Easter Eggs, Witch – The Hollywood Reporter

[The following story contains spoilers from Hocus Pocus 2.]

When the team behind Hocus Pocus 2 decided to embark upon a sequel to the beloved Halloween film, they faced the challenge of trying to figure out how to capture what people loved about the original movie while not repeating the same story from 1993.

“It’s a constant pull,” director Anne Fletcher told The Hollywood Reporter at the Hocus Pocus 2 premiere in New York last month. “You’re thinking as you’re developing the script and putting it up on its feet and creating the sets, the costumes, the cast. You’re constantly thinking what would fans love to see, what would feel too repetitious, what would be just the right amount of spice that the fans would love, so it was constantly on my mind. And I think we balanced things out in the perfect space, just all of the things we loved about the witches and a little bit more.”

Writer Jen D’Angelo, who scripted the screenplay for the sequel, used her Hocus Pocus fandom and own experience with fraught high-school friendships and love of spooky stuff to inform her take.

“I definitely just thought of, ‘What do I love about the original?’ It’s the Sanderson sisters, it’s the spooky fun, it’s the unexpected emotion,” D’Angelo told THR. “I cry still every time when Thackery [Binx] turns back into a boy at the end [of the first film], so that was what I was really going for: that campy fun, that fun spookiness and also the unexpected surprising part in the center of the story.”

For executive producer Adam Shankman, keeping the Sanderson sisters front and center was key.

“I always kept in my mind that the three witches are the heart and soul of it, and they’re the Three Stooges,” he told THR at the Hocus Pocus 2 premiere. “And if we just make sure that that’s kept in balance, there’s a whole world that we can make around them as long as they come to life exactly where they were when they stopped. And they have an entirely new set of challenges and an entirely new digital world that they get to face.”

In addition to coming back from the dead once again, via the black flame candle, Winnie (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) Sanderson are given their own backstory as viewers get to see a younger version of the trio and how they developed their powers.

Midler told THR of the sequel’s approach and how it was determined what to focus on, “I think they were very careful in crafting what it was that people liked. I know that what they loved was that the three of us were always together and that our bond was very deep. They wanted us to have a backstory because people used to say, often, ‘What’s the story? Why did this happen to them? And who were they before?’ and I think they did a very good job.”

In addition to taking viewers back to the 17th century, Fletcher and D’Angelo brought the story forward having the Sanderson sisters confront another trio of girls who have a similar bond.

For D’Angelo the theme of sisterhood came from her own teenage experiences.

“It really goes back to what is the version of the movie that I would want to see when I was younger. And I really felt like it was really important to do a story about teen girl friendships,” D’Angelo said. “The big issue Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) and Becca (Whitney Peak) are having is something I went through with my friends in high school, and I just remember you would have these arguments with your friends because you didn’t know how to communicate. I just felt like that was a really important story to share with people to show a real strong friendship going through struggle and coming out even stronger on the other side.”

Peak’s Becca doesn’t just emerge from her battle with the witches stronger, she’s even revealed to be a witch herself, as her palms illuminate with purple light as she discovers her power after turning 16.

Peak called that moment “very exciting” but also fitting with how her character has grown up.

“I think for her in her life, she’s had to take control of a lot of things and be very independent and mature at a very young age,” Peak told THR. “And so for that to kind of happen to her just really puts her to the test a little bit and strengthens her bonds with her friends and really reassures her of who she is as a person and kind of why everything in her life has been the way it is. So it’s that kind of a-ha moment. Everything happens for a reason. Suddenly things in my life make sense.”

D’Angelo said Becca learning of her magical abilities was “pure wish fulfillment.”

“I was really into spooky stuff when I was growing up,” the writer told THR. “In high school, my friends and I would play with a Ouija board all the time. We loved Halloween stuff. So she’s kind of based on me a little bit, wanting to be involved in witchcraft and finding that all really interesting, and then it’s pure wish fulfillment.”

Fletcher connects the present day storyline to the prequel elements of the film saying that Becca’s discovery “was in the script and I just pushed it a little further.”

“We just had fun with it because we had a prequel where we got a lot of background story of how and why any of this happened to the witches, and I wanted to thread it into modern day,” Fletcher said. “It sort of lent itself elegantly, in the development of the script, to sort of reflect our three teenagers through the Sanderson sisters.”

Shankman praised Fletcher’s depiction of Becca’s storyline and suggested it could hint at future projects in the Hocus Pocus universe.

“Anne I think handled that really, really beautifully,” Shankman said of Becca’s discovery. “We went back and forth on how that was going to work, if it was going to work, forever, and Anne was just like, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ And I think it’s great. And it creates a lot of excitement about potential spinoffs.”

The first movie does exist in the world of the sequel, Fletcher confirms, when asked about Hocus Pocus 2‘s meta moment where Winnie flies by a house and sees people watching the first film on TV, specifically the scene where the witches interrupt the Halloween evening of a bickering couple played by the late Garry and Penny Marshall.

“In the movie there’s a Sanderson sister contest, there is obviously an original movie. I wanted to be cheeky and fun,” Fletcher said. “Watching it with the audience, because we’ve had a lot of test audiences, they loved it because it’s a little kiss, a nod to the first movie. We’re paying homage to it as well as doing something completely new. The fact that it was Garry and Penny means so much more in that moment as well.”

For producer Lynn Harris, the significance of the sequel goes beyond the two pairs of sisters in the sequel to the larger concept of strength in numbers.

“At the end it’s very much about, we’re stronger together than we are individually, and I think that’s — it’s Hocus Pocus so I don’t want to get too deep — but that’s a good message for everybody, whether it’s sisters in blood or sisters in theory, whether it’s a chosen family or real family, we have to stick together,” Harris said.

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