Earwig and the Witch

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Short takes

Not suitable under 9; parental guidance to 12 (scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Earwig and the Witch
  • a review of Earwig and the Witch completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 9 February 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 9 Not suitable due to scary scenes.
Children aged 9–12 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes.
Children over the age of 12 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Earwig and the Witch
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild supernatural themes
Length: 83 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in the lush English countryside, Erica Wig - aka Earwig -is a young girl growing up in an orphanage after being abandoned by her mother, a glamourous red-haired woman with magical witch powers. One day, much to her horror, Earwig is adopted by a very strange, scary and mean-looking couple who have taken her from the orphanage to be a servant in their house. Earwig soon discovers that she has been adopted by a witch and her role is to cook, clean and help with the spells and potions. The witch’s husband, “The Mandrake”, is a tall, hulking creature that transforms into a menacing monster when he is bothered or annoyed. Always optimistic, Earwig decides that she will get the better of the couple and escape, but despite her best efforts the magical house keeps her trapped inside. With the help of Thomas, the little black witch’s cat, Earwig throws herself into learning enough magic to protect herself and cause some mischief.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Orphans; Magic; Supernatural; Horror; Music.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Earwig flicks her friend, Custard, hard in the face.
  • Earwig grabs a man’s belly roughly and pinches it, telling him that he should go on a diet.
  • Earwig grabs the cat’s head roughly, holding it by the ears and shouting at it.
  • The witch uses magic to make a broom push Earwig out of the room, shoving her roughly against a bed post where she hits her head.
  • One woman slaps another woman in the face.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • A car chases a woman on a motorbike fast down a highway. It seems like they are going to have a crash.
  • A woman on a motorbike wants to escape from a car that is chasing her, so she releases a swarm of worms from her mouth and throws them onto the car behind her so that she can zoom away.
  • In the orphanage, the children dress as little ghosts by putting sheets over their heads. They dance around in the nearby cemetery, pretending to be haunting it. A man walking past with his dog is spooked.
  • Earwig and Custard decide to enter a dark and spooky tower and climb to the top. The creaky door opens and eerie music plays as they enter. As they are walking up the dark staircase, Earwig talks excitedly about how she hopes they find a severed head at the top. Her friend Custard gets scared.
  • Earwig holds a torch under her chin, shining it up to make her face look scary and ghost-like, so that she can scare her friend Custard.
  • The couple that come to adopt Earwig from the orphanage are distinctly cold, menacing and have a cruel look about them.
  • When she arrives at her new home, although it is a cute cottage from the outside, Earwig discovers that it is an enchanted house that changes and has many hidden rooms. Some rooms are quite dark and scary. Earwig also realises that she is trapped in this house and can’t escape.
  • The man from the couple who adopts Earwig is a strange and hulking creature called, “The Mandrake”, who transforms into a monstrous creature when he is bothered or angry. For example, when his toast is badly cooked, his eyes glow and veins start to appear on his head etc. He can also walk through walls and look through them if he wants to. He has little demon robots that fly about him and do what he orders. These little robots are his spies.
  • The witch’s workshop is a disgusting, filthy and decrepit room, full of horrible ingredients. Earwig is made to work in the workshop, doing gross things like grinding up rat’s bones or skinning snakes.
  • The woman who has adopted Earwig is cruel and nasty and treats Earwig like a slave. She is always threatening to give Earwig ‘worms’ if she does not obey.
  • Earwig makes a voodoo doll of the witch so that she can control her and get revenge. She sticks an extra arm on the doll which makes the witch grow an extra pair of arms, one from her backside and one coming out of her forehead. This is a gruesome scene.
  • The witch causes a seething mass of worms to fall from the ceiling of Earwig’s room on to her.
  • A large, glowing, red pair of eyes appear on the wall of Earwig’s room – the cat tells her that the man is watching her from the next room. It is very sinister.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group are likely to find the above-mentioned scenes scary and disturbing.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Younger children in this age group are likely to find the above-mentioned scenes scary and disturbing, therefore parental guidance is recommended.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Sky Sports is shown on a banner hanging from a building.

Sexual references

There is one mild romantic scene in this movie:

  • Earwig’s mother is seen kissing a man as they drive along in a car.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Adults drinking wine.

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language and insults in this movie, including:

  • Idiot
  • Stupid
  • Scaredy-cat.

In a nutshell

Fans of Studio Ghibli may be a little disappointed by Earwig and the Witch. It is the first foray into CGI over hand-drawn animation and it lacks the charm and warmth of earlier Studio Ghibli films. It is a surreal and, at times, sinister movie, which will leave you wondering what it was all about. There are some very scary moments for small children and the premise of an orphan being adopted and held captive in a house to work as a slave is quite disturbing. However, older children may still enjoy the more imaginative elements of this film and its quirky characters.

The main messages from this movie are that sometimes solutions to our problems are unexpected and will take us by surprise; and that even the coldest hearts can be warmed by affection.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Optimism
  • Bravery
  • Tenacity.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • In this film, Earwig is kept in the house against her wishes and she can’t escape. She is also forced to do housework and work for the couple. Earwig remains cheerful and brave and seems unbothered by her situation. Parents could discuss whether her reaction is realistic and what a ‘normal’ person might feel in such a scary scenario.