Everything we know about Hocus Pocus 2: Billy's return, Drag Race queens, and a (new?) black cat
It's felt like 300 years — right down to the day — but now that the witches are back, there's hell to pay for making fans wait this long for the arrival of Hocus Pocus 2.
As furiously as we curse the delay, there's undoubtedly magic in the air as Disney readies the highly anticipated sequel to its Halloween classic. The original film starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a band of Salem witches with a penchant for terrorizing, hexing, and eating the souls of children. After getting captured and hung by the puritan townspeople of Salem, the three sisters stay dead for a few hundred years — until a group of kids (Omri Katz, Vinessa Shaw, and Thora Birch) unwittingly resurrect them.
Ahead of Hocus Pocus 2's fall premiere, check out everything we know so far about the sequel, including who's returning (and who isn't), plot details, filming locations, and how the RuPaul's Drag Race family contributed a few queens to help brew the film's nostalgic potion of cinema sorcery.
What's it about — and is there a trailer?
Like the mouth of Billy Butcherson's corpse, details of the Hocus Pocus 2 plot remain stitched up (likely with ancient moths gestating somewhere inside). Disney finally unveiled light story points on June 28, when it released the film's first teaser trailer. The studio promised more "comedic mayhem" from the witches as they seek revenge on Salem once again, this time with three new high school students (played by Belissa Escobedo, Whitney Peak, and Lilia Buckingham) out to thwart their evil plans.
The teaser, which included portions of John Debney's time-tested score from the original, also revealed that Peak's character is celebrating her 16th birthday — a milestone that, according to witchcraft lore in the world of the film, is when a witch typically gets her powers.
Who's returning to star — and who isn't?
Midler, Parker, and Najimy were first to board (after answering an untold amount of questions about a potential sequel over the years) following Disney's announcement that a sequel was officially in development in 2019.
After production began in late 2021, EW confirmed that Birch, who portrayed Dani Dennison in the first film, would not reprise her role in the sequel due to filming commitments on Netflix's Wednesday series — which she would later depart. A source revealed that Disney asked Birch to play a "good supporting role" as an adult Dani, who would have worked to help three modern-day teens halt the witches' maniacal reign over Salem on Halloween.
Doug Jones was later announced to be returning in the role of Billy Butcherson, Winifred's zombified ex-lover who she summoned from the grave to help her capture Max, Allison, and Dani (though he eventually turned on his re-animator to help the youths fight back). The teaser trailer includes a scene that shows a grave with Billy's full name on it, but the character didn't show up in the (rotting) flesh in the clip.
EW also confirmed that Jason Marsden, the voice of the black cat from the first film, is also not returning for the sequel. In Kenny Ortega's first installment, Thackery was cursed by the witches to live forever as a cat as punishment for attempting to save his sister, Emily, from their clutches. (And before you start yelling about it being absurd to even consider that Thackery Binx could return, remember that we're talking about a film that continues the story of a witch who exploded into dust while riding a flying vacuum cleaner.)
However, a black cat does flash onscreen in the teaser trailer as it gazes upon the eye of Winifred's book (okay, okay: "BoooooooOOOOOOOOOooooook!") opening for the first time in 30 years.
Moving on: There's no word yet on if Katz and Shaw filmed scenes for Hocus Pocus 2, though Shaw told Entertainment Tonight she hadn't "heard anything" about a continuation.
"I know, it's so disappointing," she said. "I would love to do the sequel. It would be so much fun. I think there's just a different storyline with younger people, but why can't we all come back in some way?"
Shaw went on to speculate about where Allison might be when the sequel takes place. "I feel like she and Max (Katz) are still together but I think Allison's from Salem and he always wants to be in California. I think they did some sort of compromise and maybe she's in Salem when the witches come back, you know, visiting her mom or something."
EW also exclusively confirmed that beloved bullies Jay (Tobias Jelinek) and Ice (Larry Bagby) would not return for the sequel, as the actors told us that they weren't invited to reprise their roles. Still, Jelinek speculated on where Jay might be today, noting that he'd like to see him as a local principal.
"He'd be atoning for his days as a bully. It's his growth story," Jelinek said. "It's him facing his demons and learning how to be a good guy. It'd make a lot of sense for him. He'd understand the bad kids and be able to help them."
New cast members Escobedo, Peak, and Buckingham are the "little children" battling the witches, while Veep alum Tony Hale reportedly plays Salem's mayor. Sam Richardson and Hannah Waddingham have also joined in undisclosed roles, but Richardson pops up in the teaser trailer, seemingly as the owner of the "Salem Magic Shoppe" — but more on that later.
How do the witches come back from the dead... again?
Applying logic to a fantasy classic like Hocus Pocus is a crime punishable by a curse worse than living for eternity as a black cat. But here we are, breaking down the film's teaser trailer for clues about how the Sanderson trio returns from the dead once again.
So far, the only thing we know about how the witches re-enter the realm of the living is that it involves a pair of teens (Escobedo and Peak) performing a spell in the woods on the latter character's 16th birthday — the same evening they light the Black Flame Candle. When the yellow flame turns black, the ground splits beneath them, revealing the fiery pits of hell below. But not to worry; Winnie finds it "quite lovely."
Will there be a musical number similar to "I Put a Spell on You" from the first film?
EW confirmed that Drag Race alums Kahmora Hall (Sarah), Ginger Minj (Winifred), and Kornbread "The Snack" Jeté (Mary) joined the cast as drag versions of the Sanderson Sisters in a scene that takes place at a Halloween festival.
In the teaser, Winifred declares that the siblings are "always" ready to take the stage — so it's safe to anticipate another musical number in the vein of "I Put a Spell on You" from the first film.
In an interview with EW, Kornbread shared that on set, Najimy offered to call Mama Rupaul to recommend the queen for a spot on Drag Race. Little did she know, Kornbread had just returned from filming her then-secret role on the show's 14th season.
"One day I hope you're on Drag Race," Kornbread recalled Najimy saying, before offering to make the connection with Ru. "[She said] 'I know RuPaul personally, I'm the reason Bob [the Drag Queen] got on the show. I'm going to call RuPaul about you,'" Kornbread continued. "I go, 'Kathy, baby, you know what, don't do that. I appreciate you, but don't do that.'" A representative for Najimy later confirmed to EW that the star did indeed offer to ring RuPaul to recommend Kornbread for a future season.
Who will direct, write, and produce?
Women occupy top behind-the-scenes positions in the film, with The Proposal and 27 Dresses helmer Anne Fletcher stepping in for Ortega in the director's chair, while Workaholics and Young Rock writer Jen D'Angelo crafted the film's script.
Fletcher comes to the project with robust experience as a dancer and choreographer, having previously worked with Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner, directed by Adam Shankman — who reunited with her as one of the producers of Hocus Pocus 2 alongside Lynn Harris and original producers Steven Haft and David Kirschner.
"I am beyond thrilled to be involved in the sequel to a film that is as beloved as Hocus Pocus," Fletcher said last year in a statement. "Fans around the world have embraced these characters and have made this film a Halloween tradition whose popularity continues to grow, and how lucky am I to be back at Disney with these three extraordinarily talented ladies in the iconic roles they created, as well as our fabulous new additions to the cast?"
Where will the film take place?
Aside from rekindling our nostalgia for the central witches, the Hocus Pocus 2 teaser conjures images familiar to fans of the original — notably a red-brick school similar to the one Max and Allison attended. Though it appears to be a different building than the Phillips Elementary School, which was used in the 1993 movie, we're able to see a partial title over a window, reading "Skelton High School." This could be a reference to Samuel Skelton, a puritan pastor at the First Church of Salem.
Another familiar location is the Sanderson home (complete with the mill wheel on the side) which has gone from being hidden away in the woods to sitting on a bustling city street thanks to urban development in Salem.
The building has been renamed the "Salem Magic Shoppe," where the girls apparently find the spellbook that's eventually used to resurrect the sisters. Regional news reported that the store doesn't actually exist, and was a set constructed in a parking lot in Newport, Rhode Island.
When is the release date?
It might feel like a few hundred years, but there are just three months before Hocus Pocus 2 hits Disney+ on Sept. 30. Try to keep your thoughts from running amok (amok, amok, amok, amok) until then.
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- Black Flame Candle resurrects the Sanderson Sisters (and the book) in Hocus Pocus 2 teaser
- Kathy Najimy offered to call RuPaul to recommend Kornbread for Drag Race on Hocus Pocus 2 set
- Hocus Pocus 2 gets a release date as Disney unveils first footage: 'Lock up your children!'
- Drag Race stars Kornbread, Kahmora Hall join Hocus Pocus 2 as drag Mary and Sarah
- Thora Birch won't return as Dani in Hocus Pocus 2
- Drag Race star Ginger Minj joins Hocus Pocus 2 as drag version of Bette Midler
Three young women accidentally bring the Sanderson Sisters back to modern-day Salem and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world.