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Adapting The Story
It was also important to Stromberg as a director to have enough of the elements of the 1959 animated "Sleeping Beauty" so that people will not be disappointed. "It was important that those people who recognize and are fans of the original classic film feel that they cannot only see it realized in a new light but also see the genesis of some of those things that they saw in the original film," explains Stromberg. "So it's a new spin on Maleficent but at the same time we've woven in enough elements that people will immediately recognize it to be from the original film, 'Sleeping Beauty.'"

To blend the old and new into a finished screenplay, Disney hired writer Linda Woolverton. "In my time at Disney both as an executive and as a producer, Linda Woolverton is the most important writer Disney has had," says producer Joe Roth. "Over the past 20 years she's written 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'The Lion King' in the animated area and 'Alice in Wonderland' in live action. More than any other writer, she has really kind of unlocked the notion of what a Disney film is."

Stromberg and Woolverton were in agreement that they wanted to start off the story seeing Maleficent as a young child. "We actually get close to her right off the bat in the beginning of the film, and then we see how she meets Stefan," says Stromberg. "Stefan and young Maleficent form a bond together early on in the film and so we get to see how that tragically widens over the film as they split and how they, over time, become enemies."

Woolverton began her process of discovering the secret life of Maleficent by watching Disney's animated "Sleeping Beauty." "After watching the movie, I came up with some ideas that revealed more about her character," Woolverton explains. "I created a past for her that leads to the singular moment in which she curses the baby Aurora and then takes us past that moment from Maleficent's point of view through the ending of the film. But it's a reinvention; it's not just a retelling of the same story."

In addition to the challenge of reinventing a fairy tale that has been a staple of every child born in the last 50 years, Woolverton had to honor both the iconic character that Disney created and the talented actress stepping into the role. "The character really is fantastic and once we had Angelina Jolie, my task was to seamlessly meld the two into one to recreate a classic, but wholly unique Maleficent," says the writer.

"I researched a lot of the fairy books," says Woolverton. "I've always loved the dark fairy world and I was really excited when I realized that Maleficent was a fairy. Once I realized that, the whole thing opened up for me because I'd always wanted to write about this world. So, I used all my love for this world and all my research and chose what elements I wanted to use."

Describing the underlying theme of the film, Woolverton says, "The central story of the film, I believe, is about the very many natures of love. Love has many faces. It's not just the obvious face of true love and it can turn. Love can harden you and twist you and it can redeem your whole life. So every relationship in the story is about the nature of love. And you can watch all different kinds of love flower or go very sour."

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