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The lasting legacy of ‘Hocus Pocus’

Image Courtesy of IMDb

Image Courtesy of IMDb

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Three hundred twenty five years ago the Sanderson sisters first bewitched people, stealing the lives of children to give them eternal life. On Oct. 31, 1993, the witches returned from the grave after a virgin lit the black flame candle, a curse Winifred Sanderson cast before she and her sisters were hung. On its 25th anniversary, we celebrate the spell the Sanderson sisters put on us that cursed our wretched little lives into falling in love with the cult classic.

Come little children, I’ll take thee away into a land of enchantment. Come little children, the time’s come to see what Hocus Pocus is all about.

The plot of the film involves three witches, the Sanderson sisters, who were hung by the Salem town folk for stealing the lives of children. Before being hung, a young boy, Thackery Binx, is turned into a black cat for trying to save his younger sister from the witches’ spell, and the witches place a curse on their bodies that will bring them back to life. 300 years later on Halloween night, a young teenager, Max Dennison, lit the black flame candle that allowed the witches to return from the grave.

Now Max, his younger sister Dani and classmate, Allison, must find a way to kill the witches before they can steal the lives of children. With the help of Binx, the kids spend their night running around Salem trying to save the town from the witches’ curse. As a last resort, the kids decide to ask their parents for help, crashing the adult- only party at town hall. Despite their best effort to lose the witches, they show up at the party and cast a spell over the entire room that forces them to “dance, dance until you die!”

The children then lead the witches into a kiln inside their high school, in hopes of ending their reign of terror. Unfortunately, the witches survive the kiln and the children make the mistake of opening the spell book of Winifred Sanderson. While trying to find a way to help Binx, they give themselves away to the witches who come and kidnap Dani. To rescue Dani, Max and Allison trick the witches into thinking the sun has come up, and they escape to a graveyard where the witches cannot step foot. To keep Dani safe, Max drinks Winifred’s potion and forces her to take his life instead. Before she can completely do so, the sun comes up, killing she and her sisters and setting Binx free, ending the curse of the Sanderson sisters.

Hocus Pocus was originally a bedtime story told by David Kirschner, the writer and producer of the film, to his daughters. Kirschner brought the idea to Disney when he realized that the Halloween market was very successful and that there was a lack of Halloween family films. The first title given to the movie was “Disney’s Halloween House,” a much darker film that director Kenny Ortega turned into what is now known as Hocus Pocus.

Hocus Pocus was released on July 16, 1993, the same weekend as Jurassic Park. Opening weekend was something no one expected; the film tanked in theaters, coming in fourth in the box office with a gross of $8,125,471. Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert, gave the film one star out of five. Once out of the theaters, it disappeared for awhile.

“It was like an ugly duckling,” said Bette Midler to PEOPLE. “A little creature that nobody thought could do anything and now it’s a swan. Its found its wings and it’s just flown away. I think it’s fantastic.” It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus, right? Wrong.

Ten years after its release, Hocus Pocus became what it is known as today. There is merchandise of all kinds, costumes for children and adults alike to dress up as the Sanderson sisters, reenactments, month- long showings in theaters across the nation, a live Sanderson Sisters show at Disney World every fall and so much more. Hocus Pocus found its place among Millennials and Generation Z kids; this is our Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Nothing compares to Hocus Pocus,” said DePaul student Megan Davis. “I grew up watching Hocus Pocus; it’s my favorite Halloween movie. It’s witty and quotable– everything a family film should be.”

To celebrate the film, the family television network Freeform aired a 25th anniversary special called the “Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash.” The special was a way for fans to celebrate the film with their favorite characters in a fun and interactive way. The special was filmed in Los Angeles and offered fans the opportunity to participate in a costume contest, watch musical performances and learn more about the behind the scene secrets of the film.

Fun fact from the 25th anniversary special: Did you know that Binx the catwas one of the first CGI special effects ever made? CGI was first used as a two- dimensional effect in the early 1970s, followed by three-dimensional effects in the late 1970s.

Here in Chicago, Hocus Pocus returned to theaters in time for Halloween. AMC theaters throughout the Chicagoland area brought back the cult classic from Oct. 26 through the end of the month.

“I was so excited when I heard on the news they were bringing Hocus Pocus back to the theaters,” said DePaul student Makayla Carney. “It’s a story about witches, and who doesn’t love witches on Halloween?”

On opening night, the AMC theater in River East was full for the only showing of the film. The audience had a blast reliving the timeless classic. You could hear people quoting the film; at any memorable line, the entire theater collectively repeated the words back at the screen.

Dost thou comprehend why Hocus Pocus is a beloved cult classic? Yes? Perfect! Come, we fly! One more thing: Are your children running amuck? Because I smell children… Fun fact from the 25th anniversary special: Did you know that Binx the cat was one of the first CGI special effects

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The lasting legacy of ‘Hocus Pocus’