30 Years of Disney’s ‘Hocus Pocus’

by | Aug 17, 2023 | Disney Movies, Disney+, Magic at Home

A fan favorite every Halloween, Disney’s ‘Hocus Pocus’ wasn’t always the huge hit it is today. We’re taking a look at its past, present, and future below.

In 1993, the world was introduced to the bewitching Sanderson sisters, and Halloween has never been the same since! Well, at least not since the film’s popularity has grown increasingly bigger each year since its release. Hocus Pocus just might be at its peak popularity now that it’s 30 years old – and as Disney continues to celebrate this spooky film, it’s only going to draw more fans in the future.

But Disney’s Hocus Pocus movie wasn’t always such a huge hit. And it’s only recently that the film has started to see merchandise appear on shopDisney, characters in the parks, and new sequels premiere. We’re digging deeper into the history of the cult classic movie and taking a look at what’s next now that Hocus Pocus is so popular.

Hocus Pocus Was Almost a Total Flop

Although this Halloween movie is a total hit among Disney fans (and those who love spooky season) now, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near as popular upon its release back in the 1990s. In fact, the film wasn’t successful by any measure, flopping both critically and commercially when it first appeared in theaters in 1993. Hocus Pocus managed to lose Disney a whopping $16.5 million during its original theatrical run.

How did a movie that was essentially a flop transform into a beloved classic? Well, part of it was timing. Hocus Pocus was released in July 1993 – not exactly the season for a Halloween movie! It was then released on VHS and LaserDisc in January 1994… once again, not exactly a time of the year that many people are feelin’ spooky.

Luckily, Disney didn’t give up on the film even after it was about ready to fade into obscurity. Each year starting in the mid-1990s, Hocus Pocus aired on ABC, Disney Channel, and Freeform (previously ABC Family), with the movie on repeat throughout the month of October. It became a staple in Freeform’s 13 Nights of Halloween movie lineup. With time, increasingly more people saw it and discovered its magic. 

And within a decade, Hocus Pocus became a Halloween classic rediscovered by kids and adults alike. When the movie was released on DVD in 2002, it began to have strong annual sales as increasingly more families discovered it. By 2011, the frighteningly funny film became the most-watched program in Freeform’s 13 Nights of Halloween lineup!

Now, over three decades later, Hocus Pocus is truly a cult classic that sees a significant spike in popularity every fall – and it garners millions more views each time it airs on TV.

How Disney Celebrates the Magic of Hocus Pocus

As Hocus Pocus slowly grew a dedicated following of fans thanks to Disney’s frequent replays every Halloween, the movie became increasingly popular for theme park fans and around the world. Demand for the movie’s stories and characters grew – and Disney has responded by celebrating both.

Hocus Pocus now has a surprisingly noticeable presence in both Disney theme parks and online. From additional shows and experiences based around the film to Halloween character appearances in the parks to plenty of fresh merchandise, fans will now find it’s easier than ever to find the characters beyond the small screen.

Hocus Pocus began to see celebrations after finally becoming a hit on Freeform in 2011. That same October, the Houston Symphony performed “The Hocus Pocus Pops”. Two years later, the film was given a special screening at the Walt Disney Studios for D23 members to honor its 20th anniversary. By the mid-2010s, the movie was starting to finally appear in theme parks in the form of characters.

So, where can you find Hocus Pocus today? Here’s a look at how the film comes to life each fall.

Hocus Pocus at Disney Theme Parks

Visit Walt Disney World to attend the annual Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and you’ll have a chance to see plenty of Hocus Pocus! The Sanderson sisters host the event’s Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular, a show that casts a spell on all of Magic Kingdom Park. You can also catch Minnie, Daisy, and Clarabelle dressed as the Sanderson sisters in the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’s Boo to You Parade. In years past, there have been other ways to celebrate the movie (and its 2022 sequel) at Walt Disney World, including photo opportunities.

At Disneyland, Hocus Pocus makes an appearance during the annual Oogie Boogie Bash. Minnie, Daisy, and Clarabelle pop up dressed as the Sanderson sisters at California Adventure Park, but instead of joining a parade, they greet Guests at a designated meet and greet spot. Here, too, in past years, photo opportunities have also celebrated the movie and its sequel.

Hocus Pocus Aboard Disney Cruise Line Ships

If you’re sailing with Disney Cruise Line during the Halloween season, you’ll have the chance to catch Minnie, Daisy, and Clarabelle in their Sanderson sisters costumes too. They’re part of a special meet and greet opportunity just for certain sailings. The festive trio appear onboard different Disney Cruise Line ships as part of Halloween on the High Seas.

Hocus Pocus Merchandise

As Hocus Pocus became increasingly more popular and visible, there’s so much more merchandise to shop! From books about the film to fan creations, you can find plenty to celebrate the film both during spooky season and all year long. For 2023, shopDisney released a special collection of frightfully inspired products that capture the Sanderson sisters, Binx, Billy the Butcher, and even characters from the 2022 sequel.

A Film With a Growing Legacy

Because Hocus Pocus is a movie that’s grown so popular, both among Disney fans and beyond, it’s not only celebrated by Disney itself. Now, more opportunities to bring the film to life exist across the country – and there are plenty of chances to enjoy the ‘90s nostalgia of the humor, the storyline, and the characters’ exploits.

For example, if you visit the City of Salem in Massachusetts (where the movie was filmed), you’ll find local filming sites turned into destinations for fans to visit. On the film’s 25th anniversary, the annual Haunted Happenings Grand Parade in Salem was themed after Hocus Pocus.

Additionally, each year there’s something special that premieres to celebrate the film. In 2020 and 2022, TV specials aired to celebrate the cast and the film. More recently, the characters have even started appearing in Disney’s video games, like Disney Magic Kingdoms and Disney Heroes: Battle Mode.

But even bigger news is on the horizon. After a successful sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, premiered on Disney+ and Disney Channel in fall 2022, there are plans to expand the film franchise even more. According to an interview with Walt Disney Pictures president Sean Bailey in 2023, Hocus Pocus 3 is definitely happening. 

So, it’s safe to say that after 30 years, this is one Disney movie that’s not slowing down any time soon!

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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