'The Witches' on HBO Max: The Big Change the New Version Makes

The Witches being released on HBO Max has led to questions being asked by much of the internet—why would you remake The Witches when the original movie was so great, and what could the new version starring Anne Hathaway offer that was missing from the 1990 movie with its iconic performance from Anjelica Houston?

One thing the new film can do, however, is change the huge problem "The Witches" author Roald Dahl had with the first movie version, with reports suggesting that it will alter the first movie's ending.

The 1990 version, directed by Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth director Nic Roeg, had a very different ending from Dahl's 1983 book.

In the book (spoilers ahead), the unnamed protagonist never gets turned back into a boy. He and his grandmother make a plan to turn all the witches into mice using their own formula against them, then set cats on them to destroy them for good.

The ending for the main characters, however, is very downbeat, with the boy coming to terms with the fact that his life span as a mouse is significantly shorter when he says, "I'll be a very old mouse and you'll be a very old grandmother and soon after that we'll both die together."

the witches hbo max
'The Witches' has been made into another movie, coming this October to HBO Max. HBO Max

In the movie, meanwhile, we see the witches turned into mice after the protagonist, unnamed in the book and called Luke in the film, puts the formula in their soup. Shortly after that, he gets turned back into a boy by a witch turned good, Miss Irvine (played by Jane Horrocks).

The film shot multiple endings after Jim Henson, who provided mice puppets for the film, wrote to Dahl's publisher Penguin saying" "Roald's ending works wonderfully and is obviously the best. However, a film is quite different from a written story and, for a number of reasons, we think that the new ending might work better in the movie."

Per Dahl's widow Felicity, the author loved the first ending, but hated the ending that had tested better with test screening audiences. She told The Telegraph: "Nic Roeg showed us the first ending, and Roald had tears running down his cheeks, he was so pleased. But then he showed us the other one, and Roald said: 'Take my name off this thing. You've missed the whole point of the book.' I'd never seen him so upset."

Dahl himself defended his ending in a letter to Henson in which he wrote, "It is also a happy ending. The boy is happy as a mouse. He tells us so. And there is a fair bit of elementary philosophy in it, too. What, after all, is so marvelous about being a human? Mice are far happier. They have far less worries."

The new version, however, is aiming to pay tribute to Dahl with what Deadline called a script, "more faithful to the source material," suggesting the downer ending will be back—or, at least, will be significantly different from the 1990 version.

That said, Zemeckis is set to make some major changes of his own. Speaking to French outlet Allocine, the Death Becomes Her director said: "We're gonna set it in the Gothic South in the 1960s...that's an exciting way to put a sociological spin on this traditional witch story."

The Witches is released on HBO Max on October 22.