This past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Though I’ve been to many separately ticketed WDW events, including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“snow” on Main Street, U.S.A.? UM, YES PLEASE), this was my first time at the Halloween event. And even cooler? I was among the first to see the brand-new Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular stage show live, in person, as an attendee of the MNSSHP Media Night.
I admit I was a little nervous before the show started. Hocus Pocus is one of my favorite movies from my childhood – I mean, I was eight when it came out, the same age as Thora Birch’s character Dani – and it still remains one of my favorite Halloween movies of all time, if not my number one. So when the announcement was made that it was being adapted into a live stage show for MNSSHP, I bit my nails in extreme yet hesitant excitement. Some things just belong in the past, you know?
But Denise Case, Show Director of Creative Entertainment for Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, put any worry of mine to rest when she told me that Disney Parks has been wanting to bring the Sanderson sisters to MNSSHP for a while now – and that the hardest part of helping create the show was keeping it a secret! When I asked what the inspiration behind theming this new show around Hocus Pocus was to begin with, Case shared that she has two teenage daughters who grew up watching the movie, and as a fan of the movie herself she finally saw the perfect opportunity to bring its magic to Walt Disney World.
“I know [the Sanderson sisters] have a huge following, and they’re our witches, and they’re a bunch of fun! They’re such fun girls,” Case said. “And they just really leant themselves beautifully to mixing in with villains.”
And I’m happy to report that, for the following reasons and more, the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular show not only met but exceeded my wildest expectations. Be warned that there are spoilers ahead!
It was cast flawlessly
This was probably the aspect of the show I was most excited yet nervous to discover. How would the cast fare against the original Sanderson sisters? Would they do the characters justice?
The reality is that the women who were chosen to portray Winifred (“Winnie”), Mary, and Sarah would make Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker proud. From their signature group walk to their individual movements and mannerisms, to their accents and the inflection in their voices, they nail the Sanderson sisters – particularly the actress playing Winnie, who must be either Midler’s long-lost twin sister or clone. Watching these women invoke the spirit of the Sanderson sisters was like going back in time 22 years, and I felt eight years old again for the 20 minutes the show lasted.
Of the casting, Case said chemistry among the sisters was a big ingredient in what they were looking for. “It’s family,” she noted. “And we had to make sure that family felt complete.”
It includes both blatant and subtle nods to the film (AND THE SONGS ARE THERE!)
While the show possesses obvious inclusions from the events of Hocus Pocus (“AMOK, AMOK, AMOK!”), there are just as many if not more subtle ones for the fan who has seen the movie approximately 218473 times (ahem). I was grinning like a crazy person and singing along, nudging my husband throughout the show while we exchanged open-mouthed expressions that clearly said, “OMG, I can’t believe they included that little detail!”
And as easy as it would’ve been for a company as huge as Disney to advertise the show as Hocus Pocus-inspired and not run with it fully, that isn’t what happened. They committed – and it showed.
“We’re hoping that, when fans see the [Sanderson] sisters for the first time, that they’re excited,” Case said. “That it’s as if Mary, Sarah, and Winifred are right here on stage. And I think their personalities, and the relationship that they have with each other as sisters, definitely comes out in this show.”
Also, we all know the show would be incomplete without Winnie’s rendition of “I Put a Spell on You.” That’s definitely in there (how could it not be?), but Sarah’s lesser-known “Come Little Children” also makes a nice surprise appearance. And the women playing both Winnie and Sarah have got some pipes.
It spotlights lesser-appreciated villains and their criminally underrated songs
I don’t think I can drive home enough how much my New Orleans-bred self flailed around when Doctor Facilier from The Princess and the Frog got his own song-and-dance number. The show only spotlights two villain songs, and Doctor Facilier’s rarely talked-about “Friends on the Other Side” is one of them. This, paired with the Sanderson sisters dancing around and singing along, may have been the highlight of the show for me. I’ll take all the PATF love I can get – especially when paired with Hocus Pocus.
Another Disney villain who is overlooked fairly often is Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it was amazing not only to see his character out and about for a Disney Halloween event, but performing his song from the movie – the aptly yet simply dubbed “Oogie Boogie’s Song.”
Tons of other more well-known Disney villains – including Maleficent, Captain Hook, Lady Tremaine, and Cruella De Vil — show up to the party, but the two aforementioned are the only ones to get their own musical segments, and it makes my heart happy. The only thing that would’ve made it better was somehow getting someone into a Scar costume to perform “Be Prepared,” because that is my favorite villain song. But it’s Florida and still like 90 degrees outside, so I forgive them for not making someone do that. The poor person in Oogie Boogie’s costume probably had a hard-enough time.
It’s a seamless pairing of ’90s nostalgia and 2010s Disney magic
As an adult Disney fan, it’s sometimes hard to walk around the parks and not see some of my favorite attractions from when I was a kid. I look back on photos of my childhood, and have such great memories riding the Skyway; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage; Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride; and more – and with so much new stuff to see, sometimes I feel disconnected from my youth more than I’d like.
The Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular show gave me some of my childhood back, and for that I owe so much to both the fans of the movie who made it possible for Disney Parks to even consider using it as a show theme and the creative team who pulled it together. Seeing current villains, new choreography, and a fresh script paired with a film from a time in my life I cherish dearly gave me an experience I’ll never forget — and I can’t wait to watch the show again.
If you can’t get to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this year, fear not – you can still see the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular show in all its glory below. Good luck with not watching it over and over again!
(Images via Disney Parks)