Out this month is Aaron Wallace’s “Hocus Pocus in Focus: The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Disney’s Halloween Classic,” the seasonally appropriate guide to Disney’s cult classic 1993 film “Hocus Pocus.”
Wallace, who penned similar “Thinking Fan’s Guides” to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, divides the material into 12 chapters plus a chunky ‘Bonus Material’ section and appendix. Each chapter either delves into a specific aspect of the film (Steven Spielberg’s potential influence, the song “I’ll Put a Spell on You”, themes of virginity, etc.) or looks at the film through a particular lens (“Hocus Pocus” as a horror film, as feminist representation, etc.). He also devotes a chapter to discussion of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular Show during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Wallace devotes about 70 of the book’s 206 pages to ‘Bonus Material’ and footnotes. The ‘Bonus Material’ section includes trivia about the film and its making, as well as a recommendation section for further watching/reading related to “Hocus Pocus.” The book also includes a foreword by one of the film’s stars, Thora Birch (Dani Dennison), and an afterword by the film’s writer and producer, Mick Garris.
I grew up watching “Hocus Pocus” multiple times around Halloween, and was looking forward to getting an inside look at the cult holiday favorite. “Hocus Pocus in Focus” did not deliver this and was overall disappointing. The bulk of the book is made up of what amounts to a collection of essays. Since most of the book is in this short essay style, it rests heavily on Wallace’s ability to engage readers with his own insights and interpretations of the film. Which it did not for me.
Its status as an “unofficial guide” really shows. There are not many (if any) revelations about the making of the movie or the story. Wallace disperses some facts and interview quotes in his essays, but most of the trivia is in the ‘Bonus Materials’ section. The “exclusive” facts and trivia feel like they are mined from IMDB and do not really add to the experience.
Most disappointing (and prescriptive of its “unofficial” status) are the book’s images: black and white and low quality. As someone who usually can appreciate a fan guide, if only for the behind the scenes photos, I found the lack of quality or unique images to be the last nail in the coffin for “Hocus Pocus in Focus.”
Overall, I would not recommend running out for “Hocus Pocus in Focus.” It might have some appeal for a super fan, but for anyone else there just is not much here.