Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hocus Pocus

Dir. Kenny Ortega, 1993

In the pantheon of pop culture, there are few words as cringe-inducing to me as “Disneyfication.” Like “selling out,” it is an outdated term that needlessly vilifies success; a perpetuation of the very 20th century concept of the artist as a dangerous rebel. And for all we like to bash Disney, nobody can accuse them of making all their stories squeaky clean. Hocus Pocus is a perfect example.

Hocus Pocus starts with the story of Thackeray Binx, a teenaged boy in 17th Century Salem, MA whose sister was killed by three sister witches, played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. When Binx catches them, they turn him into a (immortal) cat, and before being executed proclaim that they will return for a single night when a virgin lights the black-flamed candle in their house.

Flash-forward to 1993. 15-year-old Max is a recent arrival from California, and an instant outcast. Also, he’s a virgin, which shouldn’t be a big deal at his, but everybody gives him a hard time over it. So he lights the black-flame candle to impress a girl he likes, summoning the witches, and causing all hell to break loose.

This movie didn’t do that well initially, but it did establish certain Halloween aesthetic for kids movies in the mid-90s, and it got a lot of play on television. Needless to say, if you read my writing on a regular basis, you’ve probably already seen it. Although it already had a decent following in the gay community, it exploded in popularity on its 20th anniversary. The kids who originally watched it were now adults, and this is a movie adults can enjoy. In fact, this movie seems like it was actually made for adults. Family entertainment was much darker in the 1980s and early 1990s than today; and this movie isn’t just dark, it deals with such heavy-duty topics as tits, sexual frustration, and dead children.

Yes, Hocus Pocus is campy fun, but it isn’t lazy or condescending. That’s what we liked about it as kids, and that’s why we remember it now. A-

“Hakuna Matata”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t stomach listening to Hakuna Matata again.

When: June 1994
Where: Pacific Theaters Hastings Ranch (closed)
Who: My mother and grandma
Weather: Sunny

In 1994, my whole life got an upgrade. My Dad got a new car, and my mom got the old one. Before that, she had a wonderfully unsafe WV van without a radio. We got a deck, a patio, and a new backdoor, and I got a real bedroom. What was my bedroom was now the TV room, with a wall of 8-foot tall bookshelves from IKEA. And in the center? A brand new 24″ Zenith with, wonder of wonders, a Magnavox VCR!

The speed with which I accrued tapes was amazing. My neighbors were closer than most of my family and gave me tons of their kids’ old stuff. But that spring, a juggernaut struck: Disney.

The first movie I remember watching was Beauty and the Beast. Not the worst place to start, if a little dark, but children need to be terrified; it’s good for the brain. Watching the previews got me onto a new movie, Aladdin, and an old one, Pinocchio. Among the trailers for those videos? The Lion King, the first movie I ever saw in theaters, much to my parents’ credit, who would never take a screaming baby to Last of the Mohicans. People today should stop trying to pull that bullshit.

Whatever positive experience the movies had on me must have been tough on my parents. No more KROQ on the old stereo. For what felt like the longest time but was only about a year, it was kiddie music only. “Hakuna Matata” remains as a legacy to that mind-expanding time.