Australian Council on Children and the Media

Mary and the Witch's Flower

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Not recommended under 8, parental guidance recommended 8 to 10 due to some scary and violent scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mary and the Witch's Flower
  • a review of Mary and the Witch's Flower completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 January 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to scary and violent scenes
Children aged 8 to 10 Parental guidance recommended due to scary and violent scenes
Children aged 10 and over 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.

Name of movie: Mary and the Witch's Flower
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild fantasy themes
Length 103 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Mary (voiced by Ruby Barnhill) has just moved in with her Great-Aunt Charlotte (Lynda Baron) in the English countryside. Mary is nervous about starting school and making friends.

One day, after being teased by a local boy named Peter (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), Mary escapes to the woods and stumbles across a beautiful glowing flower and an old broomstick. These items transport Mary to the magical school, Endor College, run by Madam Mumblechook (Kate Winslet) and Doctor Dee (Jim Broadbent).

When Mary discovers a horrible secret she must be brave in order to save herself and Peter.

Themesinfo

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.

Magic/fantasy; separation from family; kidnapping; children in danger; cruelty to animals

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.

  • Doctor and Madam kidnap Mary and Peter, and lock them in their dungeon. They render them unconscious with some magic gas. It is implied that they will magically transform them into something else. At the end of the film, they try to transform Peter into a magical being.
  • Doctor and Madam conduct experiments on helpless animals, trying to transform them into magical creatures. The results of failed experiments (animals who are deformed) are locked in cages in the dungeon.
  • It is implied that a previous student was killed as a result of Doctor and Madam’s experiments.
  • The Doctor and Madam have magical creatures that chase Mary and Peter, and try to attack or capture them. Some of these creatures look like robots and others like large magical birds.

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:

  • The movie opens with a girl escaping buildings that are on fire with explosions everywhere. The girl almost falls off a cliff and is then chased by scary creatures.
  • There is a big storm with thunder and lightning and Mary’s broomstick flies right into it.
  • The teachers at Endor College (Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee) may scare  younger children. Doctor Dee is partly mechanical and has a robotic arm.  Madam Mumblechook first appears as a large overbearing water-being who scares Mary.
  • The scene where students turn themselves invisible may be scary for some children. The students are wearing creepy masks and long robes, and when Mary tries she creates a large explosion that throws some students across the room.
  • Throughout the film, broomsticks lose their power and fall from the sky. Mary and the girl at the beginning are shown falling from great heights. Mary hurts herself a little and cries.
  • Some of the transformed animals in the dungeon may be scary to young children. When the animals are transformed back into themselves, they try to stampede out and almost crush Mary and Peter.
  • The final scenes where Doctor and Madam are trying to transform Peter may be scary. Peter is locked into a tube and has magic liquid flow over him. There are lots of explosions, the lab starts burning down, and Peter is engulfed by a huge magical beast.

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.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed or scared by the above-mentioned scenes.

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.

Some children in this age group may also be  scared by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

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 of concern

Product placement

None found

Sexual references

Nothing of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

Nothing of concern

In a nutshell

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a beautiful Japanese animated film by Studio Ponoc (founded by former Studio Ghibli animators). Based on Mary Stewart's 1971 classic children's book The Little Broomstick, the film is a magical adventure starring a lovable and brave young girl that is sure to appeal to both parents and children. Due to some scary and violent scenes, the film is not recommended for children under 8 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 8-10 years.  

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

  • kindness
  • bravery
  • helping others

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children some real-world consequences of lying. For example, when Mary lied about being a witch and lied about Peter.  

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