Warner Bros apologises for portrayal of limb impairments in The Witches

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·3-min read

The filmmakers and studio behind the latest adaptation of The Witches have said they were “deeply saddened” to learn the movie might have upset people with disabilities and “regret any offence caused”.

The film stars Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, who can be seen with three elongated fingers on each hand.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it is the latest adaptation of the Roald Dahl book, about witches disguised as women who are conspiring to turn children into mice.

It also stars Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci.

A Warner Bros Pictures spokesperson said: “We the filmmakers and Warner Bros Pictures are deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities, and regret any offence caused.

“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.

Watch: Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci on Reuniting Once Again With an Iconic Soup Scene in The Witches

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

“This film is about the power of kindness and friendship. It is our hope that families and children can enjoy the film and embrace this empowering, love-filled theme.”

Stanley Tucci and Octavia Spencer (Warner Bros Pictures/PA)
Stanley Tucci and Octavia Spencer (Warner Bros Pictures/PA)

British Para swimmer Amy Marren was among the first to criticise the film, writing on Twitter: “Was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?!

“Yes. I am fully aware that this is a film, and these are Witches. But Witches are essentially monsters. My fear is that children will watch this film, unaware that it massively exaggerates the Roald Dahl original and that limbs differences are to be feared.”

The Paralympic Games said: “Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised.”

Para triathlon world champion Claire Cashmore posted a picture of Hathaway in character holding up her hands and said: “‘Your arm is so scary.’ ‘Your arm makes me feel sick’

“These are just a few comments I received growing up. As a self conscious youngster these comments hurt ALOT and would knock my confidence. Nowadays I just feel sorry for the very ignorant people.

“Seeing this picture from the ‘The Witches’ film made me very confused/upset.

“Yes you could say it’s great to see someone with a limb difference on TV and more than anything I really want to see more representation in the media.

“However we want disabilities to to be normalised and be represented in a positive light rather than being associated with being a scary, evil, witch.

“I know a lot of children and adults who are born missing their fingers and I want them to know that this does not represent you. Your limb difference is not scary. Your difference is unique and beautiful and should be celebrated.

“Some may think that the limb difference community is being over sensitive. But have you lived your life trying to overcome a stigma?

“I really don’t believe that @warnerbrosuk would have wanted to upset or cause offence but I think maybe a few more discussions should have been had.

Watch: The Witches cast (UK Featurette)