Back in 1982, The Wonderful World of Disney aired a Halloween special comprised of animated clips from some of their spookiest works. With about a 60 minute run-time, Disney’s Halloween Treat was hosted by Hal Douglas, an unseen narrator, with a few appearances from a talking foam pumpkin.
- Hal Douglas is known for narrating thousands of movie trailers. You’ve heard his voice so many times, and this performance is incredible.
- One year later, Disney premiered a newer version of the special, this time 90 minutes long. It omitted parts from the original special, but included pieces from a 1977 special called, “Disney’s Greatest Villains”
- This version excluded a clip from Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and the skeletons in the beginning were green instead of orange.
- Some versions also include an opening with Michael Eisner, the then chair-man of Walt Disney Studios. This opening was most likely added for the VHS release of the special.
- Throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s, Disney ran this special on its channel every Halloween season. A Disney Halloween was released on VHS in 1985, though the original Disney’s Halloween Treat was never officially released (of course, Robin has a version taped off TV).
Segments of the Special
In this episode we talk about both specials. We cover clips from both, where they are from, and what we love about them.
So buckle up! It’s gonna be a REAL treat 😉
- The opening sequence
- As we said before, the original special, “Disney’s Halloween Treat,” came out in 1982. It opens with clips from Disney cartoons, most prominently “The Skeleton Dance” (1929)
- The Skeleton Dance was a “Silly Symphony.” Silly Symphonies were animated short films set to music, that Disney released over a 10 year period. The Skeleton Dance is one of the most popular, along with “The Three Little Pigs”
- In this version, the skeletons have been colored orange. In the original short they were black and white.
- The theme song for this special was written specifically for it! The music was by John Debney, a well-known film composer. Debney wrote the music for Hocus Pocus, which we talked about earlier this month!
- The lyrics were written by Galen R Brandt
- In A Disney Halloween, the skeletons are green, and this is how we could tell which special we were watching from the beginning.
- Night on Bald Mountain
- The narrator (Hal Douglas) wastes no time leading us into the first clip, a piece from Fantasia (1940). This image is very familiar to many, as the horrifying Chernabog ascends from the mountain to summon his minions.
- This piece of classical music was written by Mussorgsky, and this is one of the most famous animations from Fantasia
- In A Disney Halloween, we get a clip from “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) with an emphasis on Mad Madam Mim. This particular scene features the wizard duel and the death of Mim.
- Mim was voiced by Martha Wentworth, who also voiced the nanny in 101 Dalmatians (1961). This was her last acting credit.
- The Old Mill 1937
- Another silly symphony, this short is anything but silly.
- This clip comes from a 9 minute short about various animals: such as owls, mice, and bats that move into an old windmill. Nearby the songs of frogs, crickets, and fireflies can be heard. The climax comes when a storm puts in peril all the creatures in and around the mill.
- The beautiful thing is that even though the creatures do not speak you feel for them though the music and their actions.
- This is one of the saddest and most touching pieces in the special.
- Mickey Mouse
- Pluto’s Sweater (1949)
- We get a very short clip from this short film, but the transition is pretty seamless!
- Mickey’s Parrot 1938
- This clip comes from a 7 minute short where an escaped parrot comes into Mickey’s home just as he learns that the dangerous convict Machine-Gun Butch has shot his way out of jail. Thinking that the parrot is Butch, Mickey and Pluto cautiously try to find him.
- Donald Duck
- Donald Duck and the Gorilla 1944
- This clip comes from a 7 minute short about Ajax, the killer gorilla who has escaped from the zoo! Donald Duck and his three nephews prank each other, making them think that Ajax is in their house.
- There’s a twist, when the real Ajax appears and tries to attack Donald!
- Heffalumps and Woozils
- Next, we get a segment on nightmares! This clip is another part added to the new special, taken from “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (1977).
- In the film, Winnie the Pooh goes to sleep on a stormy night and dreams of the infamous Heffalumps and Woozils! Evil creatures out to steal his honey (or whatever else he wants).
- Pluto’s Judgement Day
- This part is very interesting! For this section, animators cut three different Pluto adventures together to create one cohesive story. Those stories are:
- Puss Cafe 1950
- Cat Nap Pluto 1948
- Judgement Day 1935 (notice the 15 year difference between two of the shorts)
- This segment is a wonderful piece, that really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the special. It comes from another Wonderful World of Disney episode called, “The Great Cat Family”! It came out in 1956.
- This part educates the audience on the beginning of superstitions, and also uses some imagery from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which Disney cut from the second version of this special.
- To continue the theme of cats, we have a clip from “Lady and the Tramp” (1955)
- Here we have Si and Am, the trouble-making cats from the film. The song was originally sung by Peggy Lee.
- The song is widely considered problematic,and in the 2019 version, this song will be “rewritten” and performed by Janelle Monáe
- The next segment of “A Disney Halloween” was taken from yet another Wonderful World of Disney episode called “Disney’s Greatest Villains” from 1977
- This was an updated special following another version called, “Our Unsung Villains” in 1956.
- It featured Hans Conried as The Magic Mirror. Conried had died when this segment was added to A Disney Halloween, but the footage was used anyway.
- Conried was a prolific actor whose voice was used in the animated “Hobbit” (1977), as the Grinch in “Halloween is Grinch Night,” but he was also the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan.
- Disney’s Greatest Villains 1977
- Peter Pan (1953) – Hook
- This scene with Captain Hook was included in the original Disney’s Halloween Treat, and is the first clip introduced by The Magic Mirror.
- It shows the defeat of Hook.
- The Aristocasts (1970) – Edgar
- Shows when Edgar drops the kittens while he is being chased by the dogs Lafayette and Napoleon.
- Mickey and the Beanstalk – The Giant
- This piece is from “Fun and Fancy Free” (1947)
- The Jungle Book (1967) – Kaa
- Voiced by the talented Sterling Halloway
- Kaa is interrupted during his hypnosis of Mowgli by Shere Khan.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – The Evil Queen
- In Disney’s Halloween Treat, we get a full look at the evil queen, from her transformation to the moment she poisons Snow White. We also see her meet her doom at the edge of a cliff!
- Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Maleficent
- We get to see Maleficent in all her glory!
- After Maleficent, the magic mirror briefly mentions:
- Cinderella – Lady Tremaine
- 101 Dalmatians (1961)- Cruella De Vil
- In Disney’s Halloween Treat, Cruella gets the full treatment, with a clip from the movie showing her ultimate defeat.
- Alice in Wonderland (1951) – The Queen of Hearts
- The Rescuers (1977)
- At the time of “Disney’s Greatest Villains,” Medusa was the newest villain in Disney’s catalog. For this reason, this is the final villain featured by the magic mirror before he says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting out of here!”
- The narrator uses the mirror’s disappearance to bring us into “Lonesome Ghosts” (1937)
- This short film was originally released 3 days after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
- It features four bored ghosts that play pranks on Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. In this episode, the trio are ghost exterminators from AJAX, the fictional Disney company equivalent to ACME in the Looney Toon Universe.
- Features Clarence Nash as Donald, Pinto Colvig as Goofy, and Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse.
- Trick or Treat (1952)
- The final piece of “A Disney Halloween” is a piece from “Trick Or Treat” in 1952.
- This short features the wonderful June Foray as “Witch Hazel” and an uncredited appearance by Thurl Ravenscroft as the Jack-O-Lantern!
- Clarence Nash is the voice of Donald and his three nephews.
- The music was written by Paul J Smith! A well-known Disney Composer (Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella).
- Ichabod Crane and Mr Toad
- In the original Disney’s Halloween Treat, it ended with a clip from “Ichabod and Mr. Toad” (1949).
- This film covered two stories: The Wind and the Willows, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.
- In this clip, we see the thrilling end of Ichabod Crane. It starts with an edited version of the ghost story scene, narrated and sung by Bing Crosby. It then cuts to Ichabod cautiously riding home in the dark before being attacked by the Headless Horseman. It ends just as the story does, with the image of a shattered pumpkin on the bridge of souls.
This is how the original special ended, and it’s how we will end our Halloween special as well! Happy Halloween, everyone!
See you tomorrow. Maybe.
This week we’re continuing our Disney Halloween with a double feature! Both of these films were part of the Magical World of Disney or The Wonderful World of Disney, an anthology series that started in 1954. These films are: Mr Boogedy and Bride of Boogedy!
So far we’ve done episodes about witches, the boogeyman, and even unexplained alien forces! This week, however, we are focusing on the most classic type of monster: ghosts! Humans have believed in ghosts since the beginning of history. Spirits of the dead appear in folklore across the world, and many people still believe in ghosts today!
According to a 2013 poll, 45% of Americans say they believe in ghosts. The endearing quality of a good ghost story comes from the fact that most people have experienced something that they can’t explain. Telling these stories connects us and is a lot of fun. Some experts believe that we want ghosts to be real because we long for a connection to the past and the people that come before us. And of course, if we know the history of a place, humans can make connections that aren’t there.
I found a Scientific American article that lays out some possible explanations for ghosts. They explored explanations for the physical sensations we identify with a supernatural presence, like low frequency sound or mold.
In a BBC article, Tok Thompson suggests that ghost stories remind people that ethics transcend our own lives and teach us to live well. Ghost stories can be hopeful, showing us that there is life beyond death and that for some, there is a chance for redemption.
That being said, let’s talk about Mr. Boogedy, a ghost of questionable morality.
Making Mr. Boogedy
- Airing in April of 1986, Mr. Boogedy was a short film for the anthology series: Wonderful World of Disney. At the time, Wonderful World of Disney was called, “Disney’s Sunday Movie.”
- The movie was directed by Oz Scott
- Wikipedia cited The Encyclopedia of Television Pilots in saying that Mr. Boogedy was a failed TV pilot. I could not get ahold of this book to confirm this, but I did read that there was talk of making a TV show from the movie, though never formally.
- The movie was originally called, “Cheap Thrills” and was meant to be an airplane-style parody horror film. Script writer Michael Janover initially intended for the film to star Cheech and Chong. The humor was drastically changed when Disney picked up the project instead of Columbia Pictures.
- In the original script, there was one son. Janover added a second so that he could name the sons after his wife’s grandsons.
- Janover was inspired to use the word “Boogedy” after seeing the film “Cat’s Eye.” One character in that film taunts another by shouting “Boogedy” at him while he attempts to walk across the top of a skyscraper.
- The movie was shot on Disney’s backlot and only took about 12-15 days to film!
- Rick Stratton is the make-up artist that was behind the hideous mask of Mr. Boogedy, which didn’t even fit the face of the actor. He said he had very little to work with, and the mold they gave him was a for a mask of a burn victim
- The Davis’s, a family of five, move into a home in Lucifer Falls. Carlton Davis owns a joke shop called “Gag City,” and is constantly playing tricks on his kids and wife, Eloise. When the family arrives at their new home, they are spooked when they meet Neil Witherspoon, the town historian. Mr. Witherspoon warns the family about The Boogedy Man, an evil ghost that haunts the house.
- As time goes on, the children start to see unexplained phenomena that they initially write-off as tricks from their dad’s shop. Eventually, the family begins to see ghosts from colonial times, including Mr. Boogedy himself!
- The children, concerned about their new home, head to town and ask Mr. Witherspoon about the house’s history. He tells them the story of William Hanover, a pilgrim who would scare local children by shouting, “Boogedy!”
- Hanover fell in love with a widow named Marian, and sold his soul to the devil in order to obtain a magic cloak. He planned to use the cloak to trap Marian into marrying him, but instead he destroyed his home with Marian and her sick child still inside. All three of them died and now haunt the Davis’ home, since it was built in the same location.
- The children’s parents are slow to believe this story until Eloise encounters the ghost of Marian herself, and learns of the evil deeds of Mr. Boogedy. The family realizes they must band together and destroy Mr. Boogedy’s cloak in order to get rid of him and bring the ghosts peace.
- Richard Masur as Carlton Davis
- Still acting today, he has had a pretty successful career playing character roles in TV shows.
- He has had a lot of roles including a part in “The Thing” in 1982, as well as Bill Montgomery in “Orange if the New Black,” and he also played Edward L L Moore on “Younger” (this was a parody of George R R Martin)
- He also played Stanley in the 1990 TV mini-series IT.
- Mimi Kennedy as Eloise Davis
- Mimi Kennedy is also still acting and finds steady work as a TV actress.
- Kennedy currently has a recurring role as the character Marjorie on the TV series “Mom”
- She was also a regular on Dharma and Greg as Abby O’Neal.
- Benji Gregory as Aurie Davis (the youngest boy)
- No longer an actor, Gregory’s last film credit is “Once Upon a Forest,” a 2D animated film from Hanna-Barbara.
- He had a role in the movie “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” but is most known as Brian Tanner for the show “Alf”
- David Faustino as Corwin Davis
- David Faustino is well-known for playing Bud Bundy on the show “Married…With Children”; he has been in The Young and the Restless, and he’s in a new show called “Hollywould”
- In recent years he has done a lot of voice work, for example he is the voice of Mako in “The Legend of Korra”
- Apparently, Joaquin Phoenix auditioned for this role!
- Kristy Swanson as Jennifer Davis
- Kristy Swanson still acts today, she is in an upcoming film about sex trafficking called, “A Parent’s Worst Nightmare”
- She played Buffy in the 1992 movie “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
- She also was in several episodes of “Psych” as Marlowe Viccellio
- Howard Witt as Mr. Boogedy
- Howard Witt played a lot of bit parts on TV shows like “The Golden Girls” “Murder She Wrote” “Taxi” “Hill Street Blues” and “Simon & Simon”
- He passed away in 2017 at the age of 85
- John Astin as Neil Witherspoon
- Most known for his role as Gomez Adams in the original show and in the 1992 version as well of “The Addams Family”
- He also played Radford in Eerie, Indiana (which connects him to Omri Katz, Max from Hocus Pocus)
- He has done a lot of voice work for shows such as “Recess”, “Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man”, and “The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat”
- He is also the adopted father of Sean Astin
The Bride of Boogedy
- One year after “Mr. Boogedy” aired, Disney followed it with a full-length movie sequel!
- Benji Gregory, Kristy Swanson, and John Astin were all unable to reprise their roles, and were re-cast.
- Tammy Lauren played Jennifer Davis
- Tammy Lauren is known for “The Young and the Restless” and as Holly on “Mork and Mindy”
- Joshua Rudoy played Aurie Davis
- He was also in “Harry and the Hendersons”
- Leonard Frey played Walter Witherspoon, Neil Witherspoon’s apparent brother
- Leonard Frey was in TV shows such as “Mr. Smith,” “Best of the West,” and “Mr. Sunshine”
- He also played Motel the timid tailor in “Fiddler on the Roof”
- Mr. Boogedy was his last credit, as he unfortunately passed away one year later at the age of 49 due to complications with AIDS
- This movie also introduced a new character, the grouchy Tom Lynch, played by Eugene Levy! We know him from the American Pie series, and more recently “Schitt’s Creek”
- It’s been about a year since The Davis Family has defeated the evil Mr. Boogedy by stealing his magic cloak. Now, the Davis children are sensing that he will return for revenge! Carlton and Eloise decide to use a fake seance to convince the kids that Mr. Boogedy is gone for good. But, things go wrong and they accidentally awake his spirit.
- Mr. Boogedy possesses Carlton, and tries to use him to get his cloak. When this doesn’t work, he uses Tom Lynch instead.
- All this is happening on the backdrop of “Lucy Fest,” the town’s big celebration. When Mr. Boogedy ultimately returns, he tries to steal away Eloise, believing she is his bride Marian.
We’re in week three of our Disney Halloween series! This week we’re talking about the 1980 film “The Watcher in the Woods.” This is a supernatural, sci-fi thriller set in England.
The story preys on two classic fears: The Woods, and being watched. I know it sounds silly when you think of that and the title of the movie, but it’s true. There are a lot of supernatural ties to the woods. It’s a place where many feel close to nature, but it’s also a place that holds terrifying tales of people losing their way and never being seen again.
When we’re in the woods, we feel small. The trees tower over us, and the foliage blinds us from seeing long distances. Even if we venture in alone, we know we are surrounded by so many unseen animals and insects. So, the belief that there are mythical beasts or wandering spirits in the woods has been around for centuries. This is why the woods are a great place to tell scary stories. Even when we sit around the campfire, we’re not safe. We can be seen, but we can’t see beyond the flames.
The other fear is being watched by an unknown person or thing. This is also known as scopophobia. We use the threat of observance to trick children into behaving; we tell them that Santa or his elves are watching every move they make. None of us like to feel that we are being watched, and it gives us a strange and creepy feeling, much like most of this film.
- Near the end of the 70’s moviegoers seemed to want more mature content. Disney decided that they wanted to begin dipping into this latest craze. They began with The Black Hole (a sci-fi space adventure) and then proceeded with The Watcher in the Woods. Both of these films were meant to be PG in order to attract the audience to their new direction. The Watchers producer Tom Leetch had told the head of the studio Ron Miller that “This could be our Exorcist.”
- It is based on a book by Florence Engel Randall which was turned into a screenplay by Brian Clemens. Later though, Disney decided Clemen’s version delved too much into darkness and so they had revisions done by Harry Spalding, Rosemary Anne Sisson, and Gerry Day.
- There are small differences, like Jan finds exes in mirrors instead of triangles
- The presence in the woods reaches out to Jan’s father and shows him why its trapped
- Instead of using Karen’s friends, it’s Mrs. Aylwood, Jan, and Ellie that have to complete a “triad of power” to bring Karen back
- The biggest difference is that the book ends before the seance with the girls heading into the woods. There is a cliff-hanger that doesn’t get resolved.
- An American family moves to the British countryside with their two daughters Jan and Ellie. The family encounters Mrs. Aylwood, an old woman plagued by the mysterious disappearance of her daughter Karen 30 years ago. Jan and Ellie start to notice strange happenings in the house. Ellie hears whispers and music that she assumes comes from Jan, while Jan keeps seeing the image of a young girl trapped in mirrors.
- Jan learns that Karen disappeared during an eclipse, and that one is about to happen again. She tracks down everyone who might know what happened the night of her disappearance and demands answers.
- When Ellie becomes possessed by The Watcher, an unseen entity that has been communicating through her, Jan plans to hold a seance and bring Karen back.
- Bette Davis as Mrs. Aylwood the mother of missing Karen
- A very famous leading lady among those in Hollywood
- One of her most famous roles being 1962’s drama What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
- The release of this movie was to be set with Bette Davis’s 50th anniversary in the motion picture business which rushed the production of the films ending.
- This was her 85th feature film
- She had expressed interest in playing a young Mrs. Aylwood and the present day Mrs. Aylwood. John Hough therefore shot the scenes with her wearing makeup but afterward he privately told Davis that the scenes just didn’t work because nobody would believe she was in her forties. She reportedly then looked him in the eye and told him “You’re goddamned right.”
- Lynn-Holly Johnson as Jan Curtis
- The part was announced publicly to originally be portrayed by Diane Lane but ended up being Lynn-Holly
- She rose to fame by her figure skating in the mid 70’s which led to her first movie Ice Castles where she plays a partially blind skater who is trying to make it to the Olympics.
- Kyle Richards as Ellie Curtis
- She was a young child star that had a recurring role in Little House on the Prairie
- She now is known for her tv personality on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills since 2010.
- Carroll Baker as mother Helen Curtis
- The now retired actress who had roles that ranged from innocent to bold which allowed her to be classified as a pin-up and a serious actress.
- David McCallum as father Paul Curtis
- Known now as Ducky from NCIS
- Ian Bannen as Karen’s friend John Keller
- Richard Pasco as Karen’s friend Tom Colley
- Frances Cuka as Karen’s friend Mary Fleming
- Benedict Taylor as Jan’s love interest Mike Fleming
Making of the Movie:
- Directed by John Hough and Vincent McEveety, The Watcher in the Woods was filmed at Pinewood Studios in England
- After it’s premier in New York in 1980, it was pulled from theatres after 10 days because of the overwhelmingly negative reviews
- When Disney pulled the film from theatres, they replaced it with Mary Poppins and re-shot the final scenes
- In the original version, the film shows a physical depiction of the Watcher, a horrifying monster that wraps itself around Jan and transports her to a different dimension
- Audiences hated the apparently unfinished graphics and practical effect of the watcher
- The original ending was also confusing, making the story more clunky and hard to explain. We find that the watcher is an alien that suspended Karen in time and space when it was accidentally transported to our world in its place
- In this version we also get an explanation of the Watcher, a creature from another dimension that “turns people into negative images”
- In the new version, we don’t see any of this. The watcher appears as a beam of light. Jan disappears, and then reappears with Karen. The scene ends there with no explanation and we don’t see the reunification of Karen and her mother.
- The film also had an alternate beginning, with a girl playing with a doll in the woods. The watcher scares the girl, causing her to drop the doll and run away. There’s a burst of light that catches the doll on fire and the titles play over the melting doll’s face
- An executive at Disney refused to allow the original beginning to be released on the DVD because it wasn’t in line with Disney’s brand
- Many of the filming locations were used in “The Haunting” based on the book by Shirley Jackson. You might know this story, as it was adapted for a Netflix show as “The Haunting of Hill House”
- The movie was re-made in 2017 for Lifetime. It was directed by Melissa Joan Hart and Angelica Huston played the role of Mrs. Aylwood
Don’t Look Under the Bed is a Disney Channel Original movie that aired October 9th, 1999. Many people have expressed that this is one of the scariest movies to come from Disney channel, so we thought it would be perfect for our month of Disney Halloween!
The History of the Boogeyman
- The Boogeyman (or Bogeyman, Boogie Man etc) has appeared in almost every culture around the world. It is most commonly a creature that scares or punishes misbehaving children. In some cases, the Boogeyman is a ghost or spirit, and in others he/she is a demon.
- Because it exists everywhere, the boogeyman remains to be one of the most frightening creatures of all time. Almost every version lurks in the shadows, has terrifying eyes, and preys on disobedient children.
- The first recorded use of the Boogeyman was in the 16th century, though historians believe it may have been around before that.
- The name could have come from the old English word Bugge which means “something frightening” and the name Boogeyman is related to “Bugbear” which is a goblin in the form of a bear that eats children!
- It also may have come from Bogill (Bowgill or Bohgill) which is also known as a Boggart or Bogie. This is a scottish word, so I asked our friend Siobhan Clark at Myth, Legends, and Lore podcast for help on how to pronounce those words.
- It’s also possible that The Boogeyman was originally thought of as a Hobgoblin, which are creatures more likely to spook people and play pranks. In some media, The Boogeyman is a terrifying being with the ability to scare humans to death. In others, it is a spooky nuisance that generally causes mayhem that only children experience.
- This is more like what happens in “Don’t Look Under the Bed”
The Making of the Movie
- Don’t Look Under the Bed was directed by Kenneth Johnson, who also directed Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century.
- It got the rare PG rating for a DCOM
- When the film got a PG rating, the filmmakers had to attend a lot of meetings where they had to be certain that the film was scary, but not too scary. After it aired, Disney got angry letters from viewers, accusing them of making the movie too scary.
- The original Boogeyman was a dark creature with feathers, resembling a crow. It would be shadowy, and you would mostly only be able to see its eyes.
- The production team decided that would be too frightening, so they went back to the roots of The Boogeyman and used old English drawings of the creature for inspiration.
- They also decided that he would speak in rhyming couplets to make his dialogue seem more light-hearted
- Frances is a young teenager and gifted student, dealing with entering high school before all of her friends since she has skipped a grade. Frances is sensible and straightforward, and looks at the world from a logical perspective. She doesn’t want to appear childish to her peers or parents, and was forced to grow up quickly after her younger brother was diagnosed with cancer.
- The story begins with a series of practical jokes from clocks being turned ahead to an egging of a teacher’s car. As the youngest person in her class, Frances becomes an easy target for blame.
- As these strange occurrences keep happening, Frances meets Larry, an imaginary friend who explains that everything is being caused by The Boogeyman. Larry and Frances team up to stop the boogeyman from destroying her reputation.
- The movie focuses on an interesting idea: what happens to your imaginary friend when you stop believing in them? It covers the issue of children being forced to grow up before they were emotionally ready, and how a lot of circumstances are out of their control
- The original ending of the movie involved Frances and Larry using the “temptrifuge” to kill the Boogeyman. This ending was re-written because they wanted the solution to come from within Frances, not an outside source or weapon.
- At the end of the movie, there’s a kiss between Larry and Frances. Disney called the director concerned that an inter-racial kiss on screen during a Disney movie would make certain affiliates angry, but the director didn’t want to budge. He felt the kiss is an important moment for Frances because it was Larry’s way of showing her that she isn’t a child, and it’s her moment of stepping into adolescence.
- Kenneth Johnson cited this as the most rewarding part of directing the movie.
- Erin Chambers as Frances Bacon McCausland
- Erin Chambers was 20 when the movie was filmed, though her character is young enough to be in 8th grade.
- Ty Hodges as Larry Houdini
- Interestingly enough, Ty Hodges also played another character named Larry on Even Stevens.
- Steve Valentine as The Boogeyman
- Rachel Kimsey as Zoe
- She is also known for voicing Wonder Woman in a lot of different projects.
- Jake Sakson as Darwin
- Stephen Toblowsky as Michael McCausland
- Also known for roles in Smart Guy and The Goldbergs.
- Robin Riker as Karen McCausland
- After many complaints, Disney stopped airing the film on the network initially, though it has aired on there many times since and it available on streaming services.
- The movie was filmed in Utah, with the scene under the bed being a set built in Salt Lake City.
- Since its airing, this movie has appeared on many “Best of” lists for Disney Channel Original Movies. It’s often cited as the scariest. Many people find its imagery and plot more intense than other PG DCOM’s such as Halloweentown.
Today we’re kicking off our month of Disney Halloween movies with the live-action classic: Hocus Pocus!
- Now, before we start talking about Halloween movies, let’s talk about what Halloween is and where it came from
- There is a scene very early in Hocus Pocus where Allison schools Max on the origin of the holiday, after he says that it was a conspiracy made up by the candy companies.
- There is no doubt that Halloween has been commercialized, but it didn’t start out that way. Halloween started with the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is the Irish word for November. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st. This meant the beginning of winter, a time associated with death and loss. Because October 31st was the last night before the new year, they believed that the border between the living world and the world of the dead would weaken and that souls could pass through.
- Allison tells Max that Halloween came from All Hallows Eve, but the incorporation of this name came much later when Pope Gregory III moved the feast for all martyrs and saints to November 1st. All Saints Day is also known as All Hallows, hence October 31st having the name Halloween from All Hallows Eve.
The history of the Salem Witch Trials
- Another important topic that we should touch on is the Salem witch trials. In 1692, a group of young girls in Salem Village Massachusetts claimed to be possessed by the devil and several local women became accused of performing witchcraft. A special court convened to hear the cases, and consequently 19 people were hanged, 7 people died in jail, and one elderly man was pressed to death by stones. As the months went on, about 150 men, women, and children were accused of witchcraft.
- The opening sequence of Hocus Pocus takes place in 1693. According to History.com, the public hysteria of the Salem witch trials began to fade by the fall of 1692, one year earlier than the film.
The Story of Hocus Pocus
- Producer David Kirschner revealed that the story for Hocus Pocus started as a bedtime story for his two daughters. Kirschner wrote the story and submitted it to Muppet Magazine. The story was well-received, so Kirschner submitted it to Disney.
- He added some personal details from his childhood, naming the cat Binx, after his own cat Inks
- When he and Mick Garis pitched the story to Disney, they made a big production by spelling out October 31st in candy corn on the conference table
- Disney called in Kenny Ortega, who had been offered the chance to direct Newsies (1992) and asked him to direct Hocus Pocus as well.
- Originally the film was called “Disney’s Halloween House”
- Three-hundred years ago in Salem, the Sanderson Sisters would stay young by sucking the lives out of children in the town. When they go after Elizabeth Binx, her older brother Thackery fails to stop them. Just before the witches are hanged, they cast a spell that will bring them back in 300 years, when a virgin will light their black flamed candle.
- In present day Salem (1993) Max, a skeptical teenage boy lights the candle to prove that there is no such thing as witches. To his surprise, he resurrects the evil sisters and must keep them from killing all the children of Salem before the sun rises on November 1st.
- Bette Midler plays the lead witch and oldest sister, Winnifred Sanderson.
- To help Midler with her dialogue, she had people read to her from dictionaries containing old curse words. She would use these insults in the film when yelling at her “thundering oafs” masquerading as sisters
- Earlier this year, we did an episode about movie musicals and referenced Bette Midler’s role in “Gypsy.” Well, she referenced the role in Hocus Pocus as she takes the stage to sing “I Put a Spell on You.” She declares, “My name is Winnifred, what’s yours?” In Gypsy she said, “Hello everybody, my name is Rose, what’s yours?”
- Bette Midler reportedly loved playing Winnifred and said she would play her forever if she could. But, she didn’t love the flying rigs, and thought they were painful on her back.
- Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson
- Kathy Najimy had recently found fame for her role in Sister Act alongside Whoopi Goldburg when she played Mary Sanderson
- The role of Mary was offered to Rosie O’Donnell who ended up turning it down
- She took inspiration from a bloodhound, and that is why her character “sniffs out” children in the film
- Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson
- Sarah Jessica did her own singing for the role! She was incredibly nervous to sing around Bette Midler, and they even had the same singing coach!
- Sarah Jessica also tried out a lot of different voices for her role, attempting to sound sultry but also unintelligent. We think she nailed it.
- She stated in an interview that she believes that Sarah is the most evil of the sisters, as she naturally loves to torture and harm others while the other sisters learned their evil over time
- Omri Katz as Max Dennison
- The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio, who was a rising star in 1993. He turned the role down and it went to Omri Katz
- Katz was 17 when he played the role, and had starred in the TV show Eerie, Indiana. He has since retired from acting
- Vinessa Shaw as Allison
- Shaw was the same age as Katz while filming the movie, and she said that they had a great time on set. Her favorite memory was that the kids from home improvement were on the same lot and they would all spend time together
- Thora Birch as Dani Dennison
- Thora Birch was 10 when she was cast as Dani, and Kenny Ortega still considers her to be one of the most intuitive young actresses he’s worked with
- She later revealed that she had a very hard time with the multiple black cats that played Binx on set. Even though her character loved Binx, training cats is incredibly difficult and they never quite knew what would come out of a scene with the cats.
- Birch also admits she had a crush on Sean Murray who played the human version of Binx. I mean, didn’t everyone?
- Sean Murray and Jason Marden as Thackery Binx
- Sean Murray played the human version of the beloved cat Binx in the opening and closing scenes of the film. When Binx was a cat, he was voiced by prominent voice actor and 90s sitcom regular Jason Marsden. Later on, filmmakers even dubbed Marsden’s voice over Murray’s in the human sequences so his voice sounded the same the entire time
- Sean Murray is known for NCIS
- The cat was played by real-life cats but also some animatronic cats, with a little bit of CGI
- Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson
- Doug Jones is a well-respected character actor who plays the zombie Billy. When Billy loses his head in the movie, they had a stunt-woman walking around as Billy’s body
- In the scene where he cuts open his mouth, those are real moths that come flying out. Originally he was supposed to call Bette Midler a bitch in that scene, but he changed the line to “Wench! Trollop! You Buck-toothed, mop-riding, firefly from hell!”
- Gary and Penny Marshall as Satan and his wife
- Gary Marshall frequently showed up in his own movies, and even though he didn’t direct this one, he appeared alongside his sister Penny in one hilarious scene as a man dressed as the devil
The Making of the Movie
- The Sanderson sisters had a much bigger role in the film before editing. Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker both revealed in interviews that the film was edited to be a different film than what they shot. There were several scenes with the sisters that had been cut from the film, presumably because Disney wanted the film to be more family friendly and for the children to be the main characters.
- The budget on the film was small, so the costume designers re-used old Disney costumes from other live-action features, especially for the town hall dance scene. Some of these movies are old Disney films that Adam and Robin watched recently as we quietly try to watch every Disney live-action film
- The film makers went to Salem to research the film, and the opening scenes were shot in Massachusetts. Max’s house is a real house that they took exterior shots of. Allison’s house is also a museum in Salem. But, the majority of the movie was filmed on a sound-stage in California. Kinda funny how the bullies make fun of Max by calling him “Hollywood”, huh?
- Well-known stunt coordinators and engineers used rigs in order for the three witches to fly throughout the movie. While flying was fun for some, it was painful for others. The scenes were tough to coordinate, but gave the film a very real feel. Thora Birch was delighted to be the only child in the movie that got to do flying stunts
- This was Kenny Ortega’s second film, since he started in the industry as a dancer and choreographer, he wanted there to be a fluidity in the movie. He choreographed the musical number, but also just the regular scenes.
- Bette Midler pointed out that she had never acted as part of a “trio” before, and liked that she felt as if she was part of a unit instead of a single actor.
- The score for the film was incredible and was done by John Debney with a little help from the well-known composer James Horner. Horner wrote the melody for “Come Little Children” and the lyrics were written by Brock Walsh who also wrote the chants used in spells in the film as well. The song can be heard three times in the movie, though there is one prominent scene where Sarah sings it as she flies through the sky.
- The movie opened in July of 1993, and it completely flopped. Much like Newsies, Ortega’s film from the summer before, it became a cult classic. Honestly, even more than a cult classic. The film has reached insane levels of popularity since its release.