Though the precise origins of the project vary from source to source, the makers of 1989’s low-budget supernatural high school comedy Teen Witch all agree that they were united by a common desire to ride the coattails of the Michael J. Fox comedy Teen Wolf. Though Teen Witch lasted but a week in theaters, the contractual bare minimum, the modest musical had a robust afterlife on cable and home video, eventually garnering a loyal cult following. Now, over at Slash Film, writer Blake Harris has assembled an affectionate oral history of Teen Witch with numerous quotes from the cast and crew, including star Robyn Lively. The article is meant as a supplement to an episode of Paul Scheer’s podcast How Did This Get Made?, which is covering Teen Witch in a less reverent fashion
Harris’ principal source is producer and casting director Alana H. Lambros, who takes an unmistakable, almost parental pride in the film. Everyone involved in Teen Witch seems to harbor fond feelings about the project, in spite of or maybe because of its late-1980s cheesiness. The only real note of rancor (and it’s a mild one) is struck by screenwriter Robin Menken, who insists that it was she who brought this idea to Trans World Entertainment (TWE) and not the other way around. Fans of Ellen DeGeneres might be upset to learn that the comedienne was considered but nixed for a supporting role in the film, but this is a relatively minor point. She recovered.
Though it ended up as family-friendly Disney Channel fodder, Teen Witch was originally conceived as a raunchy, gross-out comedy with nudity and sex jokes. The film really began to take shape when director Dorian Walker joined the project and reconceived the film as a musical. Lambros was enthusiastic about this idea, but the execs at TWE were skeptical and granted Lambros a shorter-than-usual shooting schedule and a lower-than-normal budget, essentially as punishment. Undaunted, Lambros and Walker brought the musical Weir siblings to work on the movie’s songs, including the memorable “Popular Girl.” Miraculously, the film was completed on time and on budget, and TWE was so sold on the musical aspect of the film that they added some additional songs, including an infamous rap, after Lambros had moved on to other projects. Critics may scoff, but the kids ate it up.