How Disney’s legendary animator helped Maleficent steal ‘Sleeping Beauty’
When Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty first arrived in theaters in 1959, reviews were mixed, in part because the conceit of a wicked sorceress putting a beautiful princess to sleep seemed like such a blatant Snow White rip-off. But over time, Sleeping Beauty has carved out its own space, no doubt because of its mesmerizing villain, the elegantly evil Maleficent—a fact brought to cinematic fruition this year with Angelina Jolie’s live-action blockbuster. Maleficent wasn’t a hag, like the in-disguise apple-offering witch in Snow White, nor a prim harpy, like Cinderella’s stepmother. She was undoubtedly grotesque, with devilish horns, yellow eyes, and pale green skin… but also beautiful and alluring, especially with the unsettling patrician voice of Eleanor Audley.