In 1693, the townspeople of Salem tried to get rid of them. In 1993, a couple of teenagers and a cat named Thackery Binx tried, too. Now the Sanderson sisters are angling for another comeback.
The sisters, Winifred, Sarah and Mary — possibly joined by good, old Book — may appear in a new “Hocus Pocus” movie: A Disney executive involved in the project, which has long been rumored, confirmed Thursday that it was in the early stages of development.
The film will be part of Disney Plus, The Walt Disney Co.’s Netflix-style streaming service, according to the executive.
Disney’s strategy to market the streaming service has emphasized its kingdom of original movies and TV shows, as well as live-action remakes like “The Lion King,” which it released this year, and the upcoming “Lady and the Tramp.” The company also plans on using its Disney Plus studios to remake and modernize classics.
This month, the company posted an extremely lengthy Twitter thread showcasing all the movies and TV shows from its archive that will be available to stream on Disney Plus. On the thread were classics, like “Fantasia,” “Dumbo” and “Snow White,” as well as more recent additions to the Disney stable of films, like “Brave,” “Iron Man 3” and “Frozen.”
The original “Hocus Pocus” movie, which was released in 1993 and is now a Halloween cult classic, follows three sister witches from Salem, Mass., who are awakened from a 300-year slumber by suburban bullies.
In an effort to stay alive past sunrise, the witches — played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy — chase two teenagers and a child around town in order to drink the child’s essence. It was not clear whether the original cast would be involved in the new production.
In the course of one very busy night, the sisters perform a bewitching rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” at the town’s Halloween party; take flight on a broom, vacuum and mop; and wake a zombie named Billy who has been under their spell for centuries and who quickly turns on them.
“Hocus Pocus” was written by Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert and directed by Kenny Ortega, who also directed the 1992 Disney musical “Newsies.”
In 2017, Garris hinted at a sequel in an interview with Forbes, reigniting rumors.
“I think there will be a sequel,” Garris told Forbes. “It might be for Disney Channel or Freeform or ABC.”
Even without a sequel, the movie has become a “modern classic,” according to John Woods, the director of programming at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, which has already sold out two brunch showings of the movie this month.
“A lot of people grew up with it on VHS and TV, and some people are seeing it in a theater for the first time,” Woods said in an interview.
In 1993, New York Times film critic Janet Maslin panned the movie, writing that it was “aimed squarely at the Nowheresville between juvenile and adult audiences.” It appears Nowheresville may have been incorporated into Millennial City, however, as that generation seems to crave “Hocus Pocus” as badly as the Sanderson sisters want to stay alive.
“It is pretty much across the board,” Woods said of the people who attend “Hocus Pocus” viewings. “Younger people, their parents, people who grew up with it at home on cable come to watch it: It is one of those movies that is becoming a modern classic.”