Friday, June 6, 2014

"Maleficent" - Article Round-Up Time! (mainly NOT reviews- list & summary)

I haven't had time to finish editing the plot point-and-spoiler discussion part of my Maleficent review, but along the way I've kept all these links to articles that may be of interest to people in the meantime. For the most part they're not reviews but concentrate on: 
  1.  the making of the movie (research and tech) and
  2. explore the origins of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.
Enjoy! (And hopefully I'll have Part B up shortly as well.)

Links that may be of interest:

like a brief yet fairly thorough history of Sleeping Beauty summarized in the context of the revisionist story Maleficent, read this. It'll be great to pass on to someone as well.
Had many people actually been aware of the true narrative of “La Belle au bois dormant,” they probably would have considered the story line too shocking for most adults.
Consider some of the plot devices found in the original story of “Sleeping Beauty” in the days of our distant past: adultery, bigamy, murder, ogress terror, the rape of a comatose woman and even human cannibalism.
And the high point of the story? An evil crone committing suicide by throwing herself into a cauldron of boiling water filled with toads, vipers, eels and snakes.
It doesn’t take much imagination to think how the Disney focus groups would have responded to the original story early in the script process.
So how did the tale go from one as horrifyingly frightening as anything George R.R. Martin could convey in a Red Wedding scene of “Game of Thrones” to something so beloved as an animated classic that it plays on a nonstop DVD loop in today’s day-care nurseries?
To understand how the story once was told and how it came to be universally understood by most of today’s audiences, it’s important to understand a distinctive set of creative figures who affected the work throughout history -- Giambattista Basile, Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and, of course, Walt Disney.

Although Aurora and Maleficent are spiritual opposites, Sheppard did link the two in terms of one costume piece. The first time teenage Aurora and Maleficent meet, Fanning’s character is wearing a hooded coat that is nearly a mirror image of the cape Maleficent wore the night she lost her wings and set forth on an evil, destructive path in life. When Maleficent first met Aurora, Sheppard wanted the villainess to briefly be reminded “of the younger, innocent fairy she once was”—not the mistress of all evil that she had become. “So its very similar coloring—of course, Angelina’s was more dramatic and bigger volume. But I wanted the hood because I think it also gives Aurora this little girl look.”

Filming in the ’Enchanted Forest’ at Ashridge
for Disney’s Maleficent
The Ashridge woodland with its otherworldly trees and abundance of wildlife provided the real location for the Enchanted Forest, where Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie lives.
Inspired by the nature-loving faery folk from the Disney film, the Maleficent trail reveals more about the wildlife that calls Ashridge home, including rare butterflies and songbirds, as well as fungi and mini-beasts.

Don't go here unless you've seen the movie. There are before and after CG scenes on the page which may ruin some first impressions.
At the start of the movie we meet the young Maleficent. She flies into MPC’s full CG Fairy World environment with colourful trees, lakes and waterfalls, interacting with MPC’s hero fairies as she travels. MPC’s environment team built a library of photographic elements taken from a second-unit shoot for their human and fairy environments. These included trees, rocks and bushes. This CG environment was built in Maya, using IDV Speedtree as a basis for tree geometry. The team created 15 different types of creatures, all with their own unique characteristics and features. These ranged from the larger, humanistic mushroom fairies and ‘Wallerbogs’, to the more animalistic ‘Cheeps’, smaller delicate dew fairies and water pixies.

(Although this is a little forced, it makes some nice points too and,
really, is just a very different and refreshing way to review a movie.)
Shiny objects and good things appear to us all along our leadership journeys. There’s nothing inherently bad about moving to the next level of leadership or becoming a better man. However, if you take the wrong roads to get to these places, it’s not worth it. Don’t let the next big thing change you for the worse.

What was Stefan's path when you were thinking about his development?Both he and Maleficent turn corners. She makes a right choice, and he makes a wrong choice. He becomes obsessive, and that obsession drives him a little crazy. Originally the other king wanted Maleficent's death, but Stefan couldn't kill her. There's a tiny part of him who is a decent human being, but he's so driven for power and riches.

On Perrault, the Brothers Grimm & Hans Christian
Andersen and how they shaped our perceptions of fairy tales.
...long before they were material for children’s movies, fairy tales have been drawn into debates on the nature of literature, cultural evolution and national identity. They’ve been subjected to Freudian analysis, Jungian interpretations, feminist readings, postmodern readings, poststructuralist readings, Marxist readings… pretty much every –ism you can think of has laid a claim.
Writers from Aesop to Italo Calvino have been drawn to folk tales. And yet it’s surprisingly difficult even to pin down what we’re dealing with when talking about them. Where do we draw the line between a fairy tale and a fable, or a legend, or a myth? It doesn’t help that many stories we think of as old as the hills are actually recent creations, and others used to be told in so many wild variations that it hardly seems like there’s a single story there at all.
Three authors in particular have deeply informed our modern perception of fairy tales and folklore. Each, in their way, was tuned into the intellectual concerns of their time, as well as the concerns of kids clamoring for a story.

Maleficent is a fairy, so the first challenge was that we had to give her wings. Because her character starts as a young girl, we also wanted to make sure these wings would work both proportionally with that young girl and with Angelina later on.
... Also, think about when you're simply talking, you're gesturing with your hands. We wanted those wings to have that type of quality and motion to them as well, just a natural extension of her gestures, so we knew we had to take a digital approach.
Once we came up with the design, we built a full-scale version of the wings. That served a couple of purposes. First and foremost, as a reference. As a digital artist, it's great to have something very realistic that you can model, and photograph, and really get the sense of what it will look like.
And then also for Angelina and for everyone on the set, we used them to show the mass of the wings. Fully extended, they span over 12 feet. Just having those here on set, we were able to show, "Here's what you're dealing with, and this is the kind of space that they occupy when they're fully extended."

Short but interesting article on motivations.
...the original script was even darker.
"There was a version where he actually kills the King," Sharlto says. "He goes and takes Maleficent's wings and the King is like 'I meant one of my noblemen [should kill her], you're not going to be King!'"
"And then Stephan kills him, out of desperation, because he's betrayed the only person that he really loved -- and not being king is just not acceptable," says Copley.

Digital character effects explained with lots of
great videos
“The character designs on this show were very fluid and required us to regularly rebuild the entire pixie articulated face on a new character design,” adds Port. “The transfer process proved so robust in the end that we could change the pixie face shape and rebuild the entire face complete with thousands of new face shapes conformed to the new bone and facial anatomy and have it seemly delivered into the animators without losing any work.” Character wardrobes were also introduced. The pixies wore complex multi-layered dynamic wardrobes made of flowers petals, hairy thistles, leaves, and twigs. These complex wardrobes required multiple dynamic free flowing cloth sims with special localised controls to look good though very dynamic actions such as flying and landing.

Although not the best title to describe the article
(because it sort of disproves it, apart from anything else) this article, rather than be a review, discusses how (recent) fairy tale films (not just Disney) have gone from being primarily child-fare to dark reduxes.
The trailers teased glimpses of Sleeping Beauty's iconic villainess, accompanied by a gothic cover of "Once Upon a Dream." Gone were the 1959 animated film's Technicolor wonders, replaced with shades of blacks and blues, while Lana del Rey's vocals enveloped Mary Costa and Bill Shirley's airy duet with jazz-club smokiness. 
...This star vehicle for Angelina Jolie fits snuggly into a new ideal for fantasy films: Luring both older kids and their parents, studios raid the storybooks for classic once-upon-a-timers then singe the films' edges with PG spookiness.
And finally a (surprisingly short) list of fairy tale bloggers so far posting on Maleficent with their comments (this may be out of date by the time this posts, so please feel free to add any you know of in the comments and I will update the list & links!):

I haven't seen anyone write on Carabosse vs Maleficent from the ballet(s) - anyone want to tackle that? (Including the award winning one by New Directions, which has a whole other  - and very important take on the character.) That dark fairy (often played by a man because of the ballet tradition of character actors) has a lot of consideration by performers and directors for ballet (I was actually reminded of "her" henchmen when I saw the new raven men from the new Sleeping Beauty section of the Disney Land/World Fantasy parade that debuted this year - they looked like they were taken right out of a ballet!) and Tchaikovsky/Petipa's Sleeping Beauty has many of original notes available for good researchers to track down (I only have the Swan Lake notes, not the Sleeping Beauty ones - anyone have these?)

Part B of my Maleficent review is should appear tomorrow (or the next day as my Friday is looking a little crazy right now)...


  1. Hey Gypsy! I just posted a big review/commentary post on Maleficent on my blog :). -

  2. Hey Gypsy! I just posted a big review/commentary on Maleficent on my blog - :).