Saturday, April 19, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Maleficent Spoiler Thread Discloses Interesting Use of Fairy Tale, Myth & Legend (and, Of Course Spoilery Things) Note: Any spoilers here are hidden

So here's an interesting development.

The IMDB message boards are buzzing today as spoilers are leaked in an effort to put to rest any concerns people might be having about the movie (aka damage control from the giant "investors concerned" headlines that have been prominent the last coupe of weeks), particularly in turning Maleficent into some benign, essentially good person who's misunderstood and killing the reason she's resonated with people for so long.

 While there are a ton of spoilers in the thread there are some very interesting fairy tale, myth and legend notes included as well, which I will get to in a minute. First - where this is coming from.

Here's info about the source:
I happen to work at Disney corporate and have not only been authorized to "leak" this info here to gage audience response, but will be "leaking" even more in the next couple of weeks.  
He's also one of the attorneys on the film. 
Here's the reason Disney authorized an underground "leak":
someone private messaged me to ask why i'm posting this, and i got permission from my supervisor to address it here, in the interest of fairness and disclosure.  
the studio has asked me to do a minor form of damage control and clear up some prevalent misconceptions about the film, on a grass-roots level - "grass-roots" in their opinion meaning the imdb message boards. there have been some very negative outlooks and expectations being spread about the film around the internet - which i really have no problem with - freedom of speech and freedom of expression being in fact my legal speciality - however, my goal here is to create more positive word-of-mouth for a film i think really warrants the exposure and deserves to get a good vibe. 
Here's the IMDB thread link. Please note that THERE ARE A LOT OF SPOILERS in the pages at the IMDB thread! Read at your own discretion. While the entire plot, the twists etc aren't fully revealed, there's a lot more here than you usually see:

Maleficent (2014) : 2 weeks to first dragon reveal! SPOILERS...

Possible spoiler: (Highlight to read below! There are crown images at the head and tail of the possible-spoiler sections)
Yes - they're talking about Maleficent as a dragon. Remember there has been speculation about the one we've seen looking rather avian? Well that's because it is. And that one is NOT the Maleficent dragon. We'll be seeing Maleficent-as-dragon in the last marketing push before the film is released.
IMDB POSTER:When you say "maleficent's dragon" do you mean her dragon form and that she turns into a dragon not just her crow?DISNEY CORPORATE GUY:exactly.this was a fairly recent decision to include the maleficent dragon at the end. investors recently got scared off because the first four drafts only had Diavel transforming into the dragon at the end, and in the latest draft, he even sacrificed his life so that Maleficent could escape at the end...but the investors, from what i've heard, thought that this would be a major let-down for fans hoping to see the big dragon fight at the end, and watching Maleficent become the villain they remembered her to be. So...they tacked on a second ending, and, after Stefan dies, Maleficent now does turn into the giant dragon and fight prince philip, etc. the model of the Maleficent dragon i've seen looks amazing...similar in texture to the Witch-King's dragon-thing in LOTR, but with the features of the classic Maleficent dragon... 

Now, about the fairy tale relevant stuff. It's pretty awesome. (Try not to squee too much.) I really hope this is addressed in the Art of/Making of book when/if (please!) it's released. I'm using excerpts, cobbled together to not give away too much, even if you do highlight and read everything, so if it seems a little disjointed it's because you're missing some of the between conversation. (You can read it all on IDB of course.)

Note: ANY MOVIE SPOILERS WILL BE MASKED so you can choose whether or not to read them.

Woolverton actually admitted recently to using the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen as inspiration, even though the characters are so dramatically different...the story of Stefan and Maleficent was actually inspired by Spenser's The Faerie Queene inasmuch as i have heard at the conference table (specifically Arthur the Golden Knight's pursuit of his would-be lover, the Faerie Queene). Quite a sly, subtly move...considering the Faerie Queene is such an obscure piece of lit...
 also, as far as i know we do NOT see her in the forbidden mountain castle - that part's been rewritten to keep her more of a creature of the woodlands, of the realm of line with Spenser and other myths of course...although i do admit that seeing her in that castle would have been badass!
Maleficent... is still a tragic villain at the end, constantly defeating herself by giving in to aggression and fear and hatred. 
From what i've seen, this has the potential to be quite powerful - it takes the Wicked-type reimagining of a wicked witch to a level Wicked was afraid to go - by choosing to have Maleficent end up AS the villain. 
But after all, isn't one of the main reasons to see a movie like this anyway? The whole point is to see WHY someone went bad, NOT to see that they were really just a nice, peace-loving fairie all along, and misunderstood and given a bad smear campaign after their eventual defeat. 
By the end of the film, we should be rooting for Maleficent to walk away from it all, and keep peace in the land, but alas, she chooses poorly. And becomes the physical manifestation of the thing she most truly hates. 

Iron is deadly to Maleficent and her people, but of the human inhabitants only Stefan really knows that...the faeries do too, and use this to their advantage..when they feel they have no other alternative.
Now you know the classic animated ending and there has been worry/concern/speculation about how true this reinvention is going to be. I think people who read a lot of fairy tales and understand myth will be pleased with the final direction they took - though it was apparently difficult to choose. The reasons and pop culture influences on why are below (and they might surprise you) and they hint at an interesting new direction for Disney storytelling (at least in their films):
as far as i know -- they restructured the story to make it much more non-linear - now, rather than appearing about half-way into the film, the christening scene pretty much opens the film...we are introduced to Maleficent as she is presented in Sleeping Beauty, and then go back in time to learn, as Paul Harvey would say it..."The Rest of the Story." 
i'll admit, it is a risky move for the studio to kill her off at the end...but hopefully it will now come off more as a shakespearean tragedy to some degree...her death, while sad, is portrayed as justified...and brought about by her own lack of self-regulation... 
the studio and investors were torn between having a Wicked-ish "happier" ending and a darker one where the protagonist really does turn into the villain and even dies at the end. 
I'll tell you what made the difference - and very ironic, in one sense - the ending of AMC's Breaking Bad and the amazing popularity of that show. 
Before that, the prevailing attitude among studio heads and investors had been that audiences wouldn't really be that interested in seeing a character turn completely evil without some sort of redemption at the end. After Breaking Bad all that changed, and now Disney is trusting (fingers crossed!) that families and mainly kids, will be intrigued, entertained, and not turned off by such an ending. Plus, Disney also doesn't have to deal with the problem of ret-conning the original film at all - the original film, now, can be viewed as a fairly truthful film, but a propaganda piece made by the winners to villainize Maleficent. 
Trust me, it's a much more powerful film now than it was shaping up to be before. 
But thanks to Breaking Bad, and the incredible viewer response, Disney's decided to move the film into more risky territory and hope they get lucky in doing so. 
I think they will :)
So there you have it - along with a lot more, if you'd like to read it HERE.

Personally, I'm in the yay category on this news. It's much more in line with true fairy tale sensibilities and more in line with the messages I want my son to be exposed to. People get hurt, make bad choices and there are repercussions. While there are Disney movies that say this, the endings tend to water down the message drastically. I like the risk they're taking on this one!


  1. Hi, I have been following your blog from some time. I have some points about Maleficent I´d just love to have your opinion about if you have the time of course.

    I love your blog. It´s a beautiful blog. :)

    1. Thanks for the kind words about the blog! I'll go take a look and reply there. :)

    2. No, thank YOU for taking the time to write an opinion. Very valuable and I feel honored. :)