Maleficent is a villainess who originated in the 1959 animated Disney feature, Sleeping Beauty. She is a dark
fairy, the shadowed counterpart to the three good fairies, and lives alone on the Forbidden Mountain where she presumably
gathers power — for what use? Who knows. Every action she takes shows her calculating wickedness. In the movie she targets
then little baby Princess Aurora for her parents' supposed crime, and every step from then on is filled with malice towards
the princess and everyone who gets near her.
There seems no greater purpose to Maleficent's choices, except the obvious one: she does what she does because it
gives her pleasure. This makes her all the more frightening, for there is no reasoning with her, no bargain that can
possibly be made. She has such power in her hands, and she uses it to unravel the happiness of others with deliberate
strokes of evil.
Maleficent was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who is also famous for having voiced Lady Tremaine in Disney's
The following is an excerpt from John Grant's Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters
about his own interpretation of Maleficent:
|Of all the characters in Sleeping Beauty, the one that everyone remembers, even
decades later, is the wicked fairy Maleficent. She is one of the finest creations ever to come out of the
Disney studio — and the brilliant transformation of her into the Dragon to fight Phillip merely adds to the
strength of her characterization. Ever her name — a wonderful combination of "malice" and "malevolent" —
testifies to her pure evil. People who thought that the wicked Queen in Snow White might frighten
children were presumably petrified themselves when they took their grandchildren to see Maleficent. To an
extent this is achieved because she is a much more rounded character than her earlier counterpart — she has
something of the dashing style of Cruella De Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmations — which is hardly
surprising, because Marc Davis did much of the work on both of them. In his interview with A. Eisen, Davis
described the experience:
“I had nothing to do with the dragon [that was Ken Anderson's province] but it was based on
Maleficent. There was a consistency; this wasn't just a dragon that she turned into, this was her own
particular dragon. Maleficent was a very difficult character, because she always raised her arms and gave
a speech. This is a very difficult thing to make come off. When one character is working with another
character, you get the contact, you feel the reaction. Once you have two characters that work together, they
come to life.”
Despite these difficulties, Disney succeeded in making Maleficent come to life in both her forms.
Tall and thin with a black horned headdress and a capacious, swirling cloak, with a contemptuous face and
highly arched eyebrows, with a long neck that seems to be nothing more than thinly covered vertebrae, she
is a terrifying figure even in her rare moments of repose. Her driving emotion is hatred — hatred of all
things good — and as a result she incidentally hates fairies, human beings, animals... anything capable of
displaying the gentler emotions. Her reason for cursing the newborn infant is a trivial one — she was
slighted by the failure to send her an invitation to the festivities — and its triviality is emphasized
by the fact that she is so superior int erms of power and influence to anyone else in the movie that one
would not expect her to notice, one way or another, whether or not she had received and invitation at all. No,
her "reason" for setting the curse is not that at all: it is merely an excuse for her exercise her all-consuming
malevolence and hatred.
[ back to main page ]
This page was last modified on April 15th 2007.