The Sanderson Sisters sing "I Put A Spell On You."

10 Hocus Pocus Facts To Make You Love Halloween Classic Even More

So much came together to make our favorite Halloween movie.

You’ve watched the movie every single year since you were little. You know the songs, and have dressed up as the characters for Halloween. You’ve planned the perfect time to introduce the classic to your kids. We’re speaking, of course, of Hocus Pocus. But while there is a lot you certainly know about the movie (aka every line by heart), there’s a lot you probably don’t know about Hocus Pocus as well. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Sanderson Sisters fun facts about the movie production, the actors featured (and some of those who weren’t), and the history that inspired the film.

While the movie took a while to find its audience (more on that in a little bit), we’re very proud to say that we Millennial women have known about the glorious good fun of this campy holiday romp from Day 1, and have helped drive its ascent from “cult classic” to bona fide “classic” with a sequel almost 30 years after its initial release. But almost as interesting as the story of the Sanderson Sisters (and the Dennison siblings who defeat them) are the various behind-the-scenes dramas and happy accidents that led to the Hocus Pocus we all know and love.

#1. The story started as a story producer David Kirschner told his daughter

Kirschner’s idea started with Binx...Albert L. Ortega/WireImage/Getty Images

The story all started with the tragic tale of Thackery Binx, the unfortunate Puritan boy who suffers the Sanderson Sisters’ wrath. According to the movie’s producer David Kirschner, the idea for the movie came to him when a black cat wandered into his yard. He told his young daughter that the cat was actually a boy cursed by three witches 300 years ago.

Kirschner, who before Hocus Pocus was best known for writing An American Tail, made an elaborate Halloween-themed pitch to Disney, who signed onto the project before Kirschner left the lot. He also pitched it to Steven Spielberg in hopes that he would direct. Spielberg reportedly loved the idea but balked when he found out Disney (whom he then considered a rival) was involved. (Recollections of Spielberg’s role in this story, it should be noted, vary.)

#2. Hocus Pocus was originally going to be darker and spookier.

Over different edits, the story got campier.Disney+

Kirschner developed the story with Mick Garris, who is known for writing horror movies. Garris notes that the movie, initially called Halloween House, was going to be darker than it wound up being.

“Originally, it was almost exactly what you see on the screen, except it was a little darker, and the kids were 12,” Garris told TheWrap. “And Halloween has a much deeper resonance to a 12-year-old than to a 16-year-old who was just going out and stealing all the 12-year-olds’ candy from them. But really, it was just a bit darker. You know, I came up with the darkness of Billy Butcherson, and his head coming off, and that sort of thing. Still comedic, but in a darker mode.” The broad strokes, however, remained the same from draft one. “It was very similar to the movie that existed,” Garris explained.

#3. The role of Winifred was originally written for Cloris Leachman.

The inspiration behind Winnie!Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

At a panel for the film’s 25th anniversary in 2018, Kirschner admitted that he originally imagined a different actress in the role of Winnie. “The first person that I really wanted for Winifred Sanderson was Cloris Leachman. And that was the first person, because I was so in love with her from the Mel Brooks films, from Young Frankenstein, especially.”

Kirschner did not share whether Leachman was ever actually offered the role, but honestly we get it! And, also honestly, we wouldn’t hate it. But let’s be honest: Bette Midler is Winifred. And would it really be Hocus Pocus without the big musical number she inspired?

#4. The role of Max was offered to Leonardo DiCaprio... kind of.

Leo was offered the role before it went to Omri.Ron Davis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Back in 1993, “Leo” was far from the household name it would become later on. Though the teen had nearly a dozen credits to his name, he was far from a megastar. In 2014, DiCaprio told Variety he was offered “more money than I ever dreamed of,” to play the role of Max, but turned it down to play Arnie in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. But according to director Kenny Ortega, things went a little bit differently: DiCaprio, he recalls, was never actually available, though he did meet with the director to discuss the part anyway. Other A-listers rumored to have been considered for the movie at some point include Rosie O’Donnell (Mary) and Jennifer Lopez (Sarah).

#5. The movie was initially considered to be a bit of a flop.

The movie took time to find its audience.Disney+

Hocus Pocus premiered in July 1993. It stands to reason that a Halloween movie released during the summer may not do super well, but Disney didn’t want it to compete with the bigger Halloween movie they were releasing that year, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Unfortunately for Disney, the Sisters were up against another mega-hit: Hocus Pocus premiered the same day as Free Willy. As a result, box office returns were mediocre at best. The movie was also plagued with bad reviews: Gene Siskel declared it “ dreadful witches' comedy” with “nothing funny to say.” Roger Ebert gave it a mere one star.

But the film really hit its stride in cable airings (particularly on the Disney Channel) and in VHS and DVD sales (where it still tops charts). When rereleased in theaters (mostly drive-ins), it raked in $4.8 million, making it the most successful box office rerelease that year (it even beat The Empire Strikes Back).

#6. Hocus Pocus was one character actor Doug Jones’ first films.

Jones has nearly 200 acting credits to his name.Jemal Countess/WireImage/Getty Images

At the time Hocus Pocus came out, Jones, who plays Billy Butcherson, was a trained mime and contortionist, but only had a few acting credits to his name. Over the years, however, the tall thin man made a name for himself, particularly as an actor known for his ability to work well under heavy prosthetic makeup. As such, he may not be a face you recognize (since it’s usually hidden under a whole lot of latex), but you’ve definitely seen one of his movies... not a difficult feat considering he’s been in 171 to date! His most famous roles include Ape Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water, Commander Saru in Star Trek: Discovery, and Baron Afanas in What We Do in the Shadows to name just a few!

#7. Sarah Jessica Parker loved flying.

SJP enjoyed flying higher than her infamous Met Gala headwear.Gotham/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Parker admitted that she doesn’t have very many memories of filming Hocus Pocus, but she does remember enjoying the process and really loving flying during the broom sequences. So much so, in fact, that she would hang out in the rigging well after she could have gotten down.

“They’d call cut and maybe they’d go to lunch or change the lens, and I would just stay up there,” she told Colbert in 2018. “I realized I could fit an entire New York Times up the back of the corset. And I found that the harness was comfortable, so I would just sit up there and read the Times while people took their breaks or changed the camera or sometimes went to lunch.”

#8. You may recognize some of the locations from the movie.

Yes, it’s the same fountain.Disney+

Anyone who’s been to Salem may recognize some of the exterior shots from their family trip to the quiet Massachusetts town just outside of Boston. The Dennison’s house, the school (now apartments), and Alisson’s house have all become tourist attractions. But, for the most part, the movie filmed in California locations and on studio sets... and, studios being studios, different “houses” and set pieces get recycled. For example a house in the background during one scene (filmed on a Warner Brothers lot) about an hour and three minutes in also served as the exterior of the Griswold house from Christmas Vacation and the Burnham’s house in American Beauty (also featuring Thora Birch, who played Dani). And the fountain above? Do you recognize it? We’ll give you a hint. *pops open six umbrellas at once* *clap clap clap clap*

#9. Sarah’s song was written by powerhouse songwriter James Horner.

You’re probably more familiar with another famous song he wrote in the ‘90s...Disney+

You probably know all the words to the song Sarah sings to lure the children of Salem out of their beds on Halloween night. It’s only about 30 seconds long, but it slaps... but it’s probably only the second catchiest song you’ve heard from composer James Horner.

Horner — who died in a plane crash in 2015 — had a long and illustrious career as a Hollywood composer; he was nominated for eight Oscars and won two. His credits include lots of movie themes you definitely know, even if you didn’t know you know them (because they’re used in everything) — The Legends of the Fall, The Rocketeer and some you definitely do, specifically “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

#10. The fun movie has a dark history... and not just in Salem.

Salem became famous for a reason, but it was not an isolated hysteria.Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The location was chosen based on (as you probably guessed) the town’s famous witch trials. Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than 200 men, women, and children were accused of witchcraft. Of that number 19 (mostly women) were hanged for their “crimes.” One man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death under heavy stones. At least five more of the 30 found guilty died in jail. Winifred, Mary, and Sarah are not based on any of the victims of that tragic episode, but are pure fantasy.

But while Salem was the most extreme case of witch hysteria in early-American history, it is not the only one. Between 1647 and 1669 in Connecticut, 30 people were accused of witchcraft and 11 were hanged. There was another uptick in accusations around the same time as in Salem (1692 to 1693), but those cases were mostly not prosecuted because the didn’t want to get swept up in the “great noise of witchcraft” they were seeing in Massachusetts. Virginia and New Hampshire, among other states, also held a few scattered witch trials in the 17th and 18th centuries, though not nearly as numerous, or deadly, as those in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

However, the last witchcraft trial in the United States would, fatefully, occur in Salem in 1878. (Fortunately, nothing really came of it.)

We hope these new tidbits of Hocus Pocus trivia enhance your holiday viewing experiences!