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The Director and His Vision
To find the perfect director to bring the production to life, Roth reached out to Robert Stromberg. "A film like this generally takes about six or seven months to prepare correctly because it's a giant visual production," informs Roth. "So, I had been working with Rob Stromberg, who won the Oscar for 'Avatar' as production designer, and won the Oscar for 'Alice in Wonderland' as designer as well, and had just finished 'Oz The Great and Powerful' for me. It was very clear to me that he was born to be a director, and he really wanted to be a director."

"When Disney came to me with this project, I'd already done several big visual types of movies and I'd learned that audiences make decisions about going to movies long before they know what the movie's about," continues Roth. "They get a vibe off some visual presentation that happens earlier than anything else. So, I thought, Angelina's an experienced actress, Robert is going to be a great director, and if he can provide the distinct visual style he brought to 'Avatar,' 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Oz The Great and Powerful,' I think it's a good marriage."

Bringing Maleficent to the screen as a live-action character is a responsibility that Roth took very seriously when choosing his director. "Maleficent is a really important character; a character that if we do our job right in the film, that not only her character but Sleeping Beauty's character as well, and some of the fairies and great creatures that Rob Stromberg has created will be seen for years and years and years in parks and in stores. Maleficent is a very, very important character in the Disney life."

Stromberg was undaunted by the challenges of a big-name actress and a big budget in his directorial debut. "I started as an artist-from doing pencil drawings as a kid to doing matte paintings to art directing and production designing," says the director. "I think, as an artist, you're always looking for the biggest canvas you can find and this was yet another big canvas to conquer. I thought it was intriguing to take on something that was bigger than anything I had already done. And this came at the right time when I was looking for the next challenge in my career."

The director came to the production with a clear idea of how the film should be visually presented. "What I wanted on this film was not only to have an element of fantasy and a surreal quality but I wanted Maleficent to be a bit more grounded in reality," relates Stromberg. "In some of my previous films, I've taken the surreal elements and made them the strongest points. In 'Maleficent' we've taken the opposite approach: we started with real and augmented after the fact. So I think it's a new look."

Stromberg began his process of bringing "Maleficent" to life by doing extensive research. "I always like to look at a lot of reference material on a subject," states Stromberg. "In this case, I looked at a lot of classic paintings, particularly by artists in the 17th and 18th centuries. A big influence were the Hudson River School artists who went out and painted landscapes but heightened them a bit. So that became interesting to me-to create this classic look that is mostly based in realism and see where we could push that. It's actually turned out to be something that's quite elegant and beautiful yet never loses the sense that there's fantasy involved."

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