Back in the 1990s, Disney enjoyed a major resurgence with audiences across the world, releasing several classic movies. Hocus Pocus was one of them, with the supernatural comedy hitting theaters in July 1993. However, ahead of the film’s 25th anniversary, star Bette Midler sat down to watch it again, having not watched it in two decades.
Coming into the world in December 1945, Midler grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, alongside her brother and two sisters. During her childhood, the youngster started to develop an interest in performing, which led to success in talent contests. A few years later, she then went on to study drama at the University of Hawaii.
After her college studies, Midler earned her first role as an extra in the 1966 film Hawaii. Later that year, the aspiring performer then moved to New York City, hoping to make her mark there. She subsequently won a role in the Broadway production of Fiddler on The Roof in 1967, before performing at the Tony Awards the next year.
At that point, Midler started to show her versatility as a performer, taking on the persona of “The Divine Miss M.” With a popular nightclub act that showcased her singing and comedic ability, she was eventually signed to a record label. From there, she released her debut album in 1972, titled The Divine Miss M.
It proved to be a massive success, as the album went platinum and earned Midler the Best New Artist award at the Grammys. After that, the versatile actress went on to establish herself in the music industry, while also appearing on Broadway. However, her big break in Hollywood didn’t come until 1979.
Indeed, Midler was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the musical drama The Rose that year. From there, she went on to star in other movies, including the tear-jerking classic Beaches in 1988. Five years after that, the actress was then cast in one of Disney’s newest live-action features.
Alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, Midler starred in 1993’s Hocus Pocus. A supernatural comedy about a group of youngsters who accidentally raise three witches from the dead, the film wasn’t a massive success at the time. Indeed, it earned just over $39 million domestically on a budget thought to be $28 million.
However, despite that disappointment, Hocus Pocus has since built up a loyal fanbase, with the film becoming a cult classic in recent years. Now revered as a Halloween staple, Disney celebrated the movie’s 25th anniversary in October 2018, bringing the cast back together for a TV special on Freeform.
Throughout the month, Midler had been posting pictures from Hocus Pocus on her Instagram page, hinting that she might be involved in the reunion. After all the teases, though, the actress finally confirmed on Twitter that she would appear in the TV special. “WHAT A HOOT!” she wrote. “JOIN US AS ‘WE FLY!’”
However, Midler had a big confession to make ahead of the film’s anniversary. “I do not watch [Hocus Pocus] regularly,” she told People magazine in October 2018. “In fact, I had not seen it in at least 20 years.” That soon changed, though.
“I watched it the other night, the night before the [25th] anniversary, because I said, ‘You know what, I better look at this again,’” Midler continued. “So I watched it, and I loved it! I loved it! I thought it was so funny!” On that note, the actress then lavished praise on her co-stars.
“The first time I watched it I was only watching myself,” Midler added. “But this time I saw everybody. And I tell ya, those girls in the back — they were going full blast! They were giving me a run for my money. The kids were great, everybody was great!”
Upon reflection, there are several aspects behind the film’s lasting legacy. Indeed, while Midler, Parker and Najimy rightly take the plaudits for their wonderfully campy performances, the music has also endured. Meanwhile, there are few Disney movies that boast a story quite as dark as Hocus Pocus does.
Parker certainly thought as much when she joined the cast, expressing her surprise. “I guess what I remember most is how awful we were as characters,” she recalled on the Freeform TV special. “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.”
Indeed, while the film exudes a somewhat sinister undertone, Hocus Pocus is still a family comedy packed full of funny moments. “It was an opportunity to do things that I really loved to do,” Midler said on the TV special. “Which is play physical comedy and be more than a little broad.”
Meanwhile, the film’s director also weighed in on the discussion, revealing his grand hopes for Hocus Pocus. “The idea to me was thrilling and I believed in it,” Kenny Ortega recalled. “I believed that we could do a family Halloween story and laugh at the good humor, and that’s what we did.”
Beyond the TV special commemorating the anniversary, Disney celebrated the enduring impact of the characters in a unique way throughout October. Indeed, at the Magic Kingdom theme park, a stage show named Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular played outside Cinderella’s castle ahead of Halloween.
With that in mind, it’s easy to forget that Hocus Pocus wasn’t a big hit upon its release back in 1993. The cast certainly didn’t believe that the film would be resonating with audiences some 25 years later. However, Parker couldn’t be happier that fans are still enjoying their work after all this time.
“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 on the Freeform TV special. “People tell me all the time they grew up watching it and that they still watch it. I think it’s wonderful.”
After the film’s release, Midler, Parker and Najimy continued on with their careers, appearing in a other memorable projects. However, to a lot of people, the trio will always be known as the Sanderson sisters. Not bad for a bunch of hocus pocus.