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'Hocus Pocus 2' Brings Back the Sanderson Sisters for a Lesson on the Importance of Sisterhood

'These characters, in a really quite odd way, are really positive for women,' Bette Midler says of the 'Hocus Pocus' witches.

Danielle Turchiano
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From left to right: Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy in 'Hocus Pocus 2'

Disney+

While the Sanderson sisters warn Salem to lock up their children, now's the time to sit yours in front of a screen: Hocus Pocus 2 is finally about to debut on Disney+.

The sequel to 1993's Hocus Pocus has been highly anticipated for a long time, especially for star Bette Midler who said during a press conference for the film that about 15 years ago she started asking her team whether anyone would be interested in a sequel. The original film wasn't a hit with critics when it was released (earning only a 43 Metascore), but it became a cult classic with legions of fans who rewatched the movie year after year and passed it down to the younger generation.

It's been 29 years since that original film and since the Sanderson sisters (played by Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) last tried to take the youthful essence from Salem, Mass.' children. Then, they turn into glitter and disappeared when the sun came up the morning after Halloween, but it turns out that doesn't mean they were killed, just kept out of society for almost three decades. 

Hocus Pocus 2 not only brings the Sandersons back to modern-day New England when a new teenage virgin (Becca, played by Whitney Peak) lights a new Black Flame Candle on her 16th birthday, but it also provides the Sandersons' origin story — traveling back with them centuries to when Winifred (Midler) was just 16 and supposed to take a husband but instead takes the spell book and sets herself and her sisters down a new path.

"We talked a lot about sisterhood and we talked a lot about leaning on each other and counting on each other and loyalty towards each other," Midler said. "Things have changed for women, but things have not changed enough for women. These characters, in a really quite odd way, are really positive for women: They're funny...they're intensely loyal. It's a really broad range of emotions that they live through [and] their bond is really, really strong."

The decisiveness the Sandersons exhibit is also an important trait for the actors, with Najimy noting that, "even if it's eating children, whatever it is that our mission is, there's not a lot of second-guessing."

Providing new insight into the Sandersons' journey and their relationship helps keep the story of the sequel fresh, and so too does the attitude of Becca and her BFF Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) who have grown up hearing all about the Sandersons and are able to use the witches' ignorance of the world today against them (at least for a spell).

Becca and Izzy have some help along the way, including the return of "good zombie" Billy Butcher (Doug Jones), who gets a more fully fleshed out backstory of his own; Gilbert the Great (Sam Richardson), a local magic shop owner; and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), Becca and Izzy's longtime childhood friend who has recently drifted away from the duo but once was so close with them they were a trio.

There's some "interesting parallels with the older witches and the three of us in just three different walks of life and individuality and finding this way of being selfless with each other," Peak said.

Director Anne Fletcher added that those parallels extend all the way into the characters' costumes and accessories, with important symbols and colors in Winifred's cloak showing up in Becca's look, for example.

For Fletcher, helming this film was all about "making sure that I'm honoring these characters for the fans and bringing it into a new generation." And that includes the new musical numbers in Hocus Pocus 2 — because "who doesn't want to see Bette Midler sing?" she said. "I didn't feel like I had to compete with 'I Put a Spell On You' [from the first film]," she continued. "We stayed really focused on just trying to stay more towards this story."

Hocus Pocus 2 bows Sept. 30

and does not yet have a Metascore.