FROM "SLEEPING BEAUTY"
WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
You all knew that arguably the best and most iconic Disney villain of all time was going to make it the top 10 spot of my list sooner or later, and here she is as one of my top 3 favorites. The first time I was ever introduced to Maleficent (apart from the merchandise and pictures of her that Disney loves to market when it comes to Disney villains) is when she was seen to be dancing with the Disney villains in front of the “Haunted Mansion” during the "Grim Grinning Ghost" number in the "Disney Sing Along Song" video "Disneyland Fun". Granted, that shouldn't count since she was portrayed in live-action than in animation, but as far as back as I can remember before Disney would re-release the film to VHS for its Masterpiece collection in 1997; this was the only way that I was personally able to see her. And I just admired how she stole that number by having a presence that simply strikes fear as she's being surrounded by dancing evil trees, and scaring away the other Disney villains. She to me was so badass that I couldn't wait to see the film, and when I did it didn't disappoint. I loved watching her in the movie, as well as seeing her appear in spin-offs like the "Kingdom Hearts" franchise, and the classic Disney theme park show "Fantasmic". However, when I stopped watching Disney movies for a bit when I went through High School, and began brainstorming for the list during its early stages, apart of me didn't know if I should rank her on my top 5 or even the top 10 spot since I remember villains like Jafar, Gaston, and Ursula more than I do her. I remember more of the other villains’ scenes and motivations than I do hers. And not counting in the spin-offs that she's been in didn't help me much either since I remembered her more from the spin-offs than I do the actual film. I was beginning to think that she was just an overrated villain, and that she's only recognized as one of the greats because that Disney loves to market her as one. However, when I finally decided to review "Sleeping Beauty" in order for me to review its distasteful spin-off film with Angelina Jolie, I found myself admiring the character more than I ever did. What exactly were those moments that gave me a change of heart to put her so high on my personal favorites list?
Well let’s start out with the first thing that stands out about her, her design. Now before this film, Disney has created many great designs for their villains, such as the evil Queen, Captain Hook, the Queen of Hearts, and the Step-Mother. But as cool and original as their designs are, they’re still the kind of designs that we'd expect villains like them to look like which are inventive but nothing too new. And since many people know that a simple witch has cursed the Princess in the Fairy Tale, audiences and critics at the time were more than likely expecting her design to look a little similar to the evil Queen's design as the Old hag. You know, something very old and frail and ugly and witch like. But we don't get that at all. Oh she dresses in black, and her skin is pale green, but she's not the type of witch that we were expecting. This one is beautiful and fancy looking, but still frightening and demonic for how she towers above everyone around her clanging her staff, wearing all the colors that symbolize evil on her long robe with edges designed to look like bat-wings, and having horns and evil yellow eyes to strike fear into the hearts of people that she meets to let them know that she is the villain and is not to be messed around. Her design along with having such a cool name that sounds as classy and evil as her presence and personality is just incredible and plays a big role in what makes her to be such an awesome villain, and I feel without it, she wouldn't be as feared or recognized as she is now. So I give Disney plenty of props for getting highly creative and original with this one!
Another big part of what makes the villain to be one of Disney's absolute best is the actress they got to voice her, Eleanor Audley, who previously voiced the Step-Mother in "Cinderella". Apparently Disney enjoyed her so much for how chilling of a performance that she left behind that they felt that her voice would be perfect for Maleficent, and it is! And as much as I admire her voice work as the Step-Mother, comparing her previous performance to her performance as Maleficent, that was just a mere sample of what she can really do when voicing an evil character. She gives us everything that you would want out of a villain. She can sound loud, demanding, and over the top, but she can also sound graceful, calm, and playfully taunting. And I know what you're thinking, isn't that similar to the characteristics that she gave to the Step-Mother, yes, but here's the major difference, when she was the Step-Mother she had to restrain her characters evil personality since she's supposed to be a laid-back but menacing type of villain, when here you get the vibe that she's allowed have more fun with her role. She laughs wickedly, she sounds unworldly when she chants spells (though shouldn't be too surprising since she would channel the spirits as Madame Leota in "The Haunted Mansion"), she's given more scenes of her yelling at the people that frustrates her, and above all manages to make her voice sound just as beautiful as her design, all while carrying all of the previous traits that she's given to her previous villain role. For god sake, she's even one of the few Disney villains to use the word "hell" in a Disney flick. What's there not to admire about her performance as Maleficent, it's as perfect as a Disney villain can get that fits her design flawlessly!
And you do know why her voice fit her design flawlessly apart from it being a grand villain performance, its because she herself modeled for her character of how she should be animated by the animators.
That is just awesome since all the other people that model for the main characters in the film aren't the same the people who voiced them, thus only enhancing the reason why I admire this performance so much.
Out of all the henchman that serve her, her number one henchman that's as smart as her, completely loyal and faithful to her, and gets stuff done is her pet Raven. And that would make sense why she considers her pet to be her number servant since he's always at her side to do whatever he can to please his mistress without showing any sign of fear since he’s the only thing in the world that she cares deeply about. Sure, he doesn't have any powers, or carries any weapons but he still is very observant when something is not right to him where he'll make sure that it's nothing before alerting the goons and his master, and will do whatever he can to aid Maleficent into carrying out a simple search task that her minions couldn't do and succeeds!
So I talked about the three important things that make her out to be such an amazing villain, and covered all of her henchmen, so let's finally get to how exactly she carries out her plan, why they make her to be such a devilish villainess! When we first see her in the film, she makes a grand entrance to Aurora's party by ruining the enchantment of what we just had when two of the fairies gave her their gifts, by suddenly having a wild and eerie wind burst open the doors like a hurricane as all the color and lights darken when thunder starts to roar, and lightning strikes the floor. And just as you're expecting her to emerge from the lightning, we instead see green flames rise up from the spot where the lightning hit with a glowing green orb in the middle that takes the form of our leading antagonist. Now that's how a villain should make an entrance! At first she seems sophisticated and pleasant when clearly we know that she's the villain, based on her appearance, looks, and how the characters react to her, and appears to be taking it well that she hasn't been invited to the party, UNTIL she decides to give the baby a gift of her own. She calls upon everybody to "listen well" as she clangs her staff on the floor that echoes through the Ballroom, and tells them that she will look beautiful but..."before the sun sets on her 16th Birthday she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel AND DIE" while showing hell-like imagery on the orb of her staff featuring demons, an ominous fast rotating spinning wheel, and a dead beautiful princess. This makes the Queen gasp and grab her baby, which causes Maleficent to laugh at her shock and the curse that she has bestowed upon her Daughter. The King then orders his guards to seize her as each and everyone of them points their blades at her, but does that faze her, no not at all! She just orders the fools to stand back while she disappears into the green flames that surround her. And do you know why they all hesitate, because they know that Maleficent will zap them to kingdom come if they take another step closer. I truly love that she's so powerful that not even an army of guards can stop her.
The scene involving Maleficent that gives me nothing but goosebumps is when she finds Aurora and carries out her curse. The fairies leave the Princess alone after being broken when she discovers that she's destined to marry a Prince, rather than marrying the peasant that she met in the forest (who of course is the Prince), and the bright fire in the fire place goes out where we see Maleficent standing inside it in the darkness, with only her eyes and orb glowing.
That for me is her scariest moment in the film!
She then changes into a glowing green ball of flames to hypnotize Aurora through a secret passageway in the fireplace that she's created, and up a spiral staircase to her destiny that the fairies have been trying to make her avoid for all her life. Much like how I find the scene of Judge Doom searching for Roger at the bar to still be suspenseful after seeing the film so many times, I feel the same exact way for this scene, only I find it to be more intense for how heavy it is with atmosphere. The darkness, the lightning, the pacing, Aurora's lifeless hypnotic face, the sound of the fairies voices echoing as they search for her, and that chilling and hypnotic music that continues to build as she gets closer to the room at the end of the staircase always sends me shivers for how spooky this scene is. When she enters the room at the top of the stairs, the green ball of flames then turns into the same spinning wheel that we saw in Maleficent's orb earlier in the film, and hear her voice commanding Aurora to touch the spindle. We see her finger touch it and green mist twirls around, but we don't see the body when the fairies enter, we see Maleficent claiming what fools they are to think that they can outwit her, before showing them Aurora's dead body and disappearing after her success.
However, Maleficent doesn't stop there because she still has to capture Aurora's true love to avoid the spell from being broken. Her plan here was something that I would overlook so much as a kid that when I watched the film again a few years back to review it, this scene gave me more to appreciate about her. I knew he was holding the Prince against his will as a kid, but what I didn't know is that she plans to keep him locked away in her castle and will release him to awaken the Princess from her ageless sleep when he's so old and frail that he will no longer look charming and handsome. And upon realizing this, all I can think of was what clever empty hearted devil she is! Rather than just killing him so he can never awake Aurora from her deep sleep, she thinks it would be more enjoyable to see their hearts break when a young Aurora discovers how much time has passed, and that her once true love has lost everything that made him so attractive to her, because after all its only singing, dancing, and looks that matters in a romance from an early Disney film am I right? What I also love about this scene is how she subtly mocks him about telling him all this as a means to "cheer him up" and leave him with "happy thoughts". I especially love that when she captures Phillip, she holds up a candle close to his face to get a good look at him, claiming "what a pleasant surprise" it is to capture a Prince, instead of some good looking peasant, which she knows that keeping him locked up will just make matters worse for the kingdom (unknowing of the kingdom's deep sleep from the fairies I suppose). Furthermore, when she tells him about what she'll do to him, I like that she shows him the supposed future on her orb, only this time it plays out like a beautiful dream turning into a nightmare. It looks as whimsical as when we saw the fairies present their gifts to baby Aurora, but slowly loses its charm when we see Maleficent's face as she pleasantly tells him what will unfold in the future, to then seeing the aged Prince and his horse leaving her castle in despair. For a scene that bored me as a kid, it's definitely now something that I find to be more intriguing as an adult for how twisted it is.
As great as all her other scenes are, her best scene which is also the highlight of the movie is the climax. After discovering that her foolish minions have failed to stop the Prince from escaping, and that her loyal pet has been turned to stone, she decides that its time to take matters into her own hands by climbing up to the top of her castle, and stop the Prince herself. She furiously tries to strike him with lightning, and curses King Stefan's castle by summoning a forest of thrones, but when she sees that none of her attempts are working, she storms her way over to the castle and uses the powers of hell to turn herself into...
A GIANT MONSTROUS FIRE BREATHING DRAGON FROM HELL!
When judging Maleficent strictly only in the original film that she appeared in, she's just as wicked as when she appears in the majority of spin-offs that followed. The most important reasons why she's regarded so highly as one of the best is her design, magical powers, and the personality and voice that Audley gives to her! Every single scene that she’s in she always dominates with her presence and what she does with her powers thus making her a magnificent villain who rightfully deserves her title as the "Mistress of all evil"!