Maleficent and Disney witches

On May 30,Disney Studios` live-action Maleficent will be released.   Angelina Jolie plays the titular character, a beautiful but apparently evil witch who is the enemy of the Sleeping Beauty character.   Current trailers and publicity  indicate that the film will be a re-imagining of the SB fairy tale from Maleficent`s point of view.   Of course, M was preceded by quite a few other Disney witches, including the 1959 animated version of herself.  Here`s a look at some of these fashionable but black-hearted ladies.

Evil Queen 1 Maleficent and Disney witches

1. Evil Queen- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937).  Tall, brunette, and rocking  a gorgeous purple robe,  Snow White`s evil stepmother remains one of the most physically attractive characters in the history of Disney.  Unfortunately, her dedication to wickedness is just as developed as her stunning exterior.   As soon as her magic mirror shows her that Snow White is the new hottie in town,  she develops the plan to eliminate her.   Snow`s escape into the forest does not deter the Queen. She transforms herself into a wizened hag and gives the girl the famed poisoned apple.  This is a woman who doesn`t mind being temporarily ugly  in order to achieve her ultimate goal! Luckily, she`s eventually  chased by the heroic dwarves and falls over a cliff.  The Queen is still a fascinating character-even as you hate her, you`re wowed by her audacity and command of magic.

Ursula 1 Maleficent and Disney witches

2.  Ursula-The Little Mermaid (1989).  Would-be empress of the sea Ursula is motivated by her love of power and seeming jealousy of sweet mermaid Ariel (her real goal is Ariel`s father`s undersea kingdom).  Unlike previous witches, there`s an  element of humor to Ursula`s rages.  As she stomps around on her huge black tail,  complaining about life`s unfairness ( “look at me-wasting away to practically nothing”) while sporting an abundance of red lipstick, she reminds one of a constantly angry Auntie Mame.  Ursula`s big evil act is taking Ariel`s voice in exchange for the mermaid getting a chance with Prince Eric, then using said voice to lure him into thinking  she herself, disguised as a cute brunette, is the girl of his dreams.   She doesn`t really want him, of course, he`s merely another pawn in her ocean domination game.  Good prevails and her plan to take over is foiled, but not before  she pitches some major hissy fits.

Cruella Maleficent and Disney witches

3.  Cruella DeVil- 101 Dalmatians (1961).  If she doesn`t scare you, no evil thing will!  Cruella is not a literal witch, but she behaves as  an evil one . To this day, she is one of Disney`s  best animated villains.  Her complete self-absorption and lack of empathy for animals and humans make her a baddie one loves to hate.  She blithely assumes her friend Anita will sell her a family of puppies with the full knowledge that they will be made into a coat, and is genuinely surprised by the horror this offer generates.   Though she`s got a heart black as midnight, Cruella`s New Wave two-toned hair and dramatic waving of her cigarette holder give her an edgy style that you find yourself grudgingly admiring.

4. Maleficent-Sleeping Beauty (1959).  This is the film from which the new Maleficent character originated.  Resplendent in her long  black gown and amazing horned headdress, the evil fairy appears dramatically at Princess Aurora`s christening and offers the suggestion that perhaps not inviting her was an oversight.  When one of the good fairies asserts that it was not, Maleficent utters the curse that  will change Aurora`s life, predicting that she will die after hurting her finger on a sewing spindle (softened by another fairy into falling into a deep sleep).

It`s not really clear what M did that caused the castle folk and her magical peers to ostracize her.  She`s obviously dressed as  (in the pastel loving fifties, black  really stood out) and acts as a villain,  but there`s no real backstory.   Doubtless this will be addressed in the new film.  Whatever the source of her bad behavior, she embraces it with glee.  Much like Cruella, one can`t help but admire Maleficent`s distinctive pre-Goth style (supposedly based on a medieval painting of a lovely woman with a horned crown, according to Disney Wiki).   I guess  her startling green face is supposed to repulse, but as I recall, as a villain-admiring kid, I thought it was pretty cool.  It looks as though Jolie is perfect for the role, and they`ve done the costume  much like the animated one, complete with the striking horns.  It remains to be seen if the new  movie will do a good job of re-telling the story with an original twist.

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