In fact, Midler insists she had long lobbied to make a follow-up the beloved 1993 witchcraft comedy.
“This was a dream come true, it really was,” Midler, 76, said Wednesday during a virtual press conference with fellow Sanderson sister Kathy Najimy, director Anne Fletcher, producers Adam Shankman and Lynn Harris, and co-stars Doug Jones, Sam Richardson, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo and Lilia Buckingham. (The third Sanderson sister, Sarah Jessica Parker, was scheduled to attend the press conference but was conspicuously absent.)
“After I realized [Hocus Pocus] was actually a phenomenon, I started asking people, my agent and people like that, ‘Don't you think they would be interested in a sequel?’ This was a long time ago. This was like 15 years ago. Something like that. So here we are.”
Najimy, 65, says it’s the enduring legacy of Hocus Pocus — a box-office failure upon its theatrical release before stewing into a cult classic in the years that followed — that led them to reunite.
“You make films and you go on to the next one, and however the audience receives it is always a surprise,” she said. “I think there was something in this film, I think like Wizard of Oz, where that generation shows it to their kids and [then they] show it to their kids. … So it becomes part of the fabric of the history of the family.”
At Disney’s D23 Expo earlier this month in Anaheim, Calif., Fletcher (The Proposal, Dumplin’) told Yahoo Entertainment what it was like to reunite the Sanderson sisters — the villainous 17th century witches inadvertently resurrected by a teenage boy (Omri Katz) trick-or-treating with his younger sister in Salem, Mass.
“They snapped right into their characters instantaneously. It was surreal,” Fletcher said. “It was as if for 29 years they have been living with these characters. They're literally embodied. It's unbelievable to watch and be a part of."
Hocus Pocus 2 introduces three new high school students — Becca (Peak), Cassie (Buckingham) and Izzy (Escobedo) — who must work together to combat the Sanderson sisters when they return to Salem seeking revenge for their ousting 29 years earlier.
“It was a huge life change, but the best thing I could have asked for,” said Buckingham (Crown Lake), who was scheduled to start college two weeks after she landed the role. “I mean, I worked with legends. And learned so much.”
One of those legends in attendance, Midler, reflected on what the Sanderson sisterhood has meant to her as a woman.
“There's so much going on in this world that we never really realized until maybe the last 25, 30 years, maybe 50 years,” the two-time Oscar nominee said.
“Things have changed for women, but things have not changed fast enough for women. And I think these three characters, in a strange and odd way, are really quite positive for women. First of all, they're very funny, which women are not allowed to be or not supposed to be. And they're intensely loyal to each other. … It's a very broad range of emotions that they live through. I think in a funny way their bond is very, very strong. So in any situation where women are together, a bond, a friendship, a sisterhood, is really, really important. And this movie sort of shores it up.”
Hocus Pocus 2 premieres Friday on Disney+.
Watch the trailer: