Disney: The Sanderson Sisters

Screenshot from ‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993) starring (from left) Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

It’s really difficult to not bring up the Sanderson sisters once October rolls around. They are staples of Halloween and it’s really hard to imagine a reality where they wouldn’t be some of the most iconic Halloween characters. What’s weird about them is that I wasn’t too familiar with these Salem witches until a couple years ago. I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up watching ‘Hocus Pocus’, but I had heard of the Sanderson sisters. Before actually watching the movie I had seen pictures of them around, but I hadn’t watched anything of them specifically. I went into the movie knowing almost nothing about the Sanderson sisters and I came out loving them…but not a whole lot else. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked ‘Hocus Pocus’! But it wasn’t what I thought it would be after hearing all of the hype. The main female and male leads (besides Dani!) weren’t that great and I thought the plot was a little too simple. Some of the side characters, like Billy and Thackery, were great, but they weren’t given enough time. But I still came out of the movie convinced that I would watch it again. Why? Because you don’t watch this movie for the main characters or the plot. This is one of those movies that you only watch for the amusing villains. The Sanderson sisters perfectly capture the spirit of Halloween while being some of the most fun characters you will watch in anything. It was clear just by watching them that Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy had the time of their lives as these characters. And this has actually been confirmed by them in interviews. Bette Midler has even said that Winifred was her favorite character that she ever played. Now that we’ve had rumors of a ‘Hocus Pocus 2′, the characters’ popularity has only seemed to grow. So what makes each singular sister so great?

Mary Sanderson:

Mary Sanderson is probably the most overlooked and least popular Sanderson sister; but that by no means makes her bad or any less important than the other two. Mary talks out of the side of her mouth for the entire movie and definitely is the most submissive when listening to Winifred, but she is a much needed presence. Though everyone loves a little chaos; can you imagine if it was just Winnifred and Sarah? I can guarantee you that Winifred probably would have strangled Sarah by now. Though she isn’t sharp enough to be a voice of reason, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t serve as a calming presence for each of her sisters. Often she is the one to calm everyone down and provides Winifred with someone to listen to her constant ramblings. Mary strikes you as the one who was possibly, or even probably, led astray by her other sisters. You can imagine that, without her sisters, she’d be living her life as a nice old woman knitting by a fireplace, which makes her placement in this group all the more hilarious.

Sarah Sanderson:

It is very difficult to not like Sarah. She is my personal favorite of the sisters, and it just makes me so happy watching her. You can often find Sarah jumping up and down or being distracted by something shiny. Or a spider that she just straight up eats. Either way, it is clear that Winifred is the only brain of this group of witches. Sarah has this innocence to her that definitely makes it feel like both sisters might have unwittingly joined their sister. But Sarah does have an ulterior motive that Mary doesn’t have. She is absolutely insane for boys and wants to be pretty for them. Becoming young again to her means being an object of affection for boys. Billy the zombie being a former boyfriend of Sarah is even a plot point. But the beauty of this is that it never becomes her entire character. Sarah’s main plot remains with her witchy-ness and her sisters. She is never seen as less of a villain for being boy crazy and her charm even gives her the ability to sing to attract prey to her and her sisters. It’s so easy to make characters you describe as ‘dumb’ and ‘boy crazy’ weak, but she has just as much strength as her sisters.

Winifred Sanderson:

Ah, Winifred. The only real brains in the group and the true villain of the story. Winifred is equal parts hilariously endearing and intimidating. If you fear for the kids in this movie, it’s because Winifred had that malicious glint in her eyes. Bette Midler is entirely unrecognizable and acts her ass off in this role. It’s weird to say that about a role that’s so light-hearted; but it’s true. You can tell she had so much fun that she put her all into Winnifred. If this character wasn’t there it’s doubtful her sisters would be witches and, even if they were, there is absolutely nothing that they would have ever gotten done. They would have died long before the hanging at the beginning of this movie and never would have reincarnated to come back and create chaos. Also, can we talk about Winifred singing ‘I Put a Spell On You’? It’s one of the best scenes in any Halloween movie ever. It even manages to make the character more endearing just by showing her singing randomly in the middle of the movie.

The Sanderson sisters have, rightfully, gone beyond ‘Hocus Pocus’. If you haven’t watched a video of their Halloween show at Disney World’s ‘Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’, I highly recommend it. There’s a reason why these three have become staples of Halloween, and it has nothing to do with the plot of ‘Hocus Pocus’. All of the credit here goes to the writers and the incredible acting that went into these three. Halloween will never again be complete without a mention of these witches. I also appreciate them because I am not a horror movie person, but I absolutely love the spooky season. Having another movie to add to the list of spooky movies that don’t scare the pants off of me is very welcome during Halloween time! So you know where I’ll be one of these nights during October. Cuddled up in my ‘Hocus Pocus’ hoodie dress, eating chocolate, and watching Sarah jump up and down and yell “Amuck, amuck, amuck!”

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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