Book Review: Hocus Pocus And The All-New Sequel

It is odd when the sequel of a cult classic gets released 25 years later. When it comes to ‘Hocus Pocus’, it is very welcome for thy fans. After so many rumors about an upcoming sequel, it manifests in book form.

‘Hocus Pocus And The All-New Sequel’ by A.W. Jantha is a book divided into two parts. The first part of the book is actually a novelization of the original 1993 film, while the second part is the sequel.

Since it has two clearly divided parts, I’ll treat them as two different books for the sake of this review.

Hocus Pocus

The novelization of the film has two distinct objetives: to refresh the reader of the beloved film and give insight to some slight details about the story. This is a novelization that follows the plot very closely to the film, without deriving too much to understand the characters of even give nuance to some slight possibilities (like the fact that Max doesn’t get affected by the sisters potion at some point because he is no longer a virgin). At least they didn’t undermine the sexual themes from the movie as it is vital to understand many points of the film.

The author has a very specific set of vocabulary from the witches, so a dictionary could be handy. Once you understand several of these unknown words, you’ll start to understand them in context. The story is as fast paced as the original movie, only pausing at very specific scenes to convey information or express the emotions of the characters.

But it is just that, a scene by scene novelization that doesn’t add too much to the interpretation of the movie.

Even though there’s not much difference or additional information, it is a fun read that savvy readers will read in a couple of hours. The last chapters add some details to make a convincing follow up to the sequel that doesn’t affect the movie in any way.

The All-New Sequel

Twenty five years after the Sanderson incident, we meet Poppy, the daughter of Max and Allison. She has been haunted by the story of her parents during her whole life, wondering if the encounter they had as teenagers with the Sanderson sisters is even true. With the help of Isabella and Travis, they find out what’s that whole witch legend about, as they visit the Sanderson house on Halloween, on a full blood moon.

As with most generational sequels, this story includes some references and mentions about the original film, but it is able to develop its own story. One of the most welcome additions and portrayals in this novel is the fact that Poppy, the Dennissons’ daughter, is a lesbian clearly expressing her crush on Isabella. It is one of those subtle things that needs to be more present in media. Kudos for the author and Disney for allowing this kind of representation for the LGBTQ community.

Sometimes you’ll find early on the sequel some unnecessary mentions to other Disney properties. Even though it is logical that people would be dressed as these characters in Halloween, the author mentions so many that it felt as a crossover marketing ploy. The other clear annoyance to how the sequel begins is the constant mention of social media platforms to state that we are in present times. I mean, since the very beginning of the sequel it is mentioned that the story occurs in 2018, so I don’t find the need to mention every single social media platform to understand these are teenagers without moving the plot any forward.

Moving past these details, the novel develops and gets rid of most of the annoyances found during the first act of the sequel. Poppy, Isabella, and Travis head over to the Sanderson’s house when they decide on Halloween to see if all the stories from Poppy’s parents are true. After trying out a spirit board and some incantations….. They’re baaaaack!

Winifred, Mary, and Sarah start their effort to stay alive and rule the world. While the book was the main McGuffin in the original movie, it is also added what is called a blood moonstone to break the spell. In order to. As they try to find the blood moonstone, we learn about a lost Sanderson sister who is trying to make things right.

The stakes start to build up as everyone on Salem isn’t trustworthy. Poppy can’t contact their parents or Aunt Dani, and the last person they can ask for help turns their backs. Poppy, Isabella, and Travis team up with Katie Taylor, one of their school enemies, and start to search the blood moonstone.

This sequel outwits the reader by using tropes from the original movie in innovative ways. Now that the sisters are more adept at the current times, they’re not as dumb or easily deceived. This makes them a stronger menace for the main characters, trying different plans to achieve their objective. Winifred makes their chances of winning this time much more compelling, making you curious to how these teenagers could get out of this ugly mess.

What makes the sequel so strong after the first act is that it has a clear storyline that slowly builds up. The first act of this sequel works similar to the novel adaptation of the movie, but once the Sanderson sisters come back, all your framework is suddenly shattered. They can’t get help from anybody except in the underworld, lighting the candle won’t break the spell, and it is harder to outwit the Sanderson sisters. What begins as a very strange sequel with a great follow up to the storyline.

One of the things that I kept thinking while reading this book is how it relates to the rumors about a possible sequel. A.W. Jantha is an unknown author, so it could easily be a pseudonym. The book seems to be a proof of concept for a sequel, taking into account that it includes a lesbian character and Disney might want to see the reception of this story.

So far, ‘Hocus Pocus And The All New Sequel’ has been well received according to reviews. Even ‘Hocus Pocus’ producer David Kirschner during an interview in the podcast ‘Dizney Coast To Coast’ has confirmed that Disney has something in development. In a time where Disney doesn’t have many content related to Halloween, ‘Hocus Pocus’ could be an excellent story to fit in this time slot.

Final Veredict

What makes this book interesting comes from the sequel, not the novelization of the film. Even though the adaptation isn’t a bad one, it just follows through the story without giving much detail. Still, it is a fun read to go through if you want to refresh the movie in a different way.

The sequel is what makes this book strong. It starts as a simple story, but it gets more complex as it moves on. There’s a good balance between characters and plot situations, keeping the pacing fresh for this sequel.

’Hocus Pocus And The All New Sequel’ is a great read for fans who want to see more of their favorite witches and are hopeful for a movie adaptation of this sequel. Share this book with friends that also enjoy the movie. Maybe if fans vote with their dollars, that rumored ‘Hocus Pocus’ sequel could finally become a reality.

Book Review: Hocus Pocus In Focus by Aaron Wallace

For many years I’ve been interested in reading The Thinking Fan’s Guide series by Aaron Wallace. These books aren’t available in ebook form. For a person who constantly reads on his iPad and lives outside of the US, it has been difficult to get my hands on one of these books.

After re-watching Hocus Pocus some months ago, I acquired the only ebook I could get my hands on from this author. The film itself isn’t a favorite of mine, but I was interested in what Aaron Wallace had to say about this Disney cult film. Ever since the debut of the Hocus Pocus Villains’ Spelltacular show in the Magic Kingdom, the curiosity on the film grew on me.

‘Hocus Pocus In Focus’ is a book that peeks behind the curtain to understand details on the production and making of the film. It is difficult to understand how a silly witch story became one of the edgiest films released by Disney. Why would they give permission to mention about a teen’s virginity and its implications for the story? But more than just another book about the insider story of the production, Aaron Wallace theorizes about the meaning behind many overlooked lines and scenes of the film. In this sense, Aaron is able to give us the right ingredients to reinterpret the movie and maybe understand why it has grown within many fans two decades after its initial release.

Oh, and if you are a fun facts junkie that wants to read about all the little nuggets surrounding the film, don’t worry. There is a whole chapter at the end of the book dedicated to these stories.

Each chapter of the book is an essay about a specific aspect of the film. Of the several chapters, the three that sparked my curiosity the most were:

  • Understanding the meaning of yaboos and the importance of virginity in the film.
  • Why is Hocus Pocus Bette Midler’s magnum opus.
  • Understanding the language of the film as a Spielbergian, just as many films are explained as Hitchcockian.

Each chapter invites you to embrace Hocus Pocus as film worthy of study and analysis. Some chapters are about the plot itself, others about intertextuality and others about its significance within the Disney universe.

The explanation of the meaning of virginity throughout the film will definitely change your perception about the film. How each line of the characters, the video editing and the songs carry this symbol in the movie makes Aaron Wallace’s point bulletproof. Besides that, there is an interesting analysis on how witches are portrayed in this film and how they differ with the portrayal of witches in other Disney films.

‘Hocus Pocus In Focus’ sheds light on the importance of Hocus Pocus for Disney and film history. Besides showing perspectives of the film few people might have thought of, Aaron’s style lets you enjoy reading even if you’re not a huge fan of the movie. Most chapters are short and tight, simplifying the reading experience.

Aaron Wallace’s greatest achievement is the fact that it makes the reader enjoy the film upon multiple rewatches. Every single time you’ll get a different read of the film, taking into account your new information from the book.

Few authors do a serious analysis about the Disney phenomenon and in a way that doesn’t end up in academic mumbo jumbo and silly conspirative theories. Aaron Wallace makes it right with Hocus Pocus In Focus. For any fan who wants to learn more about the cult classic, this book is worth your time and attention.

Book Review: ‘Leia, Princess Of Alderaan’ by Claudia Grey

Some characters in Star Wars are harder to pin down on the written page such as Han, Luke, and Leia. These are personalities we know and feel, making it a real challenge for authors to create stories around them. Claudia Gray’s ‘Leia, Princess Of Alderaan’ gives a voice to one of these characters in a time back when Leia didn’t even thought the problems ahead of her future.

This book occurs in between ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ and ‘A New Hope’. Leia Organa has to prove herself worthy of the throne, so she must be able to do three challenges of mind, body, and heart. With each of these challenges, she faces the struggles of a young girl trying to find her place in the world. Leia has been distant with her parents for reasons she doesn’t understand. Little does she know that her parents are in the works of an important organization, the Rebel Alliance, to face the authoritarian Emperor Palpatine.

During these challenges, Leia meets with many people of her same age as part of the Apprentice Legislature, facing similar challenges like the ones she must complete. There she meets Amylin Holdo, who would later be crucial for ‘The Last Jedi’, and Kier Domadi, a boy from Alderaan who doesn’t know what to do when Leia confronts him with her newfound knowledge of the Rebel Alliance. This coming-of-age story takes the young Leia to unexpected planets while she tries to understand what her parents are hiding and trying to make diplomatic missions in order to do some relevant action to confront the Empire.

This book includes one of the most well threaded stories I’ve ever read. Claudia Gray’s style keeps you engaged from the very beginning, clearly establishing the main plot so that you can follow through in the several situations and subplots that actually lead to the main objective. The character-driven descriptions allow you to understand the struggles of Princess Leia as she finds her place in the political situation. Even though Amylin Holdo is part of the story, she isn’t shoehorned to prove the point that the character always existed. She is a useful ally for Leia, but they aren’t best friends from the start. The same happens when Gray uses Crait as a setting. The mention of the base makes sense as part of the story, thus giving some context to the place without shoehorning a planet only because it is seen in Episode 8.

Even though there isn’t too much action sequences compared to other Star Wars movies, it is able to create tension from many moments when Leia is facing some challenges. There’s especially one passage were Leia may or may not use the Force by accident. There are other chapters were she must be able to handle political inconveniences that also contribute to what is shown on film.

Claudia Gray has been able to pin down the voice and characterization of Leia. No wonder why she has been able to write another book, ‘Bloodline’, with the same character in a completely different timeline. This is definitely an author to look for outside and inside the Star Wars universe. Her pacing and style works like clockwork, having a unique way to thread great scenes that work in favor of the story. No wonder why her books are considered one of the best out of all the Star Wars canon books.

If you’d rather read a book to understand a character and keep you interested from start to finish, this is a great story to pick. It is similar in this aspect to ’Thrawn’ or ‘Most Wanted’, as both of these focus more on the characters rather than the action sequences. Claudia Gray’s style and pacing can’t be praised enough, because it truly immerses yourself into the story. This book written by a different author could be a really tiresome story, but Claudia Gray creates a story that involves one of the most recognized characters of Star Wars in a way that keeps it true to Carrie Fisher’s portrayal in the films.

Should Attractions Be Considered Art?

The first phrase that Imagineers use to excuse themselves from the closure or the reimagining of a Disney attraction sounds ridiculous: ‘Parks are not museums’. After using his phrases, the Imagineers mention how Walt always wanted to change the parks, because they will never be completed. Even though these excuses talk about the evolution of theme parks, it doesn’t answer if attractions could be considered art, and thus be preserved.

Parks are not museums, but they do involve artistry that should be respected.

Many of the earlier ride vehicles from Disneyland came as off-the-shelf pieces, later dressed as pirate ships, flying elephants, and turn-of-the-century cars. Imagineers, taken from the animation and live action departments of the studio, were trying to tell the story of the movies in a compressed time limit (as Tony Baxter would say, a book report of the movie). As any storyteller, Imagineers express the same stories in different ways. The design and layout that Harper Goff gave to the early vegetation of Disneyland has his imprint. The tone and mood created by the designs of Ken Anderson and Claude Coats in the dark rides on Fantasyland stays even in improved, reimagined versions of the ride. Frank Thomas will always be part of the railroads at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Every single artist has defined the style and layout of the theme parks, making a personal statement in this place.

As technology advances, Imagineers had more opportunities to express themselves in a similar way that improvements in sound, storyboarding, color, and multi plane cameras helped animators express better in their films. This allowed for artist to create immersive environments such as Pirates Of The Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. These attractions exist to tell a broad story instead of the attraction itself. In this way, the story transcended the medium.

In this sense, art became part of the attractions.

Art expresses a story, an idea, a concept. It expresses something without any particular function, making it a piece to understand our world and humanity. Can attractions fit within this definition? Or are attractions a functional product, delivering only entertainment for the guests in a theme park?

Some dark rides do have the function of entertainment, but sometimes they don’t. Even Pirates Of The Caribbean didn’t have a real function other than an idea Walt Disney had about a wax museum. Other attractions, like those developed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, have a function, in this case a marketing purpose. Does this mean It’s A Small World couldn’t be a piece of art? It has an idea, a concept, that transcends its initial function. This is one of the most artistic attractions, with the imprint of Mary Blair in and out. So the definition of art without function dilutes for attractions that could have had an initial function but its overall message transcends it.

Marc Davis was a true believer in attractions as an art form, using Audio-Animatronics for the next step of three dimensional animation and storytelling. It was such an important belief in his career that he took nearly 5 years of active development in Western River Expedition, which would become Marc Davis’ greatest achievement.

Marc David did most of the staging and visual gags for Pirates Of The Caribbean, contributing also to The Haunted Mansion. These attractions have his staple comedy and humor, just like a good piece of art represents the artist. Western River Expedition could have easily been title Marc Davis’ Western River Expedition because of how much involvement he had in the project.

For a person who started working at WED because Walt asked him, Marc had an artist’s ambition. Walt wanted more humor for Jungle Cruise, so he asked Marc to reimagine some scenes and develop new ones. From this short task, Marc came up with some of the most iconic moments from The Jungle Cruise. After that, he would collaborate for other projects like It’s A Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room. Even though Marc Davis would later talk about attractions as an art form that could helped him express, he started working in Imagineering because Walt begged him. Does that undermine the artistry of Marc Davis in these projects? No. It could still be considered art, even when Marc started with a clear task.

Maybe if we consider what Walt Disney thought about attractions, we can better define if they could be considered art. Even though he understood all the artistry involved in his project, trying to live up to the high brow audience since Fantasia, he ended up thinking about himself as a showman, an entertainer. When the early stages of The Jungle Book had many ideas of a film with a darker tone, Walt despised it and said that the movie should be a party in the jungle. Even with earlier films like Bambi, Fantasia or Dumbo, he was very conscious to keep the attention of the audience and make it entertaining. Walt, other that delivering a certain message or pushing and agenda with his projects, wanted people to be entertained with his films.

Disneyland was constructed because Walt wanted a place where kids and grownups could have fun together. He didn’t opened Disneyland to be a museum or an art gallery. Walt just wanted people to have fun. Even though he just wanted to make fun, you can’t undermine the thoughts of the hundreds of artists that worked on the project and thought of Disneyland and its attractions as a piece of art.

There’s a balance between creator and creation to define the artistry of attractions. Because its final product is intended to be entertaining, it could only be considered that. But during the process of creation for that piece of entertainment, there’s a lot of artistry into it that is a piece of art in itself. Attractions have that blend of art, technology, and entertainment.

Themed attractions could be a piece of art, while the off the shelf rides are not. There is an effort to achieve a well themed attraction. Pirates Of The Caribbean redefined the dark ride genre and the log flumes that appeared in other regional parks. At the same time, it is still difficult to say which attractions can’t be considered art. Even though many attractions in the Chester and Hester’s area from Dinoland U.S.A. of Animal Kingdom are off the shelf, they do deliver a theme, but there’s no doubt that Dinosaur could be considered art.

The difference between attractions and rides could be the answer to this problem. A ride is a lower experience, defined by the momentary feelings and emotions. An attraction however gifts a long lasting memory, the kinds of memories that we hear over and over when someone visits a theme park.

Parks aren’t museums after all, which is why old attractions don’t belong in a park because it is a business after all. And the decision to replace an attractions happens because of key performance indicators, not the value of art. The moment an attraction doesn’t deliver the kind of excitement that is entertaining to guests, then it is replaced with another attraction that could bring the necessary excitement for guest flow and customer satisfaction.

Maybe we can cherish long forgotten attractions in other ways than keeping them in the same park. Theme parks are a business, pondering the idea if attractions can be considered art. If films are made as a product, why are they still considered an art form? The question repeats itself.

But this time, let’s say that attractions could be an art form after all.

Book Review: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah S. Dawson

As I’ve reviewed several Star Wars books over the past months, some of my favorites have been those with few stakes that make a genre fit within the universe. This is the case of The Perfect Weapon, a short ebook story that takes you to one of the missions of Bazine Nethal, a character briefly shown in ‘The Force Awakens’ at Maz Kanata’s castle.

Delilah S. Dawson takes this femme fatale character and takes her on a mission to find the identity of an unknown Stormtrooper. Bazine Nethal is headed to ask for her old mentor’s spaceship, making a deal were she can take the transport but she will do the mission with a trainee of his.

Bazine heads to a simple yet intriguing mission, as it has a couple on twists on the way that will keep you interested. The biggest forte of this short story is the fact that it embraces how simple it is, giving detailed descriptions of the action and scenes without making it longer than it actually needs. It’s a self contained story in the vein of the stories of Canto Bight. The story suffers from the simplicity, but the author has taken that and made a good plot out of it.

If you’re into simple stories that don’t have any stakes in the major plots of the galaxy we know, this could be a good story to read in one sitting. It isn’t a mandatory read for ‘The Force Awakens’, neither does it explain why Bazine was at Mas Kanata’s castle. We only see the merciless character that is Bazine Nethal. This mission driven story is a fun ride that will keep you turning the pages for a couple of hours.