Inside The Magic
‘Hocus Pocus’ Franchise Gets Disappointing Update Following Disney’s Content Purge
BY Thomas Hitchen
Oct 27, 2023
The three witchy sisters are some of the most iconic Disney characters and Halloween icons in history, but a new disappointing update about the Hocus Pocus franchise will likely leave fans feeling saddened.
Director Kenny Ortega’s Hocus Pocus (1993) was released 30 years ago. Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the sinister Sanderson Sisters, Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson, Sarah Sanderson, and Mary Sanderson, respectively, Hocus Pocus has become a cult classic over the last three decades after suffering an initial blow at the box office on release.
Midler, Parker, and Najimy would return to their roles as the Sanderson Sisters almost 30 years later in a sequel, Hocus Pocus 2 (2022), which debuted exclusively on Disney+. The sequel transported audiences back to Salem, Massachusetts — where young Max Dennison (Omri Katz) accidentally resurrected the “Sistahhhs!” in the original film — and found a young Winnie Sanderson fleeing her future, only to come face to face with Mother Witch, played by Emmy-winning actress Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso).
Hocus Pocus 2 was widely watched when it debuted on The Walt Disney Company’s Disney+ on September 30, 2022, becoming the most streamed film premiere in the United States for the streaming service.
The Walt Disney Company’s decision to release the Hocus Pocus sequel during the fall season and close to Halloween was obviously a key tactic to the movie’s success, something the studio did not replicate this year with the release of the rebooted Haunted Mansion (2023) film.
Directed by Justin Simien, Haunted Mansion was released in the summer season and went on to become a box office bomb, grossing just short of $117 million during its theatrical run. Many wondered why Disney would release what could have been a fall season tentpole in the middle of summer, but it would find a new audience on streaming when it debuted on Disney+ on October 4.
Looking ahead to Disney’s next dose of frightful entertainment, unfortunately, it’s not looking good for Hocus Pocus 3, with the screenwriter for the movie, Jen D’Angelo, sharing a disappointing update about the film.
“We’re still in the story phase; we’re still working on it. We’ve been working on some ideas, and it’s been fun to dive back into that world, and we have so many directions in which to go and so many new characters to explore,” D’Angelo told Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve only scratched the surface of Hannah Waddingham’s mother witch.”
This, of course, will be a positive to some, even though a third film was announced earlier this year. But, for most, it signals that Hocus Pocus 3 is a long way off. However, loyal Hocus Pocus franchise fans did wait almost 30 years for the second installment in the series.
The delay in writing Hocus Pocus 3 was largely down to the Writers Guild of America strikes that swept the nation earlier this year. The WGA finally reached a deal with studios, meaning pen could get back to paper, but as for the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), their journey for fairness and better protection in the workplace still rages on.
Aside from the strike action, this Hocus Pocus franchise update also comes after Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger set about purging content from Disney+ in a bid to save $5 billion across all facets of the company. The aggressive content cull saw fan-favorite series like The Mysterious Benedict Society and Lucasfilm’s Willow pulled from the streamer, as well as new movies like Crater (2023) that were scrapped not two months after being released.