I know I’ve been watching a lot of Sleeping Beauty when Maleficent’s voice begins to sound…familiar. Big Brother was introduced to the classic Disney film by my nieces and I am continually surprised at how it captures their attention. There are no catchy musical numbers, the “main character”, Princess Aurora, has only about 18 lines, the scenery is somewhat plain and the Princess has three names! She goes by Sleeping Beauty (duh), Princess Aurora and Briar Rose in the film. Somehow, my 2-year-old is able to keep track of all this.
But if Maleficent’s voice ever sounded familiar, it’s because she was voiced by the same actress for Lady Tremaine “the evil stepmother” in Cinderella. Eleanor Audley initially turned down the role of Maleficent as she was battling tuberculosis. However, she eventually accepted the role and her chilling voice will live on as the epitome of evil.
She also served as the inspiration for both characters’ physical appearance. The eyebrows, sharp chins and high cheekbones make them appear to be the same person at different ages. It is as though Maleficent aged into Lady Tremaine even though Sleeping Beauty was produced nine years after Cinderella.
Audley was not only an incredible voice actress, but she appeared on-screen in Green Acres, Father Knows Best, I Love Lucy and countless other TV shows and movies.
Like any red-blooded American, I’ve been enamored with Walt Disney’s creations for as long as I can remember beginning with Peter Pan and Cinderella. As an adult, I am continually fascinated with the development of these beloved productions from their dialogue, casting, illustrations and the underlying messages taught from the screen.
The message from Sleeping Beauty is pretty basic: “true love conquers all”. It reminds me of 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Today, Walt Disney Productions communicates other messages, including the bond of sisters and the mother/daughter relationship in Frozen and Brave respectively. These are important, but sometimes I just need an old-fashioned love story. Or maybe just three good fairies looking out for me.