The Scoop on Disney's Much-Anticipated "Maleficent"

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
November 29th, 2013

The Scoop on Disney's Much-Anticipated "Maleficent"

Maleficent is one of the best-known Disney villains, being the big baddie at the heart of one of the most iconic Disney princess films ever—"Sleeping Beauty." That film portrayed Maleficent to be a somewhat one-dimensional character who only wanted to see Aurora, the sleeping beauty, stay asleep forever or die. Her persona was never really fleshed out, but Disney is doing something about that now with the highly touted upcoming film "Maleficent."

In May 2009, it was revealed that Brad Bird, who has directed both live-action and animated features including "The Incredibles" and "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," was developing a film about Maleficent. Details at the time were scant, but what it was known that this would be a live-action film rather than an animated film, which took some people by surprise. Who could possibly pull off such a challenging role? Enter Angelina Jolie, whose angular face and exceptional acting talent are exactly what would be needed to bring Maleficent to life. The only other detail given to the public at the time was that the film would be a retelling of "Sleeping Beauty"—told from Maleficent's point of view.

Originally, Tim Burton was set to direct, which led people to believe that this would be a very dark film, as that is Burton's trademark. He had other projects pending, however, and had to drop out to focus on those. After a long search, Disney execs finally settled on Robert Stromberg, who would be making his directorial debut on the film. He had previously worked in the special effects department of several major motion pictures, including "Avatar," and had won two Oscars. With a director on board, the script just needed to be finished, and Paul Dini and Linda Woolverton were already hard at work on it.

The next big public announcements regarding the film had to do with the casting of the secondary characters. Miranda Richardson being cast in the role of Queen Ulla was one of the first announcements. Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville were also cast as Knotgrass and Flittle, respectively; while smaller roles assigned to Angus Wright and Peter Capaldi, the future Doctor in "Doctor Who," were later announced. The other big role that everyone was waiting for, that of Aurora, was given to Elle Fanning.

Several of these characters would be new to fans of "Sleeping Beauty." It was also revealed that the film would be both a retelling of that classic film and a prequel of sorts. Instead of just starting from the beginning of Aurora's tale and telling it from Maleficent's side, the script would also delve into the Mistress of All Evil's past. Now audiences were going to see how she grew up and what exactly turned her from an impressionable, good little girl to the evil villain she is in the tale of "Sleeping Beauty."

Principal photography began on June 18, 2012, in London, and it wasn't long before Disney would give the public a taste of what was to come. They photographed Jolie in her full Maleficent garb, complete with evil-looking black horns and ethereal-looking makeup. They released the photos just days into production, which really whetted fans' appetites. Jolie looked stunning, and suddenly the hype surrounding the film grew to a much bigger roar.

Because the full villain costume was quite scary, Jolie later told an audience at the Disney D23 Expo that kids on the set were scared of her. In an effort to stop making kids cry, producers cast Jolie's own daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, as a young Aurora.

A very short trailer for the film was released on Nov. 13, 2013, to much applause from fans who had been waiting to see more than just a few production stills. It showed Jolie at her scariest and gave viewers a sense of just how dark the film would be. The shadowy setting was well established in the trailer, as was the fact that the film would be heavy on the CGI. The special effects looked fantastic, just like one would expect from a film with a budget estimated to be anywhere from $130 million to as much as $200 million.

In October 2013, the film went through a few days of reshoots to fix the opening of the film, aided by veteran director John Lee Hancock of "The Blind Side." Those reshoots will be edited into the final product, which is slated for release on May 30, 2014.