"Maleficent" week on Moviefone continues with this inside look, provided by Disney, at how the artists and designers behind the movie created the iconic villainess's style -- horns and all.
Bringing the evil Maleficent -- who first appeared in Disney's classic animated 1959 film "Sleeping Beauty" -- to life in this year's live-action "Maleficent" involved the acclaimed talents of Oscar®-winning actress Angelina Jolie and a team of artists and designers dedicated to create the villainess's uniquely wicked style.
Everyone familiar with Disney's classic "Sleeping Beauty" knows what the animated Maleficent looked like, so getting the look right for the live-action film was important to both director Robert Stromberg and Angelina Jolie. "Angelina was really passionate about not only who the character was, but what the character looked like," says Stromberg. "We worked together to come up with a character that wasn't that stereotype image but was close enough that people would immediately know her to be Maleficent."
Recreating Maleficent's costume from animated film to live action fell to London-based costume designer Anna B. Sheppard, known for her work on "Schindler's List" and "The Pianist," both of which earned her Academy Award® nominations. The costume designer was tasked with creating two very different worlds, one with creatures living in a forest fairyland and the other a human kingdom. Sheppard began her process with research that guided her from the 15th century to the Renaissance period of French and Italian art, including paintings, sketches and sculptures.
Maleficent's character look in the 1959 animated film was designed by animator Marc Davis, who is credited with creating Maleficent's horns and designing her elegant style complete with flowing capes and high collars, so Sheppard started with those references for Maleficent's specific style. After watching the classic "Sleeping Beauty," Sheppard incorporated the design elements and notes, "The persona that comes to you straight from this film is Maleficent. The colors I used are similar to the Disney prints from that film. I think Maleficent looks exactly, in the big christening scene, as everyone expects her to be. This is Maleficent from the animated version, just more beautiful."
Although Sheppard designed the line and shape of Maleficent's costumes, she says that she could not have achieved the fully realized look without the collaboration of specialty designers who were hired to work with Angelina Jolie to help create the character's style. "Maleficent's costumes evolved from mossy colors and 'floaty" fabrics to become dark and sculptural shapes in much heavier fabrics with lots of volume," explains Sheppard. Artificial furs, leather and feathered accessories created by the specialty designers were used to form a much darker and sinister-looking character."
One of the first costume elements to be created were the horns and Maleficent's facial contours as those looks were intrinsic to creating Maleficent's full-on style. Seven-time Academy Award®–winning special makeup effects designer Rick Baker stepped in to handle the process. Baker began immediately with a digital painting of what he thought Maleficent's look should be. "Personally, I thought for Angelina Jolie, you didn't really want to do too much to her. For me, it was maybe horns and ears. I pretty much left her face alone," says Baker.
But with Angelina Jolie's input, the design evolved. As Baker explains, "Angelina wanted to wear appliances for Maleficent's look, so I did a number of designs with appliances that were subtle. She also wanted a nose, which I actually thought could give her more of a Maleficent look. We ended up with numerous sets of cheeks and ears and horns in the beginning stages. First we made sketches and then later we actually sculpted on a cast of her head and made pieces for her to review."
Baker created cheeks, a nose and ear appliances for Jolie that were silicone and gel-filled. Maleficent's cheeks look sharply prominent in the film, but the appliances are actually very small. Baker explains, "It's amazing because the appliances are less than a quarter of an inch at their thickest points and only about a half inch wide. They sit right at the crest of her cheekbones."
Special makeup effects artist Arjen Tuiten was on set daily to transfer Baker's designs to Angelina Jolie. "It was important to Rick [Baker] that all Angelina's prosthetics conform to the angles of her face," says Tuiten. "From the life cast of her head, we formed the rubber cheekbones and ears, following those contours. The whole application process, including hair weaves, which took about a half-hour, was about four hours every morning. Angelina was very patient with the process."
Turning his attention to the horns, Baker faced several challenges. "The horns were one of the big issues because no one would want to walk around all day with big horns on his or her head," relates Baker. "So, I wanted to make them as lightweight as possible and removable because when you have something that sticks out a foot beyond your head and you're not used to it, you're apt to run into things."
Baker and his team sculpted at least four different designs of horns. "I did some drawings and modeled some of the designs for the horns on the computer," says Baker. "Then we actually ended up sculpting them. We chose the one that we liked the best and did all the work using that one design."
For comfort, the horns are very lightweight and thin, and made of urethane casting resin. "After much experimentation, we ended up basically with a maxi-form skullcap that had on it the base of the horns and the first inch or so of the horns," explains Baker. 'The rest of the horns stuck on with a magnet. They were very strong magnets that held them in place but we could then pop them off in between shots."
The magnets also protected Angelina Jolie while engaged in wirework or performing stunts. "If something crossed over or bumped they would disconnect easily," says Baker. "But because of that, we had to make many duplicates because if they fell, they would break. We also had a stunt version of the horns that were more rubbery, so that they would not hurt anybody. It was a lot of experimentation on how to keep them affixed to her head and how to make them seamlessly removable. Fortunately, the horns had a sculpted texture of lines, like a growth line basically, so that made really good connection points. We probably made at least 20 sets of horns of different types and replacements."
Maleficent's green skin in "Sleeping Beauty" is nowhere to be seen in the live-action "Maleficent." "We still wanted her to look pretty and attractive," informs Baker. That was an important thing and we didn't want her look to be too creature-like. Keeping it relatable seemed like the right thing to do for this film."
Baker also had contact lenses made to complete the look of Jolie's Maleficent. "Angelina designed them," says Baker. "The lenses were hand-painted by an artist who is an expert in that field. I have a lady that does them all the time for us and we had some pictures made of these eyes and had the eyes amped up a little bit."
After the horns were designed and built, milliner Justin Smith came on board to design the covering for the horns and all the headwear for Jolie's Maleficent. His first step was to get a sense of the costumes Anna Sheppard had created for the character and then apply his specific talents to bring innovative millinery to help create an iconic look based on the original character from the animated film. Explaining his approach, Smith comments, "I created several head wrap designs. The designs emerged from the story of Maleficent, who of course has horns. I worked on designing and creating looks that would capture the tension between menacing and magical to become a contemporary couture version of the 1950s animation."
To approach the basic design of the headpieces, Smith conferred closely with the film's star Angelina Jolie. "Angelina wanted something that was going to cover the head and completely lose all the hair, but also not be a turban or fabric just wrapped around the head. So it was quite a specific brief, and it took a little bit of time to understand where we can go with this to try and create an identity for her."
"There's python skin, some very fine leather and some fish skin, and it's all based on being quite clean and simple silhouettes with a wrapping technique that looks like it's just twisted and wrapped around the head in an easy way," concludes Smith.
To create his designs Smith looked to references that had already been established and then he expanded from there. "There's obviously a theme that we had to build in and a lot of the fabrics were supplied already," says Smith. "So I delved in there and had a look at what I could actually use to bring it in with all the rest of the costume. I brought a lot of my own techniques and my own skills to do with how I've developed millinery in a modern way. A lot of my own references are artists like Michael Parkes, who is one of my favorites, especially his very elegant, very beautiful lithograph paintings. Then there are some rope-knotting books and various books that I use for my own work."
With these resources, Smith manipulated his techniques and ideas together with the costume. "I tried to come up with something hopefully quite new and a little bit edgy, a little bit futuristic but nothing too scary that would take away from anything else," explains Smith. "It's more about complementing the whole look to make everything work in harmony."
Using the story as a guide, with its numerous references to animals and the creatures of the forest kingdom, Smith worked to bring some animalistic influences to Maleficent's look. "It was the idea that the headpieces weren't structured at all, that they didn't have any stitching on them," explains the milliner. "They look very manmade, with more taken from leathers and fabrics that would come from the forest. It's as though Maleficent wrapped them around her head. The idea was that they looked very easy and very natural."
Smith created six different headpieces that corresponded with the seasons and specific scenes. Describing some of the different looks, Smith informs, "There's the summer look, which is a python skin head wrap. We've got the christening, which is the leather turban with leather-covered thorns. We've got a spring look, which is a narrow strip of leather sewn together so it creates a ribbed effect and then heavily lacquered and painted. Then there's the stingray head wrap. So it's stingray on the top and leather on the side."
No costume would be complete without footwear and accessories, so Rob Goodwin, a couture footwear designer, assumed the role of leather specialist. Goodwin approached his task with a vision, as he explains, "Maleficent is a dark and complex character so I was inspired by the darker edges of contemporary couture fashion which contrasted and complemented the approach and vision of the more established film costume design team. I wanted to inject an edgy, stylish and harder aesthetic component into the mix, which I think helped us create a new and iconic version of this fairytale anti-heroine. I worked closely with a small design team and with Angelina to pin down and reflect Maleficent's distinct personality in the garments she chose to wear."
Goodwin admits that most of his inspiration came from Angelina Jolie. He comments, "Most of the inspiration came from discussions with Angelina herself who inhabited the character completely. She is very knowledgeable about past and present visual culture and so we drew from our pooled knowledge and references to evolve Maleficent's appearance."
Goodwin worked in leathers and combined them with feathers, beads and other materials. "These materials have the quality of savage elegance, the scales and surface textures suggesting that Maleficent is somehow non-human," says Goodwin.
Goodwin's most challenging designs for the film involved the battles scene. "From early on, I had an idea for a helmet and footwear for her battle scene, which had to be hard, formidable yet elegant. The helmet's sculpted shape is covered in leather that looks reptilian and this detail was continued onto the boots, which had customized bone-like heels. Together, these pieces were my most challenging as well as being my favorites."
Manuel Albarran joined the team to design Maleficent's accessories such as jewelry and collars, which accessorized the look. Says Albarran about his contributions, "l was mainly designing the accessories for Maleficent: collars, rings, brooches, bracelets, shoulder-pieces and spines."
Albarran envisioned Maleficent's look as very organic and rooted in nature, with the use of as many natural materials as possible. "As l am used to using metals and unusual materials in my creations, l looked to legends, history and architecture as initial inspiration for my designs. l then invented and developed the techniques needed to create my visions and to create the pieces in reality."
The materials Albarran used to create his designs included various metals, such as gold, brass and copper, precious stones and crystals, different leathers, feathers and other natural materials all in order to "create costumes that would be beautiful, yet dark in character and powerful-like Maleficent herself," says the designer.
The collars Albarran designed for Maleficent were each different in structure and materials. "The collars were all feminine and elegant in silhouette, yet powerful and dark in atmosphere," explains Albarran. "Really organic. Some were very detailed structures. For example, l created collars where the collar, shoulders and spine were all connected as a single piece in leather with a support to form the base structure, where l then added various skins, feathers, etc. to create the final design."
Describing his favorite design, Albarran says, "My favorite piece was a collar with feather shoulders attached to a delicate spine. I placed hand-dyed layers of duck feathers, the colors grading from different greys through dusty blues and greens, to the structure, which formed the shoulders and spine, creating a very organic feel. The spine l formed using a metal base, which l covered in leather. The silhouette of this piece is very elegant and feminine, yet also powerful."
Called upon to use his skills with leather in a different way, Albarran was assigned the challenging task of creating the full-body suit that Angelina Jolie wears in the final battle scene of the movie. Explains Albarran, "Designing the costume was the initial step. Then l needed to bring the design to life. This involved many technical complications, as l had to ensure that she could move, jump and fight while wearing the costume. I needed to make different samples, in order to check the mobility, weight, and balance before the design could be perfected."
No look would be complete without beauty makeup and that's where Toni G, Angelina Jolie's personal makeup artist, came in. To begin the process of designing the makeup for Maleficent, Toni G looked to nature for inspiration. She explains, "The story has so much nature involved with it that it definitely triggered more of a look into nature and the browns. With the palette we wanted a combination of colors that could be used in variation, such as Concrete, a grey brown, for more natural contour and a darker brown (Ground) and black (Carbon) to add a dramatic pop to the eye, with a little Goldmine for highlight that would complement the yellow in her contacts."
As red lips were part of the classic Maleficent design, it was an important element to retain in the character's live-action look. "We tried so many reds; we wanted a true bright red, but it also needed to be the right constancy and be fully pigmented with a dash of shine. I love the color we ultimately picked, so dramatic!"
After special makeup effects artist Arjen Tuiten applied the prosthetics and did a light fine painting to match the skin, Toni G would begin her work. "We would start in with the beauty and basically highlight the upside down triangle under the eyes to the outside part of the cheeks to the bottom of the nose. Basically the same principle with a normal beauty makeup."
Toni G's approach to the makeup for the Maleficent character was "about finding a way to bring the animation to the flesh." She elaborates, "Besides her prosthetics, her eyes where the perfect way to achieve this. I was very inspired by the labradorite stone. The Eskimos call it the Aurora because of the dimensional shift in color as the light hits it. Beautiful greens, blues and yellows. She wore very detailed contact lenses painted with these colors. The perfect way to help her feel magical."
Working with the contacts and the eye makeup was a balancing act for Toni G. "Those contacts just made her eyes pop that much more, so had we gone with strong colors on her eyes, we would have lost the balance," states the makeup artist. "Her contacts were supposed to be part of who she was as her own natural face. We wanted to keep a sense of her being relatable and natural, but also a strong sense of the classic Maleficent. We wanted to find what worked for this story and also make sure that it wouldn't become overly distracting as a theatrical makeup."
Maleficent's nails also had a special look. They were painted underneath with black and on top with a pearlescent-like polish, but for the christening scene, the nails underneath were painted blood red.
Although Toni G enjoyed the transformation that took Angelina Jolie from her movie-star self to the evil Maleficent, she was concerned about the use of glue to apply the prosthetics. "It was exciting for Angelina to have prosthetics and such a cool transformation, yet I was concerned for her skin having pieces glued on for four months! But it was all good. We opted to use a mix of coconut and argan oil for removal, which seemed to really help keep her skin from being irritated by strong glue removers."
But Toni G admits that the most challenging aspect of designing the beauty makeup was finding the balance. She explains, "It was just always about finding the balance of everything. When we got a new costume on, we had to decide what we wanted to do with her eyes and had to think about the emotion of the scene. It always seemed to be about finding the balance between her costume and where she was in the film."
On May 30, 2014, when Disney's "Maleficent" opens in U.S. theaters, the work of the talented designers and artists involved in creating Maleficent's look will be showcased on-screen and audiences will be swept away to another place and time by the beauty and style of Maleficent, whose evildoing is sure to lead another generation to appreciate the art of villainy as only Angelina Jolie can bring it.
"Maleficent" casts its spell in theaters May 30. Buy advance tickets now.