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Hocus Pocus 2: Was The Mother Witch Supposed To Be Thora Birch's Dani?

Disney gave fans a spooky treat in 2022 with the release of "Hocus Pocus 2" on Disney+. The film not only introduced audiences to plenty of new faces but also brought back plenty of original characters from the 1993 cult classic. However, while the plucky Dani Dennison (Thora Birch) was not one of the names to reappear in the long-awaited follow-up, she lives on in spirit through the newly introduced Witch Mother (Hannah Waddingham). 

The Sanderson sisters encounter the Witch Mother as children while escaping into the forbidden woods from the angered townspeople of Salem. Instead of devouring the children, however, the Witch Mother senses the sisters' close bond and the fear they bring to the outsiders of their town. She gifts them with the "Manual of Witchcraft and Alchemy" while advising them to avoid using the all-powerful witch spell. It is also discovered that the character once had a tight-knit coven similar to the Sandersons' but has been on her own for some time.

Dani may not be the first character who comes to mind when looking at the Witch Mother, but the two do share some similarities. This mostly comes down to their costuming, as the witch's red, gold, and black attire mirrors Dani's similarly designed costume from the original film. Even if the character is not explicitly meant to be Dani, her appearance can be seen as a fun homage to the character. However, Dani's initial involvement in the sequel was set to be more substantial. 

Thora Birch was originally set to return in Hocus Pocus 2

"Hocus Pocus 2" managed to work its own magic spell to bring back beloved cast members from the original film. However, while the team struggled to find a place for some of the original cast, Thora Birch's Dani Dennison originally had an entirely new role cooked up for her character in the sequel. 

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Belissa Escobedo, who stars in the film as Izzy, explained that Thora Birch almost made it into the film. When describing what Birch's character would have done in the film, Escobedo explained, "We almost had her. She was going to be our schoolteacher. ... I remember talking to Anne [Fletcher, the director,] about it being a thing where she was our teacher, and we went to her for help." There are few people out there who could probably help in such a situation as well as Dani, who managed to escape the wrath of the Sanderson sisters in the original. 

Birch was unable to return due to her commitments to directing the Lifetime original "The Gabby Petito Story" and starring in the Netflix series "Wednesday," the latter of which she also had to miss out on. "I was just a little dismayed I wasn't able to make it," Birch revealed in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. "... Otherwise, I was definitely going to be there on set with the girls." Birch added that despite her disappointment, she was excited to see what they did with the project.