When you hear the phrase “Disney villain,” a slew of characters probably come to mind. There are the classics, including the original: the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Soon after, the middle years’ baddies came along, including Cruella de Vil and Prince John from Robin Hood. Then you have the renaissance favorites like Ursula, Gaston, Jafar, and Scar, along with more modern villains like the insanely underrated “Shadow Man,” Doctor Facilier from The Princess and the Frog. These characters are just as entertaining and impactful on pop culture as their respective heroes and heroines, if not more so – and their signature songs are usually among the best in their films. Shout-out to “Be Prepared” from The Lion King, which I may still sing in the shower on the regular.
But perhaps the greatest Disney villain is the only one thus far to get her own live-action movie. Maleficent is THE Disney villainess, who serves true evil alongside a large helping of fabulousness for every second her live-action and animated selves are on screen in Maleficent and Sleeping Beauty, respectively. She inspires us to be OK with our dark side, as long as we keep in touch with our light one.
Here’s why we chose Maleficent to continue with our Halloween-month helpings of #WCW!
She straddles the good vs. evil line perfectly
It’s hard to argue with the claim that the original animated Maleficent was all bad, but we see a much different Maleficent in the live-action film. Though her behavior isn’t the most savory, we get a glimpse into her backstory that, while it may not excuse some of her actions, does make us sympathize with why she carried them out. Characters (and especially villains) who seem all evil on the outside but actually have many layers that explain why their minds work the way they do are always the most interesting.
She’s not immune to matters of the heart
In the live-action film, we get a chance to see just how powerful love can be from both a romantic and a maternal standpoint. After getting her heart broken by Stefan, Maleficent changes completely and swears revenge on him. Except instead of making out with her new boyfriend at a party where her ex happens to be in a convenient line of sight, she curses her ex’s baby. I mean…we’ve all been there, in one way or another (even if our curses came less in the form of magic and more in the form of F bombs). And we’ve all learned our lessons and matured from them, just as Maleficent does by the end of the movie when she becomes a surrogate mother figure to Aurora after years of watching over her – many times to the point of having to save her from the fairies’ clumsy, albeit adorable, care.
She has been portrayed by only the best
Today, Maleficent is probably most associated with Angelina Jolie. This is not a bad thing, considering Jolie is an amazing actress, philanthropist, parent, and all-around human being. In fact, I can’t think of a better person to have played the live-action Maleficent both for these reasons and the fact that Jolie has notoriously faced (and inspiringly conquered) past demons of her own, having come out better for it.
And it’s a good thing someone so perfect exists to have played Maleficent on screen, because Jolie had some big shoes to fill from Eleanor Audley, who voiced the original Maleficent and was also the inspiration for her facial features. Audley also voiced the sinister Lady Tremaine, aka the Evil Stepmother in Cinderella, as well as Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. You know the one: the floating head inside the crystal ball that says, “Send us a message from somewhere beyonnnd” in the room where the ride always breaks down (when I ride it, anyway).
From her wings (which she loses in the film but gets back by the end, thankfully) to her horns, to her cape and red lipstick and magic staff and even the fact that SHE HAS HER OWN RAVEN to do her bidding, we can’t think of a single flaw in Maleficent’s look. Even the pops of purple work for her, saying, “I’m a little bit evil and a little bit royalty, so haters to the left lest I curse a spindle for you to graze ‘accidentally.’” Not enough people dress as Maleficent for Halloween. Maybe it’s because no attainable costume good enough exists…though Walt Disney World does sell a Maleficent Mickey ears headband.
Um…she can turn into a dragon
The original Mother of Dragons, aka Daenerys who?
(Image via Walt Disney Pictures, GIF via here)