Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy reflect on Hocus Pocus 25 years later
Sisters! Hocus Pocus is celebrating its 25th anniversary and the stars of the beloved Halloween classic gathered to fly once more in Freeform’s Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash, which premiered on Saturday, Oct. 20 on the network.
The special, which was partly filmed live earlier this month at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, reunited much of the original cast, including the Sanderson Sisters — Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. For Midler, the project was automatic yes — she said in the special, “I read the script of Hocus Pocus and I was very intrigued by it because it was an opportunity to do things that I really loved to do, which is play physical comedy and be more than a little broad.”
While Parker noted that she still can’t quite believe how dark the storyline was for a Disney film. “I guess what I remember most is how awful we were as characters,” she said. “I was surprised that the goal was to get a child and basically destroy them, but because it was done in a really heightened, ridiculous way, it was a lot of fun.”
The witchy trio reflected on their time making the series throughout the special, including why getting to fly was their favorite part.
Midler called flying, “one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced as an actor,” while Parker took it one step further, saying, “I’m going to go out on a broom, and say I enjoyed it more than anybody.” The special revealed some of the behind-the-scenes magic, including the fact that all the flying was done with practical effects on set using harnesses and extensive flying rigs built into the ceiling of soundstages.
“We would just be hanging up there sometimes for hours until they would swoop us and the faster the better, I absolutely loved it,” Najimy remembered, while Parker joked the harnesses were like “relaxing into a bucket with legs.” Midler noted the experience was akin to executing complicated choreography. She said, “It’s joyful, it’s also a dance, and there’s a lot of trying to be graceful while not being sure you weren’t going to be turned upside down.”
For the trio and the entire team, they mostly can’t believe the staying power of the film. Particularly because when Hocus Pocus debuted in 1993, it was a box office disappointment and failed to resonate with critics. However, with a little bit of magic, the film has now become the It’s a Wonderful Life (which was also an initial box office failure) of Halloween — playing in repeat showings on Freeform throughout the month of October.
“For a moment in time, I was heartbroken and disappointed,” director Kenny Ortega told EW earlier this month. “People have just found it and found the treasure that is there with Kathy and Bette and Sarah; their wonderful, incredible chemistry and good humor. It’s just a fun movie that just takes you away and there’s just magic there.”
He calls the anniversary special and the film’s 25-year momentum toward becoming a Halloween classic “a dream come true.”
In the special, the trio echoed similar thoughts. “I don’t think any of us who were making it at the time thought Hocus Pocus would have such a long life,” Parker said. “People tell me all the time they grew up watching it, and that they still watch it. I think it’s wonderful.”
“It was 25 years ago,” marveled Najimy. “For it to embraced so wholly, and so rabidly, it’s flattering and it’s an honor.”
The special aired on Freeform on Oct. 20, but will continue to air in repeat broadcasts through Halloween.