Why Disney Producing Hocus Pocus Disappointed Steven Spielberg

Why Disney Producing Hocus Pocus Disappointed Steven Spielberg

According to Hocus Pocus writer and producer David Kirschner, Steven Spielberg was upset that he didn’t get to opportunity to make the film.

Steven Spielberg was reportedly upset that he didn’t get the opportunity to make Hocus PocusHocus Pocus is a 1993 Disney film starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Thora Birch, and Omri Katz. The film centers on Max, his little sister Dani, and their new friend Allison who accidentally free a trio of evil witches that must be stopped before they gain immortality. The film is considered a childhood classic by many but didn’t make a huge splash upon release.

One of Hocus Pocus‘ writers and producers, David Kirschner, got his big break with the 1986 animated film An American Tail, which follows a young Russian mouse who becomes separated from his family while emigrating to the United States, setting him on a journey to find them. Spielberg saw the potential in An American Tail and championed its production as an executive producer. Thanks to Spielberg, An American Tail became a success as the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time, kicking off a franchise and Kirschner’s career in Hollywood.

In an interview with The Wrap, Kirschner reveals that Spielberg’s producing partner at the time, Kathleen Kennedy, approached him at a party and informed him that he had “hurt” Spielberg. Baffled as to how, Kennedy revealed that after Spielberg gave Kirschner his first film with An American Tail, he still took Hocus Pocus to Disney without ever pitching it to Spielberg. The moment came as a painful realization for Kirschner, who had never intended any ill will and still credits Spielberg with giving him his career. Check out Kirschner’s comments about Spielberg and Hocus Pocus below:

“The reason that I remember this so vividly is Kathy Kennedy, who was Steven’s producing partner — and now runs George Lucas’ company, Lucasfilm — Kathy came up to me at the Amblin Christmas party and said, ‘You know, you really hurt Steven.’ And I was just like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘What could I have done? What –’And I was stumbling over my words, my wife was sitting right next to me. And [Kennedy] said, ‘The fact that after he gave you your first film’ — which is true of ‘An American Tail’ — ‘You didn’t even bring ‘Hocus Pocus’ to him. You went right to Disney.’ I honestly, I felt tears in the back of my eyes… This is a really painful memory for me that I upset Steven, who as I say, I owe everything to!”

Mick Garris, who co-wrote Hocus Pocus, offered a different recollection, saying that Spielberg was pitched the film. However, Kirschner states that the pitch was to Disney, with the mortifying revelation from Kennedy about Spielberg being too horrifically seared into his memory to forget. However, despite Spielberg feeling slighted by Kirschner and not getting to produce Hocus Pocus, the two did work together again as executive producers on 1994’s The Flintstones.

Hocus Pocus now has a long-awaited sequel set to debut on Disney+ on September 30. The film sees the Sanderson sisters back, with Midler, Najimy, and Parker reprising their roles from the original movie. Kirschner is also onboard as an executive producer, though scripting duties were turned over to Jen D’Angelo for the sequel. And despite Spielberg’s disappointment in not being involved with the original film, Hocus Pocus lives on in the audiences that grew up with the film, who now share it with their kids and are eagerly awaiting the sequel.

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