In this film, Sarah Jessica Parker plays a witch who was executed during the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s. While researching her family history for the show Who Do You Think You Are? (2004), Parker was shocked to discover that her 10th great-grandmother Esther Elwell was arrested in Salem in the late 1600s for committing "sundry acts of witchcraft" and choking a neighbour to death. Esther's case never went to court, she escaped with her life and the accusation ended the Salem Witch Trials. Parker said: "It has changed everything about who I thought I was."
The script was written as a Disney Channel Original Movie; however, it caught the eyes of a few bigger studio heads at Disney, and they felt it was strong enough to carry a good theatrical performance.
It is often incorrectly reported that the song Sarah Sanderson sings from the sky was written by Edgar Allan Poe. It isn't by him, nor does it carry the style or meters he would have used. It was written specifically for the film.
Several scenes appear in the original trailer that are not included in any theatrical, VHS, or DVD version of the film. They include the kids attempting to push the witches into a pool, the witches being surrounded by trick-or-treaters holding out their hands, and Mary snacking in a grocery store only to be dragged out by Winifred.
When Bette Midler takes the stage at the town Halloween Party, she says "Hello Salem, my name is Winifred. What's yours?". This is a take-off of the famous line, "Hello world, my name is Rose, what's yours?" that is spoken by Mama Rose in the musical "Gypsy". Midler played Mama Rose in the television version, Gypsy (1993), the same year this film was released.
Rosie O'Donnell was originally offered the role of Mary Sanderson, but it was ultimately given to Kathy Najimy. O'Donnell claims on her blog that she turned down the offer to work with the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) because she didn't want to be a "scary witch".
Rhythm and Hues, who created the CGI Thackery Binx, went to great detail to ensure that his facial features were a realistic representation of a cat. However, when the studio saw what Rhythm and Hues had created, they found that it was too realistic, notably the fangs and teeth, and felt that he might be too scary for certain members of the audience, as well as appearing slightly sinister. So R & H made his fangs smaller and less pointed in order to make him appear friendlier to the audience.
Charles Rocket acquired a certain notoriety for swearing on live television during the final moments of the 21 February 1981 episode of Saturday Night Live (1975). There's an in-joke in connection to this, where he says to Max, "Watch your language!".
The three little girls who steal the witches' brooms from in front of the house are dressed as the sisters themselves: Winifred with red hair and green cape, Mary with black hair and red cape, and Sarah with blond hair and purple cape.
There were seven statues made of Bette Midler for the scene in which she bursts in the sunlight toward the end of the movie. One of the statues, along with Winnie's spell book, is housed at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Orlando, Florida.
After having locked the Sanderson sisters in the school kiln, the three kids celebrate as they walk to the park. The house shown directly behind Max and Thackery while they talk is the residential edifice used as Thora Birch's home in 1999's American Beauty (1999).