Maleficent: Sleeping Beauty–What You Need to Know

“Maleficent, ” starring Angelina Jolie in the title role, marks the 55th ain the animated feature released by Disney in 1959. Since her introduction, Maleficent has been Disney’s all-time most popular villain. Now she returns in this live-action version of the classic story—and there’s a lot about her we never knew.

The character Maleficent was a Disney creation first introduced in their 1959 animated feature “Sleeping Beauty.” But the story of the princess who falls under a spell of eternal sleep has been told since the beginning of fairy-tale time.

The story of Sleeping Beauty evolved—under different titles—over approximately 400 years (1000 if we count some overlapping elements from medieval times). The early written origins of the story can be traced from the French novel “Perceforest” (author unknown), written in 1527, to a tale by Italian storyteller Giambattista Basile (1636) called “Sun, Moon & Talia” from a collection entitled “The Tale of Tales,” which is generally accepted as the first collection of fairy tales ever printed.

In 1697, a version of the story called “The Beauty Asleep in the Woods” was published by Charles Perrault in his book, “The Tales of Mother Goose.” The Brothers Grimm borrowed heavily from this version in writing their own 1812 story of a beautiful princess awakened from a spell-induced slumber, “Little Briar Rose.”

The spinning wheel is the only consistent plot point in all the versions of the story from the earliest to the latest. Spinning needles or splinters of spun flax have caused deep sleep for all the princesses in the legacy of Sleeping Beauty.

The origins of Maleficent as a female personification of evil are less clear. Basile’s story casts a queen as the jealous, vengeful villainess but she was married to the king and not an independent outsider who inflicts a curse on the royal family. Perrault changed the villainess to a wicked fairy and also introduced the element of a handsome prince whose kiss could break the spell. His version is the closest to Disney’s interpretation.

The film took 10 years to make and cost $6 million. It was the most expensive movie the studio had produced to that point in time.

Maleficent remains both the favorite and the most feared character in Disney’s gallery of infamy.