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SYFY WIRE The Witches

'The Witches' character design sparks Warner Bros. apology after criticism from disability community

By Jacob Oller
The Witches HBO Max

The Witches remake from Robert Zemeckis didn't wow fans of the original, but its change in the design of its titular witches — specifically to the head witch played by Anne Hathaway — has led to criticism from the disability community about connections to real-world limb differences.

Author Roald Dahl described witches in the source material as having square feet with no toes, blue spit, bald heads, and clawed fingers. Zemeckis' film for Warner Bros. and HBO Max altered some of these elements, particularly when designing the hands of Hathaway's character.

Part of her monstrous reveal includes hands that have visual similarities to those of some born with ectrodactyly, with the connection drawn between the two inspiring criticism from the likes of the Paralympic Games and athletes like Amy Marren:

The advocates explain that giving limb differences a scary or evil connotation is a setback for representation and harmful to those with these differences in real life. Warner Bros. issued an apology via statement to Deadline, explaining that the studio “regretted any offense caused” and was “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,” the statement continues. “It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”