The iconic “Hocus Pocus” calming circle scene was actually improvised by Kathy Najimy
By Joey Nolfi
Oct 22, 2023
Ready for some Hocus Pocus news that’s sweeter than a slice of Mother’s scorpion pie? Star Kathy Najimy improvised one of the 1993 Disney film’s fan-favorite, oft-quoted scenes, director Kenny Ortega reveals to EW.
“The calming circle, Kathy came up with that,” Ortega says of the scene, which sees the recently resurrected Sanderson Sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Najimy) linking arms and moving around in a soothing circle to calm their tempers as they pursue the trio of Salem youths that brought them back from the dead on Halloween night.
Ortega recalls Najimy “pulling them in, [saying that] it’s time for a calming circle,” and that Midler and Parker “came in and took the deep breaths” to follow Najimy’s lead.
Disney Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker in ‘Hocus Pocus’ calming circle.
Ortega remembers the cast as “improvisational geniuses” who elaborated on the material written for them in Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert’s screenplay.
“We honored the writing, and then we had a party,” says Ortega, who also says that the iconic walk the sisters perform while scouring the streets of Salem also came to them on set.
“That evolved out of [us being] there, they needed to move from point A to point B, and that just sort of happened. There were a number of moments like that throughout the film, where we were just surprised with how ideas just arrived,” he explains. “I think [we created] a set that allowed everybody to have some fun and be experimental and non-judgmental and just let things play out.”
Ahead of 2022’s long-awaited sequel Hocus Pocus 2, Najimy told EW that she also improvised Mary Sanderson’s signature facial quirks, including her crooked mouth that drooped off to the actress’ right side in the first film. For the second installment, however, Najimy found it difficult to keep her mouth on the same side, so she switched it up for the continuation.
“It’s on the other side mainly because it’s so hard for me to do it on the side I did it on 30 years ago. I’m sure the fans are going to go into deep detail about why it’s on the other side,” she said at the time. “We can justify it because there’s a scene at the beginning where Winnie slaps me, and my mouth goes to the other side, and then she slaps me again and it goes to the other side, and sticks.”
EW has reached out to representatives for Najimy for comment.