Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Hocus Pocus’ Stars Recall Difficulties With Practical Effects on Set: ‘It’s So Gross’

‘Hocus Pocus’ Stars Recall Difficulties With Practical Effects on Set: ‘It’s So Gross’

Hocus Pocus wasn’t exactly ahead of its time with its creepy, ghoulish, and harrowing effects. The cast and crew worked through practical effects instead of special effects, which were often dangerous and disgusting. 

It may shock you, but it’s been 30 years since the cult classic was first released to the Millennial generation. The spooky tale follows three kids who have to save their town from a trio of Salem-era witches on Halloween. During their plight, they deal with fires, flying broomsticks, and more. 

Nowadays, movie creators use high-tech CGI technology to create supernatural scenes similar to those in Hocus Pocus. But in the early 90s, CGI wasn’t as common. So, the crew had to be crafty with practical effects that are common in stage productions. 

The film’s director, Kenny Ortega, recently sat with lead actors Vinessa Shaw, Omri Katz, and Jason Marsden for an interview with Entertainment Tonight, and they had much to say about the fun but “gross” challenges of filming those effects. 

“All of [the cemetery set] was practical; there were no CGI effects,” said Katz, who played Max Dennison. “We didn’t have to act like something was going on because something was going on. The floorboards were moving, the green light, the smoke, the lights popping, the candles coming on, all of that was practical. Even the Billy Butcherson scene, when he’s resurrected, that’s all on a soundstage; it’s not really nature.”

‘Hocus Pocus’ Actor Had Real Moths Fly out of His Mouth

Ortega happily remembered how many times filming stopped because the cast and crew were laughing their “heads off” trying to pull off the stunts. From actors getting “stuck up in the air, to just funny, spur-of-the-moment things that happened. Wonderful, magical little things.

One of the most memorable scenes for Allison’s actress, Vinessa Shaw, was when Billy opened his mouth and moths flew out. The idea came from Billy’s actor, Doug Jones. Originally, he was supposed to rise from the grave and yell “B*TCH!” but he thought the moths would be funnier. Without CGI, he had to let real moths in his mouth. 

Katz, who voiced Binx, said there were “complications” with the bugs and sutures, but Jones was able to “master” the situation while Shaw’s stomach turned. 

“It’s so gross,” she admitted. “It’s all practical effects, folks. Don’t ever do it that way.”

Despite all the fun, there were also some “near misses,” especially when crews were pulling ropes to help Winnifred, Sarah, and Mary fly, or electrical systems in place to assist those crews failed. 

“It was funny until it hurt, right?” Ortega asked. 

Hocus Pocus and its sequel are available to watch on Disney Plus.