Kathy Najimy, from right, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker perform a spooky Blondie cover in Disney+’s “Hocus Pocus 2.”

The following contains spoilers from the movie “Hocus Pocus 2,” now streaming on Disney+.

Halfway through “Hocus Pocus 2,” Bette Midler shouts off a set of direct commands. “Clear the altar, all of you! Clear my stage!” she says, sending everyone around her scurrying.

“And you — try to keep up.”

That last instruction is directed at a petrified four-person rock band, but the same could be said of the sequel itself. Debuting Friday on Disney+, the movie attempts to echo a rare feat pulled off by its 1993 predecessor: staging a musical number with villainous charisma, narrative action and a sprinkle of spookiness — a formula that reinvented a well-known song as an iconic Halloween movie moment for the film’s legion of fans.

The movie is a nostalgia-drenched follow-up to the 1993 cult classic, featuring the returns of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy and Doug Jones as Winifred, Sarah, Mary and Billy Butcherson, respectively. And while the sequel certainly includes a few obvious nods to its predecessor — for instance, the helpful black cat Cobweb is clearly this film’s version of Thackery Binx — we also noticed several other, smaller references to the original movie that we’ve outlined in the list below.

Among the 13 homages we spotted (a fitting number for this time of year, no?): Billy’s description of himself as a “good zombie,” the same phrase Max used for him at the end of the first film; a Salem resident dressed as Madonna for Halloween, mirroring Max’s mom’s costume at the town hall party; and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that made us question everything we thought we knew about the Hocus Pocus universe.

Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson

As the Sanderson Sisters found themselves in increasingly dire straits during Hocus Pocus, Mary was the first to suggest a calming circle to help the siblings stay focused. And as the opening flashbacks of Hocus Pocus 2 reveal to us, Mary has been initiating that ritual since the girls were teenagers, including during their journey into Salem’s Forbidden Woods. The calming circles were much more serene when they were younger, though: In the witches’ older age, it’s less deep breathing and more deep grunting.While perusing her newly acquired spellbook, young Winifred’s eye is first caught by the manual’s cat transformation spell — which, of course, we know she’ll cast years later in order to turn Thackery Binx into an immortal feline.

Kathy najimy as Mary Sanderson

The original “Hocus Pocus” sees Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as sibling witches desperate to extract children’s souls in order to maintain their own youth. The movie’s director, Kenny Ortega, who was fresh off helming “Newsies,” had previously worked with Midler as an assistant choreographer on the 1979 film “The Rose” and pitched everyone on squeezing a song into “Hocus Pocus.” The idea was initially met with some resistance — “This is a movie that puts you on the edge of your seat, and you’re going to stop it for this musical number?” said producer David Kirschner at the time, according to Bustle — but Ortega won out.

“Bette is such a brilliant artist and a courageous spirit, and she isn’t afraid to break the rules when she performs,” Ortega tells The Times. “At the time, I just couldn’t imagine getting all the way through this movie without taking advantage of her musical talent.”

Sarah Jessica parker as Sarah Sanderson

The trio covered Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ 1956 song “I Put a Spell on You” — already a haunting track in itself, due to its booming blues rhythm, overtly lustful lyrics and the R&B singer’s signature shrieks. Composer Marc Shaiman, who regularly collaborated with Midler on her musical performances onscreen and onstage, rearranged the track into a family-friendly showstopper that highlighted her soaring vocals and animated acting choices.

“That first verse had to be slower, witchy and mystical,” explains Shaiman. After Midler greeted an onscreen crowd — a reference to the famed musical “Gypsy,” in which she had just starred — “the tempo kicks in, and then it’s a full-on Bette Midler performance, with a Tina Turner or Janis Joplin kind of energy and a theatrical orchestration.”

Since Hawkins’ song is notably brief when sped up, “we thought, what can we do to make this pertain to these characters and this actual moment in the movie?” Shaiman recalls. “Bette and I, as we are wont to do, immediately started writing new lyrics. I remember we were very excited about coming up with, ‘Your wretched little lives have all been cursed/ ‘cause of all the witches working, I’m the worst,’ because we love real rhymes.”

Shaiman also added a mysterious call-and-response chant and vocal parts mimicking Midler’s real-life backup singers the Harlettes, which Parker and Najimy learned quickly. “Everything was like a kind of alchemy,” he says. “It just worked.”

Watch the trailer below

In 1993, the Sandersons thought water would be their demise when Max passed off their house’s sprinkler system as the “burning rain of death.” And they were convinced, for a while! Having learned nothing in the afterlife, though, the sisters are tricked by H2O again when Hocus Pocus 2‘s Becca pretends her Dasani is actually a rare juice the witches need for their potion. “Oh, this is just water,” Becca later reveals — a sentence that should sound awfully familiar to Winifred, having uttered it herself 29 years earlier.And in a wink to a different trick that Max and Allison pulled on the sisters, in which they taped over a car’s headlights to mimic the sunrise that would kill the Sandersons, the sorceresses believe they’re facing the sunlight once more when Mayor Traske (Tony Hale) pulls into his driveway. “I don’t want to die!” Mary exclaims, then realizes moments later, “Oh, oopsie. Sorry. My mistake. It’s just a very small bus.”There was only one way the sisters could fittingly bid Salem farewell, and the sequel doesn’t disappoint on that front. As Sarah and Mary fade into oblivion, the former once again gives a wistful “Goodbye!” as she disappears, while the latter utters her now-iconic “Buh-bye!” one last time.

By Vikram

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