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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Disney Deep Dive: “Aren’t you broads a little old to be trick or treating?”

The powers that be at Disney could finally breathe a sigh of relief; Bette Midler’s final contracturally obligated film role had wrapped ahead of time and under budget. The relief was shortlived, however, when the company realized that it had two Halloween themed movies on deck for a 1993 release- Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas. When it became obvious that The Lion King would not be completed in time for its original Thanksgiving Holiday 1993 release date, the company flirted with the idea of releasing the stop motion animated feature The Nightmare Before Christmas in the Thanksgiving Holiday slot (after all, while the film is about the pumpkin king, it does take place at Christmas) and giving Halloween over to Hocus Pocus. It seemed like a great idea.

But this was Hollywood, and while Disney has often played by its own rules instead of following Hollywood tradition, it was still made up of people who had rather large egos. And then Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg had one of the biggest egos around. He had taken much credit for Disney’s animated resurgence, taking an active role in the production of each release. He’d had little involvement with The Nightmare Before Christmas and feared that its quirky and macabre storyline would not produce the large box office grosses his animated pictures received. The first big decision made was to remove the Disney name from The Nightmare Before Christmas since the picture was seen as being too “scary” and “adult”. Of course, that didn’t mean that the film couldn’t be released over Thanksgiving. The studio, however, decided that releasing the film on The Lion King’s previous release date would still tie the film to Disney Animation, which they wanted to avoid. So The Nightmare Before Christmas got the Halloween release date.

That left Hocus Pocus without a home. The company decided to release its Halloween themed film in the middle of summer as counter programming to Jurassic Park. The project that had been plucked from the relative obscurity of The Disney Channel was doomed to failure by the same company that had been so excited about it just a year before. The film was largely ignored and was destined to fade into obscurity. But this wouldn’t be the last we’d see of the Sanderson Sisters- not by a long shot. These evil sisters would be saved from the depths of the Disney vault by their fervent fans.