Disney’s Maleficent made over $170 million worldwide in its first weekend (check out our review!) but it’s domestic take beat their animated powerhouse, Frozen by a few million. Though Maleficent has a way to go if it’s trying to beat Frozen’s current worldwide gross of just over $1 billion. Putting numbers aside, what most people are talking about in the wake of Maleficent’s release is the interesting female character stories Disney has been giving us lately. Find out what screenwriter Linda Woolverton thinks about that.
[Spoilers for Maleficent to follow.]
Woolverton, whose writing credits include Disney animated staples like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, was tasked with making a fan-favorite villain into a protaganist. Something she said was very difficult. She told The Hollywood Reporter how it all fell into place:
We based this on the Disney movie, not the fairy tale. I was looking at that scene, and I had done some research, and the biggest surprise is that she’s a fairy, not a witch. I’ve always wanted to do a dark fairy story. Then I watched that scene where she curses the baby, and I’m thinking “well if she’s a fairy, where are her wings?” Suddenly it was “boom. Lightbulb. Oh! It’s the wings!” Then I worked backward from there to create the Stefan relationship.
They also spoke about the big scene toward the end where it’s Maleficent’s kiss which wakes Aurora from the curse, not Prince Phillip’s. She told THR that plot decision was made very early, “The whole movie was moving us toward that singular moment.”
She also noted it was one of the most emotional scenes she’s ever written. “You have to rewrite these things 100 times, and every single time I wrote it I could barely get through it. I did Homeward Bound, you know that dog movie? Every single time I wrote the moment over the hill when everyone comes back at the end, I would cry into my hand over the keyboard. The kiss scene was like that for me.”
And for those curious as to the timing of this particular message, considering Frozen’s curse-breaker came in the form of a sister’s love, rather than a romantic one, Woolverton told The Daily Beast:
Maleficent is the second movie in the past year where the big True Love’s Kiss at the end wasn’t between the guy and the girl. In Frozen it was between Anna and Elsa, sisters, and in Maleficent it’s Maleficent and Aurora. Two movies in the same year with that message seems to indicate that Disney is changing the ideas it’s telegraphing to young girls.
Yes. You know, we weren’t aware of that before doing this. But it’s in the zeitgeist, isn’t it, then? As a writer you must feel this, there are ideas in the universe whose time has come. In our movie, we really wanted to show that there are many aspects of love, not just romantic love. Obviously, that’s something then that we’re all embracing at this moment in time, since it’s in Frozen, too.
They also asked her how writing a family Disney movie differed from twenty years ago. “There’s more women in the room. I’ve seen that happen over the years, which is a wonderful thing,” Woolverton told The Daily Beast. “The sensibility about female characters is different than it was. I don’t have to fight as hard—in fact, I don’t have to fight at all—to make them strong and interesting. It’s a different group of people I’m working with. Disney has changed along with the world.”