Warning: Spoilers for Hocus Pocus 2 ahead!
Walt Disney’s Hocus Pocus of 1993 was well-liked by audiences, but the follow-up film, Hocus Pocus 2 of 2022, fixes a major problem with the Sanderson sisters. While the 1993 iteration of the film wasn’t as popular with critics, the sequel has been performing well with critics and audiences both. This could be partially due to the film’s development with the duology’s main antagonists.
Both Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2 follow the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches called Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker). After their execution for witchcraft in 1693, they cast a curse that will return them to life if a virgin lights a Black Flame Candle under a full moon. In the first film, siblings Max (Omri Katz) and Dani (Thora Birch) awaken the witches in 1993. While Hocus Pocus 2 doesn’t see Max and Dani return, the second film pits a trio of girls, Becca (Whitney Peak), Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) against the Sanderson sisters in 2022.
One notable aspect of the Sanderson sisters is that the eldest daughter, Winifred, is often derisive and cruel to her siblings. While the sisters are close, as they form a magical coven that has endured centuries, their dynamic is a flawed one that casts Winifred as the cruel and clever sister, and Mary and Sarah as the necessary but occasionally foolish comic-relief characters. When this type of relationship occurs in stories, often the put-upon participants quickly tire of their treatment, and the group dissolves. However, Hocus Pocus 2 fixes this relationship problem by allowing Winifred a moment of clarity, allowing her to choose her sisters’ company over arcane power.
Why Winifred Chooses To Reunite With Her Sisters At The End Of Hocus Pocus 2
At the end of Hocus Pocus 2, the aged Sanderson sisters cast a spell that will allow them the power to wreak havoc on Salem, but at the cost of what the caster most cherishes. This results in Winifred losing both of her sisters until she asks Becca, Cassie, and Izzy to reunite them. This is a critical moment of growth for Winifred as, after centuries of chasing power and youth, she finally realizes that what matters most to her is the familial relationships that she always had. This moment of character growth and connection between Winifred and her sisters mirrors the coven bond Becca, Izzy, and Cassie form throughout Hocus Pocus 2, doubly reinforcing the movie’s themes of kinship and connection.
Although the Hocus Pocus duology casts the Sanderson sisters as villains, and their dynamic with Winifred as a capricious, intelligent antagonist makes her a fun force for the children to stand against, Hocus Pocus 2‘s ability to fix their mistake displayed remarkable insight in realizing that the Sanderson sisters needed to change. Particularly in interconnected films such as these, repeated characters are necessary to create a through-line across the series. Yet these characters cannot stay the same as they are in their first movie, or else they risk becoming stale, uninteresting, and not compelling enough to carry multiple films. As such, it’s promising to see the Sanderson sisters, and especially Winifred, develop into more nuanced characters, allowing them the potential for new stories in additional Hocus Pocus movies.