‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Updates: Original Star Thora Birch Not Returning As Dani In The Sequel

Little children, 'Hocus Pocus 2' is on the horizon! The highly-anticipated sequel will feature familiar faces, but the beloved Thora Birch will not be reprising the role of Dani.

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The Sanderson sisters will be back to witch again in the upcoming Hocus Pocus 2. The three iconic witches — Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy — are reprising the legendary roles of Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson in the 2022 sequel. However, there’s one key original cast member who is unable to return: Thora Birch, who played young Dani.

Hocus Pocus 2 will arrive on Disney+ later in 2022 and will be the best Halloween gift to us all. From the latest on who is returning to the new cast members, HollywoodLife has all the latest updates about Hocus Pocus 2.

Thora Birch
Thora Birch as young Dani. (Everett Collection)

‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Release Date

Producer Adam Shankman revealed on January 27, 2022, that Hocus Pocus 2 had wrapped filming. In celebration of the film’s wrap, Adam also revealed the release date of the sequel! “SISTAAAAAHHHHSSS! Aaaaand that’s a WRAP!!! #hocuspocus2 Congratulations to the amazing team @bettemidler @sarahjessicaparker @kathynajimy @567and8 @mrsleshem and the WHOOOOLLLEEEE cast and crew!!! Coming to you #halloween #2022 on @disneyplus,” he wrote on Instagram.

The first-look photo of Bette, SJP, and Kathy as their iconic witch characters was revealed on Twitter on November 12. “They’re already running amok, amok, amok!” the tweet read. “@BetteMidler, @SJP, and @KathyNajimy are in production on #HocusPocus2, coming Fall 2022 on #DisneyPlus.”

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Hocus Pocus 2 (Photo: (Disney+)

How To Watch ‘Hocus Pocus 2’

The original movie was released in theaters, but Hocus Pocus 2 will be released solely on Disney+. The announcement was made in December 2020 during Disney Investor Day. Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, told viewers: “Of course, one of the most popular holidays is Halloween, and one of the most popular Halloween movies is the cult classic Hocus Pocus. I am happy to confirm we are working on a treat for Disney+ audiences with a spooky sequel.” Until the show’s premiere, fans can watch Hocus Pocus all year round on Disney+ now.

Hocus Pocus is a beloved Halloween classic that millions watch every October. However, Hocus Pocus wasn’t a box office sensation when it was released on July 16, 1993. It only made $38 million off of a $28 million budget. In the nearly 30 years since Hocus Pocus came out, the film has become a phenomenon. Now there will be double the Hocus Pocus to love.

Filming

Production on Hocus Pocus 2 started in Rhode Island in November 2021. The movie was expected to film scenes in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood, according to The Providence Journal. In mid-November, SJP was spotted in character as Sarah Sanderson while filming outside the Old Colony House in Newport. Filming ended in January 2022.

Bette tweeted on January 26, 2022, that she was done filming. She tweeted a photo of the Sanderson sisters as cartoon characters and wrote, “THAT’S A WRAP!!!!”

The sequel was originally going to be directed by Adam Shankman. “Thanks with all of my heart dear @disney,” Adam wrote on Instagram in 2020 when the news was announced. “Looks like Il be working on a looooooottttt of magic for awhile… I feel incredibly honored and humbled to be guiding forward these two Disney crown jewel legacies. My only hope is to honor those who came before me and build something new and exciting, as I desperately try to not let down the fans and enchant the new initiates.” He’s currently working on the Enchanted sequel Disenchanted.

Anne Fletcher will be taking over as director of Hocus Pocus 2, with Adam stepping into an executive producer role along with Ralph Winter and David Kirschner. Steven Haft is a co-producer.

“As heartbroken as I am that I won’t be able to direct my friends Bette, Sarah Jessica, and Kathy in what is sure to be nothing short of a major event for Disney+ due to scheduling conflicts, I couldn’t be more pleased to be handing over the reins to Anne, who has brought so much laughter and joy into people’s lives with her previous work,” Adam said in a statement. “I am still grateful and proud to help shepherd this ingenious project as executive producer alongside producer Lynn Harris, whom I have loved and admired as a colleague and friend since she helped get me the job choreographing Boogie Nights.”

Anne’s statement read, “Now more than ever, people need to laugh. We should be laughing every day, and there is so much fun to be had with these three unbelievable women playing delicious characters from such a beloved film. I am so grateful to be able to play a part in bringing these witches back to life, and to be working with my friends at Disney again makes it all the more special. This is a movie for everyone, from the fans who grew up with the first film to the next generation of viewers, and I can’t wait to get started.”

‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Cast

Bette, Sarah, and Kathy will reprise their roles as Sanderson sisters Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. The three actresses each posted the Hocus Pocus 2 official logo on their Instagram pages on May 20, 2021. “Sistaaaahs! It’s been 300 years… But we’re BACK!” Bette wrote. Sarah’s caption read, “Yep. I’m ready. To run. Amok, amok, amok, amok.” Kathy wrote, “The people have spoken: I smell children…again.”

All 3 of them expressed interest in returning in the years leading up to the announcement. The original cast also featured Omri Katz as Max Dennison, Thora Birch as Dani, Vinessa Shaw as Allison, and Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson. Doug will be returning as the beloved zombie in Hocus Pocus 2.

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Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, and Omri Katz in ‘Hocus Pocus.’ (Courtesy of Everett Collection)

“They want to make a movie, they’ve asked us if we were interested and of course all of us said yes,” Bette told Fox 5 New York in October 2020. “I’m game, I’m totally game.” The Sanderson trio recently reunited in October 2020 to raise money for Bette Midler’s charity, New York Restoration Project, getting fans even more excited about the sequel.

Back in May 2020, Sarah revealed to radio host Bruce Bozzi that she had “agreed publicly” about returning. “I think that it is something Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and I are all very hospitable to the idea,” she said. “I think for a long time, people were talking about it as if people were moving forward with it in a real way but we were unaware of it. We’ve agreed publicly to the right people, yes, that would be a very, very fun idea, so we’ll see what the future holds.”

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Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy have all expressed interest in returning. (Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Thora told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY in January 2020 that she would be down to return as Dani “if they would have me.” She also said, “They’ve been talking about this reboot for five years. I’m excited to see what it all looks like.”

In March 2022, EW reported that Thora had to decline to return for the sequel “due to scheduling conflicts.” A source told the outlet that Thora was asked by Disney to have a “good supporting role” in the sequel as an adult version of Dani. However, Thora was unable to be a part of the film because of her prior obligations to Netflix’s upcoming Wednesday Addams series.

On November 1, 2021, Disney+ announced all-new Hocus Pocus 2 cast members. The sequel will star Gossip Girl breakout Whitney Peak as Becca, Lilia Buckingham as Cassie, and Belissa Escobedo as Izzy, three young women in present-day Salem who incite the wrath of the three witches. Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, Veep alum Tony Hale, The Tomorrow War star Sam Richardson, Vanquish star Juju Brener, Cruel Summer star Froy Gutierrez, Taylor Paige Henderson, and Nina Kitchen have also joined the cast. 

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Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, and Belissa Escobedo are new ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ cast members. (Shutterstock)

“I am beyond thrilled to be involved in the sequel to a film that is as beloved as Hocus Pocus,” director Anne Fletcher said in a statement. “Fans around the world have embraced these characters and have made this film a Halloween tradition whose popularity continues to grow, and how lucky am I to be back at Disney with these three extraordinarily talented ladies in the iconic roles they created, as well as our fabulous new additions to the cast?”

What Will ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Be About?

The plot for Hocus Pocus 2 is being kept very under wraps. When the original Hocus Pocus trio was confirmed to return in May 2021, Disney+ revealed exciting new details about the sequel. In Hocus Pocus 2, three young women “accidentally bring the Sanderson Sisters back to modern-day Salem and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on the world.”

The original movie started in 1693 as the Sanderson sisters were being sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft. They were hanged, but not before Winifred vowed to return to Salem to get her revenge. She cast a spell that would bring the sisters back during a full moon on Halloween if a virgin lit the Black Flame Candle. The trio was resurrected 300 years later when Max lit that infamous candle.

Bette Midler
Bette Midler and Omri Katz in ‘Hocus Pocus.’ (Courtesy of Everett Collection)

The writers of the first movie left the original film open-ended for a sequel. The Sanderson sisters did disintegrate into magical dust when the sun rose above the horizon, but Winifred’s spellbook teased their possible return. The movie ended with the spellbook opening its eye, meaning that it was still alive and the witches may not be gone for good.

A.W. Jantha published Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel in 2018. The YA book followed Max and Allison’s daughter, Poppy, 25 years after the events of the film as she faced off against the Sanderson sisters. The sequel could be based on this book or it could focus on a new story entirely.

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