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Angelina Jolie appears as the title character in Walt Disney Studios film Maleficent, set for release on March 14, 2014. - Provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Angelina Jolie as 'Maleficent': Disney releases first image, begins production (Photo)

06/19/2012 by Corinne Heller

Walt Disney Studios has begun production on the new Angelina Jolie film, "Maleficent" and has released the first image of the Oscar-winning actress in character as the horned character, first seen in Disney's 1959 animated classic "Sleeping Beauty."

The movie is set for release in 3D on March 14, 2014, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. "Maleficent" depicts the untold story of what Disney calls its "most beloved villain."

In "Sleeping Beauty," Maleficent, an evil sorceress, unleashes a curse upon a baby princess, Aurora, in a bid to punish her parents for not inviting her to the child's christening. The spell calls for her to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die just before her 16th birthday.

A good fairy then amends the curse so that Aurora instead falls asleep and can be woken up by True Love's Kiss. The man who seeks to give her one, Prince Phillip, ends up battling Maleficent to get to the sleeping princess. The villain then turns into a fire-breathing dragon and the two engage in what has become one the most memorable battle scenes in animated Disney films.

"Maleficent" "reveals the events that hardened her heart and drove her to curse the baby, Aurora," Disney's statement said.

Others cast in the film are Elle Fanning of "Super 8" fame, British stars Juno Temple of "Atonement," Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley and Miranda Richardson, who played nosy journalist Rita Skeeter in the "Harry Potter" films, as well as South African actor Sharlto Copley. The actors' roles have not been revealed.

"Maleficent" is helmed by Robert Stromberg, who is making his directorial debut. He is known for his work as a production designer for the 2009 record-breaking 3D half-animated smash "Avatar" and Disney's 2010 film adaptation of "Alice In Wonderland." He won Oscars for both projects.

Stromberg worked as a visual effects supervisor on the 2004 film "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and as a matte painting supervisor on the 2006 movie "The Good Shepherd" - two projects that starred Jolie. He also worked as a visual effects designer on productions such as cable network HBO's show "Boardwalk Empire" and films such as "The Golden Compass" and "There Will Be Blood."

The screenwriter of "Maleficent" is Linda Woolverton, who wrote the script for the 2010 film "Alice In Wonderland" and also helped pen Disney's animated classics "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King," "Mulan" as well as the 1993 animal film "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" and episodes of 1980s cartoons such as "Dennis the Menace," "Teen Wolf," "Popples," "Ewoks" and "My Little Pony 'n Friends."

Jolie, 37, is known mostly for her dark, "femme fatale" roles and won an Oscar for playing a mental patient in the 1999 film "Girl, Interrupted." She has not appeared on screen since the 2010 film "The Tourist." In 2011, she voiced a character in the animated movie "Kung Fu Panda 2" and made her feature film directorial debut with the foreign-language war movie "In The Land of Blood and Honey."

The mother of six told The Hollywood Reporter in December 2011 that she "adores screenwriter Linda Woolverton's revisionist take on the fairy tale and the complex relationship between Maleficent and Sleeping Beauty."

She also joked that her and partner Brad Pitt's children were excited about her making the movie and often call her "mom-elicent."

Do you think Angelina Jolie will make a good Maleficent? Vote in our poll.

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