Maleficent is a fictional character and the main antagonist in Walt Disney's 1959 film Sleeping Beauty. She is the self-proclaimed "Mistress of All Evil" who, after not being invited to the baby's christening, curses the infant Princess Aurora to "prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die" before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday. The character is Disney's adaptation of the wicked fairy godmother from the original French fairy tale.
Maleficent is often viewed as the most powerful and sinister of the Disney Villains, frequently acting as their leader in many crossovers, and her scenes in the climax of the film are among the darkest and most intense produced by Disney.
In Ultimate Disney's top 30 Disney Villains countdown, Maleficent ranked #1. She also plays a major role in the Kingdom Hearts series, as a recurring villain.
The character was animated by Marc Davis. The wicked fairy was aptly named "Maleficent" (an adjective which means "doing evil or harm"). In determining Maleficent's design, standard depictions of witches and hags were dismissed as Mattinson's opted for an elegant, sinister, green-skinned beauty centered around the appearance of flames, ultimately crowning the villain with a black two pointed headdress, often called an atora."
According to Mattinson, Maleficent "was designed like a giant vampire bat to create a feeling of menace." In the end the individual character of the three good fairies and the elegant villain proved to be among the film's strongest points.
She was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who had previously performed Lady Tremaine, the wicked stepmother with gray hair in Cinderella. Audley also provided some live-action recording for both of these characters, to inspire the animators. Dancer Jane Fowler also performed some live-action reference for Maleficent.
Animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, in their book The Disney Villain, describe animating Audley's voice as "a difficult assignment but a thrilling one, working to that voice track with so much innuendo mixed in with the fierce power."