The Rockwell Table and Stage

Welcome witches and warlocks,

I had the great pleasure of attending the panel We Put A Spell On You: Celebrating 25 Years of “Hocus Pocus” at Midsummer Scream and figured I would offer up some thoughts for my fellow convention enthusiasts.  To best describe the proceedings, I will turn to the official press release:

Join the writer, producer, and special guests for a special 25th anniversary celebration of this Halloween classic.

This was the most crowded of the panels I attended and, I am told, people were turned away. The room was packed to the gills with Sandersons sisters and Billy Butchersons, all waiting to celebrate this wonderful cult classic.  While awaiting the panel to get underway, guests were treated to some on-screen trivia (I never knew the original proposed title was “Disney’s Halloween House”) before the main event.  Then, the house lights dropped.

Three actresses from The Rockwell Table and Stage’s upcoming show, The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Hocus Pocus took to the stage dressed up like Winifred, Sarah, and Mary to perform a rousing rendition of “I Put a Spell on You.”

Makeup Effects done by Coven FX

When the prelude drew to a close, Jeff DePaoli walked out on the stage to introduce the guests.  On hand were Mick Garris, David Kirschner, John Debney, Tony Gardner, William Sandell, and Thora Birch to discuss the aforementioned picture.  Each of these guests represented a different aspect of the production of the film so we got to hear not only about how the movie got sold to Disney, but also the writing process, the set design, acting, makeup, and music that have become touchpoints of the feature.  Since each speaker had such a different hand in the making of the piece, we got more information about the movie than most panels provide.

There were so many interesting facts provided that I will just run down a list of a few to whet the reader’s appetite:

  1. Doug Jones had real moths in his mouth during the scene where Billy rips off his stitches and speaks for the first time
  2. David Kirschner thought someone was trying to break into his house one night but discovered that Tony Gardner left a full-sized Billy Butcherson dummy in his yard.  That dummy now resides in Kirschner’s office
  3. Originally, there was no song in the movie, but executives asked for one to be added and, upon seeing the final cut, Kirschner has admitted that the movie would not be as memorable without the tune
  4. John Debney had to take over for James Horner and only had two weeks to score the entire film
  5. The Sandersons’ Sisters house was filmed on a soundstage and built to resemble as real of a house as possible.  The cast and crew enjoyed playing on the set.

Given some of the facts above, I am sure it is clear the reader that there was a fair amount of fun to be had at this presentation.  The panelists all seem to get along well together even after all these years and their fondness for the film absolutely comes through.  In fact, at one point the convention hall lights were brought up so that the guests could look out over the audience, and they seemed genuinely moved when they saw all the attendees.

When asked about a potential sequel, they admitted that there have been talks, but remained mum on the details.  The audience reaction to this news was massive, so Debney interjected that while he did not have any sequel news, he was trying to get Disney to approve a live concert version of the film to celebrate the anniversary.  He asked that all fans write in to the mouse to try to make his dream of conducting a live orchestra (which he even offered to pay for himself) through the score for fans.

All in all, they covered so many different things in this panel that I am still reeling from the information they provided.  This was one of the more complete movie tribute panels I have ever seen as they really ran the gamut when it came to getting guests.  Fans of Hocus Pocus (1993) or just those who like the movie making process should be sure to encourage Midsummer Scream to do similar panels next year.

(L-R): Moderator Jeff DePaoli, Producer David Kirschner, Actress Thora Birch, Screenwriter Mick Garris
(L-R): Composer John Debney, Production Designer William Sandell and Makeup/Special FX Tony Gardner
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