EssayIn 2014 Disney released its first live-action fairy tale movie, ‘Maleficent’.
This movie was followed by ‘Cinderella’ in 2015 and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in 2017 and there are many more to come. The live-action fairy tales are remakes from original Disney fairy tale movies. The storylines are based on the romance between a prince and a princess.
A characteristic of this genre is that a combination of animated and human characters are used to tell the story, which makes it possible to create magic and fantasy. Aside from magic and fantasy, myth and wonder are running themes through these movies too. ‘Maleficent’ is the live-action remake from the original sleeping beauty movie, brought out in 1959. ‘Maleficent’ tells the story of Aurora’s and Maleficent’s life. Even though this movie is based on a classic Disney fairy tale, just like ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’, it differs a lot from these movies.
At first glace, ‘Maleficent’ fits in with the live-action remake fairy tale genre, because it presents a modern image of women, but this movie deviates, because the main character is a villain and because there is a big difference between the original and life-action storyline.Firstly, Disney deviates from the standard main character to allow the audience to develop empathy for Maleficent which makes the audience question who and what is evil. In all live-action Disney fairy tales, except ‘Maleficent’, the main character of the movie is a princess. ‘Maleficent’, on the contrary, has the villain as the main character. The original movie was called ‘Sleeping beauty’, referring to the princess Aurora.
Instead the life-action movie is called ‘Maleficent’, obviously referring to Maleficent. Because ‘Maleficent’ explains the story from the villain’s perspective, the audience develops empathy for the character. They understand that Maleficent’s cruel acts are a result of King Stefan’s actions. Therefore the villain role switches over to King Stefan. His cruelty was not highlighted in the original movie and is now revealed. The switch of villian role makes the audience wonder, what and who is evil? This question only arises in the minds of the people who have watched the original movie, because they have already formed an opinion on Maleficent, which changes while watching the new movie.
The technique that is used is intentional intertextuality. It is not as necessary to show the villain’s perspective in other Disney fairy tales, such as Cinderella, because the reasons for cruelty are already partly explained in the original movies. This is not the case in Sleeping beauty. Therefore it is more necessary to show the villain’s perspective in the Sleeping beauty fairy tale. Secondly, ‘Maleficent’ conforms to the characteristics of the genre because it presents a modern image of women in order to empower a young audience.
In the original animated Disney fairy tale movie genre, the princesses, as well as other female characters, are presented in a sexist way. They are often presented as objects who do not possess power or the ability to save themselves. In most princess movies the princess is saved by a man and receives her ‘happily ever after’ by marrying him. This tells young girls that their problems can only be solved by men and that they are not strong enough to overcome them themselves. Since this sexism received a lot of criticism and because the role of women in society has changed, Disney presents a more modern image of women in the live-action movies, including ‘Maleficent’. In the original Cinderella, for example, the Prince falls in love with Cinderella because of her looks, while her personality plays a bigger role in the live-action movie.
Similar changes are applied to ‘Sleeping Beauty’. In the original ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Aurora is kissed by Prince Phillip. Aurora awakens after this kiss, which confirms that Aurora’s problems are solved by a man. In ‘Maleficent’ Aurora is not saved by the prince but by a kiss from Maleficent. In the new movie, the true love exists between Aurora and Maleficent instead of Aurora and Phillip.
This shows that women don’t have to depend on men to receive their ‘happily ever after’. So ‘Maleficent’ conforms to the genre of live-action Disney fairy tales, because the live-action remake genre shows a modern image of women and ‘Maleficent’ does too. Lastly, ‘Maleficent’ deviates a lot from the genre, by showing a big difference in storyline between ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Maleficent’ to make Maleficent’s backstory fit logically into the story and to send an appropriate message to the young audience. Other life-action Disney movies closely resemble the original movie. On the contrary, Maleficent deviates a lot from its original movie. The reason for this, among other things, is the perspective of the movie. A few significant changes were applied to the movie to make Maleficent’s backstory fit into the original storyline.
The most significant change is the different ending. The original movie, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ends with the death of Maleficent and the Prince and Aurora kissing, the happy ending was the love between them. In the ending scene of ‘Maleficent’ Aurora gets crowned as ruler of the Moors and human empire, in the presence of Maleficent. The Prince was still featured in the ending scene, but only for a few seconds. He and Aurora are shown looking at each other like a new young couple, instead of husband and wife like in the original. The writer did this to presents a more realistic love story to the audience. So this sends a different message to the audience.
To conclude, movies included in the live-action Disney fairy tale genre usually have a princess as the main character, show a modern image of women and stay close to the storyline of the original movie. Although ‘Maleficent’ conforms to the genre in its attempt to represent the modern woman, it purposely deviates from the standard main character and storyline in order to make the audience wonder who and what is evil and to achieve a more realistic love story.