The live action film based on a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of the popular green-skinned villainess is scheduled to arrive in theaters in 2015. Originally conceived by Incredibles, and Mission Impossible director Brad Bird, the project has gone through numerous production changes. At one point, in the wake of Alice in Wonderland’s success, cult director Tim Burton was even rumored to be heading the project. As the film appears ready to begin pre-production, however, that role has been given to Robert Stromberg, an untested director whose experience lies firmly in effects and design. Stromberg is known for his production design work on both Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and the blockbuster Avatar. The placement of a visual effects specialist at the head of Maleficent promises a visual feast, and suggests that the film may be heavily reliant on digital effects, much like Alice in Wonderland and Disney’s in-production Oz: The Great and Powerful.
The film’s script, praised by Jolie in a 2011 interview by Jolie, is penned by Linda Woolverton, known to Disney fans for her work on Alice in Wonderland as well as her treatments for beloved animated classics Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
Maleficent will not be Disney’s first shot at rehabilitating a green-skinned villainess; the studio also backed the popular musical stage adaptation of Wicked, the story of the “Wicked” Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. This will, however, be the company’s first attempt to bring one of its animated villains to the big screen in a starring role. Villains have grown increasingly popular in recent years, a trend that Disney has successfully tapped with its ABC fairy tale show Once Upon a Time in which Snow White’s Evil Queen is re-imagined as a main character. Since Maleficent was recently voted the top Disney villain, it seems that her potential stardom is only natural. Certainly, her dramatic character and rich voice (originally provided by Eleanor Audley, also known to Disney fans as Lady Tremaine and Madame Leota) created an impression that has stayed with generations of movie goers.
Angelina Jolie has expressed her delight in the opportunity to play the character. Not only praising Woolverton’s script, Jolie also spoke extensively of her joy in doing family-friendly projects. Having done voice work for both of Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda films, Jolie emphasized her own role as a mother and expressed her enthusiasm for a family-friendly Disney project. Her Saturday statements about Maleficent imply that she chose the Disney film over another rumored Luc Besson project for which she was being courted. Her long standing enthusiasm for the film, coupled with the focus on visual production and script offers hope for Disney fans that maybe, this time at least, Maleficent will be invited to the party after all.