The script was bought by Disney in the mid-1980s, but the studio sat on the project for eight years until they decided to make it. The original title was "Halloween House" and was supposed to be much more darker and scarier, but the finished project was much softer and included more slapstick. Rumors that Disney had considered turning it into a made-for-TV movie at one point has been widely spread over the Internet but has not been confirmed by the cast and crew.
During a February 10, 2008 interview on the BBC show "Breakfast", Bette Midler stated that this was her favorite of all of her films. Her other favorite film role, according to her autobiography "Bette Midler: Still Divine," was voicing the poodle Georgette in Oliver & Company (1988).
Sarah Jessica Parker plays a witch who was executed during the Salem Witch Trials. 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, MA in the late 1600s for committing "sundry acts of witchcraft" and choking a neighbor 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."
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?" 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.
Contrary to popular rumor, the song Sarah Sanderson sings from the sky was not written by Edgar Allan Poe, nor does it carry the style or meters he would have used. It was written specifically for the film.
Rhythm and Hues, who created the CGI Thackery Binx, went to great lengths to ensure that his facial features were those of an actual cat. The studio found it too realistic, notably the fangs and teeth, and felt that he might be too scary and sinister. To make him appear friendlier, Rhythm and Hues made his fangs smaller and less pointed.
The three little girls who steal the witches' brooms from in front of the house are dressed as the sisters themselves: Winifred has red hair and a green cape, Mary has black hair and a red cape, and Sarah has blonde hair and a purple cape.
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!".
Although not specified, it makes sense that Binx can't speak until the Black Flame Candle has been lit, and then, only with those involved in the lighting. Otherwise, he would've been able to talk to his father at the hanging at the beginning of the film, or at the Town Hall when Max tries to tell the crowd that the Sanderson sisters have returned.
David Kirschner and Mick Garris, both of whom had collaborated with Steven Spielberg in the past, set the project up at Disney in the mid-1980s. Garris and Kirchner pitched "Hocus Pocus" to Spielberg, who turned it down. He had no intention of working with Disney, which he saw as his biggest competitor. Spielberg eventually collaborated with the Disney studios within a few years, but by the time this film was made, the filmmaker had long abandoned it.
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 locking the Sanderson sisters in the school kiln, the three kids celebrate as they walk to the park. The house directly behind Max and Thackery while they talk was also used as Thora Birch's home in 1999's American Beauty (1999).