Hocus Pocus is a cult classic today thanks to its humorous take on a spooky tale. But when it first headed into production, it had a “much scarier” script.
The film hit its milestone 30th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Director Kenny Ortega and some of the cast members chatted with Entertainment Weekly to share memories about filming in 1993. While talking about the pre-production days, Allison actress Vinessa Shaw revealed that the story wasn’t originally the kooky comedy we know.
“I remember reading an original draft that was much scarier,” she told the publication. “And that was the draft we auditioned with. When we started shooting, it became a funny version, much lighter.”
Shaw endearingly referred to the lead villains, the Sanderson sisters, as female “Three Stooges.” She noted that their relationships and their choreographed acting were nods to the classic series. That worked well considering the plot.
“Obviously, the witches and what they’re doing — sucking the lives out of children — is scary,” she continued. “But the fact that it’s done in a comedic fashion is palatable.”
The ‘Hocus Pocus’ Sanderson Sisters Originally Had Wicked Witch of the West Qualities
The actress recalled the original characters having more sinister vibes like “The Wicked Witch of the West” in The Wizard of Oz. Winifred, Sarah, and Mary were collected, conniving, and clever. But those personas didn’t play well into the story.
“They’re a trifecta and can’t do anything without the other, which was stronger in the second draft,” added Shaw.
Hocus Pocus follows teens Allison and Max and Max’s little sister, Dani, as they try to stop the Sanderson sisters, who were killed during the Salem witch trials, from taking over their town after Max unwittingly brings them back to life. The sisters are completely naive to the modern world. And they consistently and hilariously create chaos for themselves because of that.
The movie officially falls into the family-friendly comedy genre, which is more fitting for its Disney banner. Max actor Omri Katz is thankful the creators decided to re-spin the story because it might not be the classic it is today otherwise.
“I also remember reading a scarier draft…” he added. “Once they had an idea of who they wanted to cast, I’m sure they had their two cents on it, too, and brought a more comedic, family-friendly, happier, not-so-sinister movie. It was a different approach… I don’t remember a lot of those punchlines or one-liners being present.”
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