‘The Witches’ Remake Receives Backlash From Disability Community; Warner Bros Says It “Regrets Any Offence Caused”

Prominent members of the disability community, including campaigners, Paralympians and the Paralympic Games organization, have condemned the depiction of the eponymous characters in Warner Bros’ recently released The Witches, saying the use of distinct physical impairments in their hands is offensive to those with limb differences.

In the movie, Anne Hathaway’s character is shown with hands that are similar to the limb abnormality ectrodactyly, otherwise known as “split hand”, which is typified by the absence of one or more central digits on the hand or foot. See image above.

British Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren was one of the first to call out the studio for the imagery.

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Disability advocate Shannon Crossland stated on Instagram that the imagery in the film was “no way a reflection of the original novel written by Roald Dahl”.

“Is this the kind of message we want the next generation to receive. That having three fingers is a witch’s attribute? It is an extremely damaging portrayal. Disability should NOT be associated with evil, abnormality, disgust, fear or monsters,” she added.

In response to those messages and numerous others from members of the disability community, a Warner Bros spokesperson told Deadline it had been “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities” and that it “regretted any offense 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,” they added. “It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”

In Dahl’s 1983 novel, the witches are said to have “square feet with no toes” and “claws instead of fingernails”, though in the first edition cover illustration they are shown to have five fingers on their hands.

The official Paralympic Games twitter account weighed in today on Twitter.

Former Coronation Street actress Melissa Johns, a disability advocate, also tweeted.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, The Witches was released on HBO Max on October 22. It is the second adaptation of Dahl’s book after Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 film of the same name.

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