05/11/2020 12:29 GMT

Warner Bros Apologises After The Witches Film Sparks Backlash Over Depiction Of Limb Difference

Many have taken issue with the fact Anne Hathaway's villainous character has only three fingers on each hand.

Warner Bros has issued an apology after many disabled people took issue with the way limb difference was depicted in their new film version of The Witches.

Released last month, the new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic book sees Anne Hathaway in the lead role of the Grand High Witch.

The film adds a new detail not seen in the original book – or the first adaptation starring Anjelica Huston – in which her character has only three fingers on each hand.

Following the film’s debut, many disabled public figures voiced their disapproval of this detail, suggesting it perpetuates stigma around disability.

Warner Bros
Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch in The Witches

“Was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?!” questioned Paralympian Amy Marren, who said: “It’s upsetting to [see] something that makes a person different being represented as something scary. 

“This opens up all new difficult conversations for those with limb differences and sets back what we are trying to achieve which is to celebrate who you are.”

Since then, many people with disabilities have been posting photos of themselves on social media, using the hashtag #NotAWitch.

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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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Apologising in a statement issued to Deadline, a spokesperson for Warner Bros 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. It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”

They added: “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.”

Warner Bros’ new version of The Witches also stars Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci and voice acting from Chris Rock.

It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who previously helmed all three Back To The Future films, Death Becomes Her and Forrest Gump.