‘Hocus Pocus’ Was Originally a Very Different Movie

Showbiz Cheat Sheet
‘Hocus Pocus’ Was Originally a Very Different Movie
By Mandi Kerr
October 1, 2019

Bette Midler getting into character as Winifred in Hocus Pocus
Bette Midler getting into character as Winifred in Hocus Pocus

Fans of Hocus Pocus know the movie well, probably too well, thanks to its growth in popularity since the film premiered in 1993 (find out how it did at the box office here).

People who watch it every Halloween can likely quote every line while sipping apple cider from a Hocus Pocus themed mug. But, the truth is, Hocus Pocus was originally a very different movie from the one Bette Midler (Winifred Sanderson), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson), and Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson) starred in all those years ago.

‘Hocus Pocus’ was originally a bedtime story

People and Entertainment Weekly joined forces to create Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories. In a YouTube video featuring the Halloween and Horror edition, those who brought Hocus Pocus to life were interviewed with the result being an oral history of the film.

David Kirschner, the producer of Hocus Pocus, explained that it began “as a bedtime story” for his two daughters. His wife suggested he “do something” with the story. So he did.

Mick Garris wrote the first draft of the movie, which was then called Halloween House.

“David Kirschner, who [was one of the writers of] An American Tail for Steven Spielberg, had this great idea about children in Salem, Massachusetts, coming up against the three Sanderson sisters, who were resurrected from the Salem of 1692, and he’d sold it to Disney,” Garris said in the video, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Steven Spielberg ‘loved it’ and almost directed the movie

Garris and Kirschner organized a pitch meeting — complete with candy corn — for Spielberg’s company, Amblin Entertainment. The famed director (learn Spielberg’s net worth here) liked the idea of the movie but ended up passing on it for one specific reason.

“He loved it until he found out that Disney was already involved,” Garris recalled. “At that time, Disney and Amblin were very competitive in the family-film market, so neither of them wanted to be in business with the other. [But] it was very close to being a project with Steven Spielberg,” he added.

Kathy Najimy stands next to Mary Sanderson costume from Hocus Pocus | Holly Brobst/The Walt Disney Company via Getty Images

Kenny Ortega, who had previously directed Newsies (1992), ended up directing Hocus Pocus, and as he said in the YouTube video, fans still stop him today to discuss the film.

The original draft of the movie was ‘more explicitly frightening’

Garris wrote the first draft of Halloween House in the 1980s and developed a scarier version than what audiences saw in Hocus Pocus.

“What I had written originally was about 12-year-olds,” Garris said before adding, “The kids being younger and in more jeopardy was certainly something more explicitly frightening.”

Garris said the script went through numerous rewrites and changes over the years before being produced. The kids in the movie were more grown-up, 16-years-old, while the tone became “broadly comedic,” Garris said.

Headless Billy Butcherson remained in the script from the first to final draft. Another later addition, but still a fun one according to SyFy Wire, was the scene featuring director Garry Marshall and his sister, Penny Marshall, as a married couple.

Rumors about a sequel have been circulating A follow up to the original is currently in the works but Parker, Midler, Najimy, Thora Birch (Dani), Omri Katz (Max) and the rest of the original cast won’t be returning.

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