Original Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega says he wasn’t approached to make sequels: ‘Disappointing’
By Joey Nolfi
October 20, 2023
It’s been 30 years (almost right down to the day) since Kenny Ortega helmed Hocus Pocus, and though the OG director tells EW he wasn’t asked back for either Hocus Pocus 2 or the upcoming Hocus Pocus 3, there’s no hell to pay when it comes to his feelings on the series.
The 73-year-old recalls fond memories of working with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy to bring the Disney classic to life in 1993, as the foursome filmed the story of a coven of witches who, after being executed in 1600s Salem, resurrect to torture teens in the modern era after a trio of kids bring them back from the dead.
He enjoyed working on the first movie — and watching it become a runaway success years after it initially underperformed across its debut run — but Ortega says Disney didn’t ask him to return to helm the Disney+ sequel.
“No, they did not approach me to direct it, which was disappointing, but, of course, in the end, I was very supportive, wanting for Bette, Kathy, and Sarah to have another crack at it,” Ortega says. “You let go of things, you surrender, you move on, you don’t hold on, you don’t have ownership. I would’ve loved to have gone back and play again, but that I didn’t is okay.”
Ortega also admits that he sill hasn’t seen Hocus Pocus 2, despite the film breaking records upon its streaming debut.
“I’ll see it this Halloween. I just didn’t see it last year when it came out, I was working, and then it just never was something that I could get to. But, I will. Of course I will,” he stresses.
When asked if he was in talks to help make Hocus Pocus 3, which Disney confirmed earlier this year was in early development, Ortega says he was unaware of the project’s gestation.
“Young blood, new ideas, I don’t know, for whatever reason that they don’t, it’s their choice. I was available, I was interested, and I still am available and interested, if that were to ever be a conversation that someone wanted to have with me,” he explains. “And yet, at the same time, I support the franchise however they want to move forward with it.”
EW has reached out to representatives for Disney for comment.
While Midler, Parker, and Najimy reprised their roles alongside Doug Jones as the zombified Billy Butcherson, former child stars Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Vinessa Shaw (Allison) did not come back for the sequel, though the new cast of teens who battled the Sanderson Sisters in the 2022 film revealed in an exclusive interview with EW that an early version of the script included Dani returning as the girls’ schoolteacher.
Shortly after Hocus Pocus 3‘s announcement, Katz exclusively told EW that he was “excited” for the story to continue and that he’d be game for Max to appear in the third movie.
“Yes, I would return if Disney approached me,” he said via email in June. “It would be an honor to return, hopefully with some of my fellow castmates, and make a fun addition to the franchise!”