Sanderson’s Paradox | Why the ‘Hocus Pocus’ Remake Was Inevitable

We need to add a new law to the long list of internet rules and regulations, right next to Godwin’s Law (“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1”) and Rule 34 (“If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.”).

In honor of the 1993 cult classic Hocus Pocus I propose…

Sanderson’s Paradox: “If it’s too popular to be remade, a remake is inevitable.”

A bit of history here: Kenny Ortega’s Hocus Pocus is a 1993 family-friendly comedy about the Sanderson Sisters, a trio of child-murdering witches who were executed in Colonial America, only to be revived in the present day (well, 1993) by a teenaged boy who should have had sex already, because being a virgin resurrects those witches, who proceed to wreak total havoc and also sing “I Put a Spell On You,” because kids love that one.

Also: The Top 50 Best Haunted House Movies Ever

I jest, but my point is that Hocus Pocus is and always has been a very weird motion picture, at once a product of the same Disney studio machine that pumped out pabulum like Angels in the OutfieldHeavyweights and Operation Dumbo Drop, and also the a somewhat ghoulish horror comedy wrapped up in innocent trappings and force fed to kids.

Fortunately, those kids ate it up. Hocus Pocus made $39 million back in 1993, which may not sound like much but does mean Kenny Ortega’s so-called “cult” comedy was in the top forty highest grossing films of the year. That’s respectable business. And since there’s always been a dearth of quality horror-themed movies that are considered acceptable for children around Halloween, this kooky comedy became a holiday staple fairly quickly.

That means that not only has a whole generation (or two) grown up with Hocus Pocus, but they also grew up associating Hocus Pocus with happy childhood memories like trick or treating and copious amounts of free candy. To many, myself include, Hocus Pocus is (for all its weird little flaws) an institution, as untouchable as any film you can think of.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Unfortunately, that also means that Hocus Pocus has INCREDIBLE name brand awareness. For better or worse, any product that comes out with “Hocus Pocus” on it is an easier sell than any product that comes out without any baggage attached to it. Even if it sucks, the recently announced Hocus Pocus TV movie remake is more likely to draw viewers than any original, non-Hocus Pocus Halloween-themed movie, because some people don’t care what they show their kids so long as it’s non-threatening, and because a lot of the rest of us are going to watch it out of morbid curiosity – or worse, ironically – just like we all watched that god awful Dirty Dancing remake ABC tried to pass off like a good idea earlier this year.

It’s very telling that Disney is releasing the new Hocus Pocus on television, because recent adaptations of beloved childhood cult properties that muddled with the formula have NOT been a sure thing. (Remember Jem and the Holograms, which wasn’t even that all that bad but audiences stayed away in droves anyhow because it didn’t look a thing like the cartoon?) Like that Dirty Dancing remake, it doesn’t have to make millions of dollars in ticket sales. The Hocus Pocus remake will just have to be noteworthy enough to attract advertisers for one night, so the simple fact that it’s a Hocus Pocus remake means it’ll probably pay for itself.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

So basically, it doesn’t matter to the studio if the Hocus Pocus remake is good. I’m sure they WANT it to be good, and that the people involved will try their darnedest to make it worth watching, but in the end this it’s show BUSINESS, and making a smart investment is more important to Disney’s stockholders than preserving our collective memories of the original Hocus Pocus. Nostalgia isn’t sacred to a corporation. Nostalgia is a selling point.

So again, I present Sanderson’s Paradox: “If it’s too popular to be remade, a remake is inevitable.” The fact that you love a product (which, to the studios that own them, movies technically are) means that your love will be exploited by the people who own the rights to that product, in order to make money off of you.

Of course, there’s no solution I can offer for Sanderson’s Paradox. You have to keep loving things, because otherwise what’s the point of doing anything? But if you love something that a corporation owns, they will try to make you want to mess with that thing you love, until – quite possibly, it’s happened before – you don’t love it as much anymore. That means that product becomes devalued, and makes the corporation less money. Nobody wins.

Unless, of course, the Hocus Pocus remake is great. Then, everybody wins. So instead of assuming that it’s going to be awful (which it might, it might) let’s all just hope for the best and – as usual – prepare for the worst, just in case.

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Top Photos: Walt Disney Pictures

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.