‘Hocus Pocus’ Director, Kenny Ortega, Also Directed These Disney Cult Classics

It truly isn’t Halloween without a visit from the Sanderson Sisters. Though it’s been 26 years since Hocus Pocus released, the film has become a cult classic. Just one look at Google Trends during Halloween season, and you can see just how many people are ready and willing to visit Salem for All Hallow’s Eve. Famously starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, the film, while juvenile at times, is just plain fun. Hocus Pocus is chock full of humor and absurdity that people of all ages can enjoy. Director, Kenny Ortega truly captured the spirit of Halloween for the iconic film.

Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega
Kenny Ortega | Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Hocus Pocus performed poorly when it was first released

But, even though the film is well-known and beloved now, it completely flopped when it was first released. When asked why that was, Ortega expressed that the timing of the film’s release just wasn’t right. “The film was put out in summer. A Halloween movie that was put out in July. I don’t think they knew what to do with the movie. We had such fun making it and we really thought that it could have had an audience, but then they put it out in the middle of summer against all of these other epic tentpole movies and it didn’t have a chance. So, yeah, I was disappointed, I was hurt, actually devastated,” Ortega confessed in a recent interview with Hollywood Reporter.

High School Musical and Descendants

But, Ortega isn’t only responsible for one Disney cult classic, but three. Following Hocus Pocus, Ortega also lent his directing expertise to the High School Musical franchise as well as the Descendants films. These movies easily became known as two of the most successful franchises in Disney history. The High School Musical franchise specifically was incredibly lucrative for Disney. For High School Musical 3: Senior Year alone, Disney raked in a whopping $252 million globally in the box office.

But unlike Hocus Pocus, Ortega knew that High School Musical would be a tremendous success at the time he was shooting it. “I realized it when we were shooting the finale. I’d already done Dirty Dancing. I had already been a part of experiences that had swept the world. I had been up in the Blue Ridge Mountains with these people making this movie and feeling the magic and feeling the connection that everyone on the production had,” Ortega began sharing about the moment he knew he had a hit on his hands.

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The Hocus Pocus director continued on to share that he got the same feeling about High School Musical that he did for previous projects he’d been a part of that eventually became successful. “That’s what we felt when we were making High School Musical, when we were doing “We’re All In This Together.” We found an audience that was thirsty for music-driven storylines and with characters that they could identify with, that they could relate to and where they could see themselves in stories and that had themes that were inspirational,” Ortega stated. It truly speaks to Ortega’s talent that he was able to direct so many hits. We can wait to see what’s next for him.