Welcome to The A-Z of Horror – an alphabetical window into the horror genre. Over the course of 26 days, I’ll be taking a look at horror in all its facets and forms, offering up suggestions of what to watch, should you be in the mood for a real good scare.

Today: W is for Witches

Today’s excursion into the supernatural has brought The A-Z of Horror onto the subject of witches. As with yesterday’s entry, V is for Vampires which highlighted the popularity of vampires, it’s fair to say that witches are just as popular.

Over the years there have been countless movies featuring witches, from The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Teen Witch (1989) to The Craft (1996) Practical Magic (1998). There have been numerous TV shows too, including Bewitched (1964 – 1972) and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996 – 2003), amongst others.

But none of these witches are the subject of today’s A-Z of Horror. Nope, this spot is reserved for one witchy property only – Disney’s Hocus Pocus (1993).

Directed by American choreographer and producer, Kenny Ortega, Hocus Pocus follows the story of three children, who on Halloween night revive the Sanderson Sisters – three witches that were long believed to be dead.

With each passing year, especially during Halloween, Hocus Pocus grows in popularity. For this reason (and because it’s an awesome movie), today seems like the perfect time to delve into a few facts about the Hocus Pocus.

Below are ten facts about Hocus Pocus, which you may or may not know:

  • Hocus Pocus was initially devised as an original movie for the Disney Channel. It was only later, when Disney realised its potential, that the movie was green lit for the big screen.
  • Producer and co-writer, David Kirschner, came up with the story for Hocus Pocus whilst telling his daughter a tall tale about how the neighbour’s cat was once a teenager. Speaking about his story idea at the Disney D23 event back in 2013, Kirschner, said: “I contrived a legend that 300 years ago, a young boy was trying to protect his little sister from three witches who then cast a hex on him. The story terrified and delighted her.”
  • The role of Thackery Binx was played by two actors. Sean Murray played Thackery as a boy, whilst Jason Marsden provided the voice of Binx, both as a boy and as a cat.
  • Actor and former contortionist, Doug Jones, played the role of Winifred’s ex-lover, Billy Butcherson. Jones has appeared in many films over the years including Batman Returns (1992), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Shape of Water (2017).
  • Brother and sisters Penny and Garry Marshall appear in cameo roles in Hocus Pocus, playing ‘The Devil’ and his wife.
  • Hocus Pocus was filmed at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, as well as on location throughout LA. Only one week of production was actually spent in Salem, Massachusetts, the town where the film was set.
  • James Horner was originally lined up to score Hocus Pocus – but it never came to pass due to scheduling conflicts. However, Horner did write the song, ‘Come Little Children’, which is sung in the movie by Sarah Jessica Parker. Brock Walsh wrote the lyrics.
  • Better Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy rehearsed for six weeks prior to shooting the movie, in order to create the right performances for the spooky Sanderson Sisters.
  • Arguably the most famous scene in Hocus Pocus involves Bette Midler singing the song, ‘I Put a Spell on You’. The song was originally written by Jay Hawkins (1956), but has since been re-recorded by artists including Nina Simone, Bryan Ferry and Sonique, amongst others. In recent years, Bette Midler has been known to perform the song – dressed in a Winnifred Sanderson costume – for charity events.
  • Hocus Pocus was not a hit on its initial release – in fact it was considered a flop. The reviews for the movie were less than encouraging, which didn’t help it attract an audience. The fact the Halloween-themed movie was released in July (in the US) was also a likely factor in its disappointing box-office take. The reason the movie is so popular now is all thanks to TV re-runs, VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-ray releases and streaming.

Tomorrow: X is for….