If you’ve been on Tumblr ever, you may remember a few popular posts about the Disney feature film Frozen, like this one:

frozen
via singingdisneyfreak

Or maybe this one:

mulan saves the day
via Pinterest

When I laid eyes on these, and other posts like them, I was filled with the righteous fury of a woman raised during the Disney renaissance. Frozen was certainly not the first Disney film to feature capable, independent women who are not saved by men. Nor was it the first to show sisterly love, or pass the Bechdel test, or not feature a wedding at the end. Though they may have huge doe eyes and impossible waistlines, Disney’s heroines have been holding their own for a while (even Cinderella). In this, what the Collectress and I have been calling our “Feminist Disney” series, we will highlight women who leave Elsa and Anna in the dust.

The themes of exploration and independence are common in children’s movies, but there are three Disney heroines who exemplify these ideas. Pocahontas, Jane, and Rapunzel are great examples of “strong female characters” (if you want to use that term) who do not require the expertise of men to save them.

This week for our Villains of Note series, we stop to appreciate the dastardly dragon lady of the 1959 animated film, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent. In the original fairy tale, whether you believe it to be Charles Perrault’s, “La Belle au bois dormant” (which the Disney version is based on), the Grimm brothers’ “Briar Rose”,  or the myriad of other folklore myths the tale resembles, Maleficent exists to terrify readers and warn of ill-gotten revenge. This forgotten fairy is brought to life in Disney’s classic and given new vitality in the 2014 upcoming production of Maleficent.

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Les Sobriquets:

The Mistress of All Evil, The Dark/13th/Aged Fairy

Les Caractéristiques:

Horns, purple and black cape, never forgets or forgives–especially when beautiful young girls are involved.

Sa Histoire:

In the Disney version, Maleficent is shunned by the King and Queen, parents of princess Aurora, at the occasion of the princess’ christening. Being the petty and vengeful fairy that she is, Maleficent curses the baby, proclaiming the child will prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and die. Maleficent spends the next 16 years searching for the princess, who is sent to live with the good fairies in the forest, away from any magic or sorcery that might allow the child to fall under the dark fairy’s spell. Maleficent doesn’t give up easily, and even after she’s gotten the girl to fall into a deep sleep and all hope seems lost, the Mistress of Evil isn’t satisfied. She takes the princess’ betrothed, a handsome Prince Phillip, and locks him in her dungeon, which was her first mistake, because the good guy always escapes. He does, and she proceeds to use some seriously dark magic to turn into a fire breathing dragon, destroy the fields and the castle, until finally put out of her misery by the Prince’s sword right in her dragon belly.

Disney Classic - 16 - Sleeping Beauty (10)