NEW YORK — It’s been 29 years since we last saw the Sanderson sisters and the big question is: Are they worth the wait?
The highly anticipated “Hocus Pocus 2” arrives to Disney+ Friday, ushering in three new high school students in Salem, Massachusetts tasked to take on Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler), Sarah Sanderson (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy).
The sequel to the now cult classic “Hocus Pocus” was written by Jen D’Angelo, 34, who says the pressure of taking on a fan favorite was “terrifying.”
“I’m a huge fan so I know what ‘Hocus Pocus’ means to people,” D’Angelo tells USA TODAY ahead of the New York premiere Tuesday.
Najimy, 65, brushed off any fears about whether or not the movie will measure up to fans’ expectations.
“I personally don’t have any pressure because you do a lot of projects and then you leave and you go on to the next one,” the actress says. “It really is in the hands of the people if they like it or not. When it hits you’re happy and when it’s not, you move on to the next one. It can’t really rock your world in this business.”
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The “Hocus Pocus 2” star, known for her character’s distinct growl and unintentional humor, remembers when the original came out in 1993 and how it wasn’t as popular as it became over time.
“Was I surprised that this movie hit such a chord? Yes! Because when (‘Hocus Pocus’) came out in theaters, it did fine,” Najimy recalls, adding that it wasn’t until it was shown on TV that generations began watching it as a family activity.
“Hocus Pocus” debuted fourth at the box office, with only $8,125 in sales. Overall, it grossed $39 million on a $28 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
Over time, Najimy jokes that the following of “Hocus Pocus” is immortal, sort of like the Sanderson sisters. “We can’t kill it! It won’t die!” she exclaims.
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Lilia Buckingham, who stars as high school teen Cassie in the sequel, is younger than the original film. At 19 years old, she is proof of how the original film continued to be a Halloween staple.
“It was always ‘Hocus Pocus,’ ‘Rocky Horror (Picture Show),’ ‘The Craft’ and I would watch those every single Halloween,” she recalls.
The idea that people could be watching the Disney+ sequel 29 years from now is “impossible to comprehend,” Buckingham says. “It’s kind of the coolest thing I think I’ll ever do in my whole life. … I just can’t think about it.”
Her co-star Belissa Escobedo is also a newcomer to the franchise. Escobedo, 24, says she resonated with the message of “sisterhood” and “loyalty” in the first film after watching the magic of the Sandersons.
“In this movie, you see that again,” she says of the common thread between the films. “You see the Sanderson sisters come back and you see a new side of their sisterhood. I think it’s really beautiful.”
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“Hocus Pocus 2” answers many of the questions fans may have been wondering for 29 years: How did the Sanderson sisters become the witches they are today? What happened between Billie Butcherson (Doug Jones) and Winifred? What’s the deal with book? And do the Sanderson sisters know about anti-aging beauty products?
The series manages to play on nostalgia with flashback clips, but overall it pushes a journey forward for “Hocus Pocus” to continue.
D’Angelo teases a few moments that didn’t make the cut and says they might go “in the third one.”
So, will the Sanderson sisters continue to wreak havoc on Salem? “I’ll do whatever. I have ideas so I’ll happily write it tomorrow,” she adds.