Skip to Content

Interview with Don Hahn: Executive Producer of Maleficent

Disney is providing me with an all expense paid trip to L.A. to attend the #VeryBadDayEvent and #DisneyInHomeEvent in exchange for my coverage.  No other compensation is given and all opinions in my posts are 100% my own.  Disclosure Policy.


One of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had was having the opportunity to take a tour of Walt Disney’s San Feliz home.  It was an incredible honor to be in the home, hear tales of Walt and his family and sit in the exact room where Walt screened Sleeping Beauty and other Disney movie classics.  Did you know that Maleficent was not in the original fairy tale and that she was actually created by Walt himself?  It’s a good thing because Sleeping Beauty would not have been the same without her.  And we would have never had the recent follow up Disney movie Maleficent, now out on BluRay/DVD!
While touring Walt’s home, I also had the opportunity to meet and interview the Executive Producer of Maleficent, Don Hahn.  Here is some of the highlights of that interview!

Most Challenging Thing About Producing Maleficent
It’s always trying to pull all the pieces together and a lot of it is just calendar work, as simple as that sounds.  But once we had all the elements together in the script and wanted to make the project, we had four months to prepare.  And that was four months to build a whole world.  A lot of the credit for that goes with our director Robert Stromberg who had production designed, Avatar and the Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  So he’s a amazing world builder.  We only had three months with Angelina and it was a very tight fit in that three month time.  So that was part of it, getting it together.  And then also just the script because it’s always a iterative process where you’re re-inventing the story and going back and revisiting it again.  And it’s a little bit of an insecure feeling.  It’s like you’re driving in a car while you’re building it, kind of feeling.  So the build up to shooting is always the hardest part.
Did They Always Have an Actress in Mind?
It was always her.  It was always Angelina.  I’m not sure that we would have gotten made without her?  She loved the character.  She grew up with it, loved the idea of playing a Disney character for her and for her family.  I’m sure there are other actresses that could have done it?  But she was so right for it.  Because when you said, “We’re gonna do Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s point of view, kind of like Wicked with Angelina Jolie,” people said, “Yep, let’s go.”



Was it in the plan to use Angelina’s daughter for baby Aurora?
No, that was out of necessity because when we brought in little girls and dressed them up like little Aurora, they would come up to this amazing actress and scream and run away.  Or get picked up by Angie and just you know not doing anything?  And there’s so much genuine love and attachment in that scene where she just walks right up to her and goes, “Up” and you know, like I have a little girl and you just know what that feels like.  So there’s a real genuine moment in that scene.  She’s a big lady to begin with, plus the horns and all that stuff.  So, that was the real reason is to get a scene that played, more as reality.  We had to use Vivienne.
Was it hard to create Maleficent as both beautiful and powerful?
The problem is with most fairy tales, the villains are very black and white.  They’re often the most interesting characters in movies because they have a lot of complexity to them.  The original Sleeping Beauty that, you know the most boring characters are the princes and they’re incredibly wooden.  A character like Maleficent was at least interesting in her beauty, and in her look, and the way she behaved.  I think what our problem was is how do you then open that character up to show that there’s a heart inside?  You know, before the movie came out we thought we can’t just go out to the press and say, “You know this awful villain?  She’s really nice.”  It’s like, no, that ruins it all.  She’s still Maleficent.  She still has a very complex view of life and she still has a lot of challenges, but there’s enough of a light inside that she can open up and show you that she has some benevolence and some love inside. 
So it took a long time.  And I have to say, Angelina gave us most all of that, because she has a very restrained performance where she only shows you a little bit of that at a time.  So she’s opening up to the baby Aurora or the little kid Aurora whatever, she shows that she has something inside, but not until she actually says, “I’m sorry I cursed the wrong person,” and kisses her on the forehead.  You go, wow, this is a far more complex, evil person than we’ve ever dealt with, at least in a Disney movie.  And I think that’s what was interesting about making this movie, is it wasn’t just a bad guy.  You know whether it’s, Ursula the sea witch or Scar or something like that?  They’re just bad.  And they’re clever and they’re cunning, but they’re bad.  Maleficent couldn’t just be bad.  You had to show that there was some reason why she got wounded and her wings were clipped and what that meant to her and how horrific an experience that was.  And so that was part and parcel of telling that story. 



Were Maleficent’s wings special effects?
They’re all fake.  There’s nothing there, if you were to watch the dailies of her being filmed, she had a little green square on her back which held a battery.  And two little antennae that came out with bright orange spots on the end.  And that was enough for the visual effects guys to know the symmetry of her back.  And that’s all.  And so everything you see in terms of her, when she’s flying, most the time it’s a hundred percent animated.
I could have sat and listened to Mr. Hahn talk about the making of Maleficent for hours.  It was such an incredible night  Good thing for the Maleficent BluRay/DVD, I can relive a lot of those moments because much of the “behind the scenes” are discussed in the bonus content!
Pick up your copy of Maleficent on BluRay/DVD, in stores NOW!
Guide For Geek Moms