Edition of Hocus Pocus gives diehard fans something we’ve been begging for: BONUS FEATURES!!! If you don’t care about them and already own the film in HD, there isn’t a new transfer to warrant another purchase. But if you can’t get enough of this spirited classic, the double dip is essential. Just know that with two infamous deleted scenes absent, this is likely not the last time you will pay to own the film.1 of 4
Fans looking for deluxe packaging will find it at Target and Best Buy.
- Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Edition SteelBook–Best Buy Exclusive
- Hocus Pocus: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + Digital–Target Exclusive