Warner Bros says sorry after disability campaigners slam new adaptation of Roald Dahl's 'The Witches'

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
·3 min read

Watch: The Witches trailer

Warner Bros has apologised and 'regrets any offence caused' in the new adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches, after campaigners rounded on the depiction of disability in the film.

Anne Hathaway's character in the new movie, the Grand High Witch, is seen to have missing middle fingers on each hand, similar to the limb abnormality ectrodactyly.

But campaigners have said that it's another instance of movies linking disability or physical impairments to evil characters.

Anne Hathaway in The Witches (Credit: Warner Bros)
Anne Hathaway in The Witches. (Warner Bros)

Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren brought the matter to the attention of the studio earlier this week, asking: “Was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would affect the limb difference community?”

She posted a statement from the charity Reach, which said that “it's upsetting to something that makes a person different being represented as something scary”.

Marren also notes that in Quentin Blake's original illustrations, the witch has all of her fingers.

The official Paralympics Twitter account also weighed in.

Read more: Hathaway will give kids nightmares with Witches transformation

“Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised,” it said.

In a statement given to Deadline, Warner Bros said that it is “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities”.

“In adapting the original story, we worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the cat-like claws that are described in the book,” they went on.

Read more: The Witches will skip UK cinemas

“It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”

However, many have already picked up the hashtag #NotAWitch, and are running with it.

View this post on Instagram

Growing up Roald Dahl's "The Witches" was one of my favourite books, so much so that I read it to my class when I was teaching, and I absolutely love the original movie. I was excited for the new film adaptation @witchesmovie from @warnerbrosuk until I saw that the director made the decision to remove some of the grand high witch's (played by @annehathaway) fingers. While some might not understand the significance of this decision, I and the rest of the limb difference community do. This is a real condition known as Ectrodactyly. It isn't "scary" or "creepy" and portraying it as such perpetuates harm against all of us with limb differences, but especially children - who deserve to see positive representation of themselves, who deserve to know that they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are. As a victim of bullying, my heart truly breaks for all the children with limb differences who are going to be made to feel ashamed of themselves because of this movie and the message it sends to impressionable audiences. ⁠ ⁠ I won't be watching the new Witches film, and while I encourage you to do the same, I also implore you to do your part in helping normalize limb differences. Talk to your able-bodied children, friends, and family. Let them know why this decision isn't merely a stylistic choice. I am #notawitch and I will not feel shame about or hide my limb difference, and neither should you! ⁠ UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who is calling in the ways that which depictions are also extremely anti-Semitic. Let us address ALL marginalizations and oppressions as we fight for socially just and anti-racist representation! ⁠ ⁠ [Image description: A black and white photo of Alexis, who is seated with one hand resting on her chin. The other is draped across her naked torso with the words #notawitch written on her forearm in black marker. She is staring thoughtfully into the camera]

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The latest iteration of Dahl's 1983 book has been directed by Robert Zemeckis, is narrated by Chris Rock and also stars Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci.

Reviews, have been mixed, with veteran critic Richard Roeper describing it as “far too disturbing for young children and not edgy enough to captivate adults”.

Watch: The Witches featurette