Disability Advocates Call Out 'The Witches' Character Design

Alex Galbraith
·2 min read

A character design choice on the remake of The Witches has landed the team behind the movie in trouble with disability advocates. After viewers noticed that the titular witches in the new take on Roald Dahl’s story have uniquely disfigured hands that mimic a real-world disability, they questioned the creators on social media.

Anne Hathaway’s supreme witch in the film is shown with hands that mirror ectrodactyly, a condition also known as “split hand,” in which several digits of a hand or foot are not present. The witches of the novel are said to have claws instead of fingernails, and squared off feet. Illustrations and descriptions from the source material show no difference in the shape of a witch’s hand.

Paralympians and other disability advocates bristled at the association between the shape of the witches’ hands and evil, an insidious problem in film, particularly in horror.

Warner Bros told Deadline it meant no offense to any people with the design of the witches.

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

Studio representatives told the publication they were “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities” and “regretted any offense caused.”