Back | Cyber | Tiny Fish | Sunny Day | Animatou | Big Plans | Signalis | Propellerbird | Witch’s Button | Joyets | Speechless | Tally Ho Pancake | Boy and the Beast

The Witch’s Button

Filmmaker: Nils Skapans
Country: Latvia
Year made: 2006
Length: 6′ 56″
Technique: 3D claymation


A red-haired young witch turns to look at us: we hear birdsong and a simple musical theme. Whistling, she balances a fir cone in her hand, pondering what to do with it. She’s looking quizzically at a little house surrounded by trees with cabbages growing in its garden. When she twists a green button on the back of her dress, the fir cone suddenly changes into a blob of pink clay, which she hurls at the house. Whistling at the effect, she gets another fir cone out of the pocket of her dress, transforms it into a yellow blob, and throws it at the house. Three more fir cones are successively transformed into white, orange and purple blobs and thrown at the house.

From a nearby mouse hole, a mouse looks out apprehensively. Coloured blobs are whizzing past and the house is now covered in blobs. The witch looks down at the cabbages and gets another idea. One of the cabbages is changed into a broomstick, which she mounts and flies away, seeing the house diminishing below her. When she gets back, the blobs that smothered the house have been incorporated neatly into its walls. The witch changes the broomstick into an apple tree. Not noticing that the button thread is unravelling, she climbs the tree and settles on one of the branches to eat an apple, and dozes off.

The button rolls away into the mouse’s hole. Two young mice discover it. Each jumps on to it and each in turn is decorated – or disfigured – with coloured flowers, spines and frills. The mouse parents find them and are similarly transformed; the mouse father throws the button away. It is found by a frog and then a fish, who are both also unwillingly decorated with coloured blobs. It lands in a blackbird’s nest and colours all the eggs, to the distress of the blackbird who throws it away. It lands on the witch’s lap and she wakes up. As soon as the button is in her hand, the magic starts to unravel. The apple tree turns back into a broomstick: she lands on the ground and sees the unhappy animals. She shakes the button hard: it disintegrates into a flock of ladybirds and the animals lose all their garish decorations.

Things you might notice

The claymation style that deliberately draws attention to its lumpiness and smeary texture (for example the pocket that appears and disappears when required; the lumpy ‘puffs’ in the witch’s cheeks as she whistles). Some children might like this; others might not.
Frequent changes of framing and camera angle that contrast with the relatively crude images and limited movement of the figures.
Simple background kept out of focus: the models and props are the important elements.

Themes to explore

Magic getting out of control: Because animation lends itself to transformations and fantastical images, this is a common theme in animated films (a classic example being the ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ section of Fantasia – Disney, 1940).
What sort of magic is it? Who ‘owns’ this magic and what rules govern it? Did the witch just find the button and use it, or has she created it herself as a useful tool for doing magic with? The button seems to be able to make its own decisions about what transformations it effects, once it gets away from the witch; she seems to need to have an object to use as the basis for a transformation, whereas the button on its own is able to add features to the mice, frog and fish that weren’t there before. One of the features of magic in stories is that it can be used to cut corners in narrative logic, so it may not be possible to establish ‘rules’ for the magic here.
Variations on a stereotype: A number of features in the usual witch stereotype are broken or modified here: she is young, and apart from having the typical big hooked nose of a witch, she may be thought quite attractive, with an expressive face and wild red hair. She wears a pinafore dress and a jumper, but she does have black boots like other witches. She whistles and laughs, and most of all appears to be doing magic for fun and to please herself, rather then for malign purposes. When the magic gets out of control and others suffer, she is quick to return the world to order. So she may be offering an attractive role model for girls.

Comments are closed.