After making the move from hand-drawn animation to computer animation, the next step for Walt Disney Pictures' big screen fairytales is apparently photorealism. The studio has a slew of live-action family films based on its well-loved animated properties in development, and the huge box office success of Cinderella and Maleficent is sure to add even more momentum to these kinds of projects.
There are live-action adaptations of Mulan, Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book in the works, but the busy development slate doesn't mean that Disney is going to ignore the sequel potential for its recent hits. Maleficent, which starred Angelina Jolie in the title role as the 'wicked' fairy from Sleeping Beauty, made over $758 million at the global box office and was the fourth highest-grossing movie of 2014, so it's no surprise to learn that a sequel is now in development.
According to Deadline, Maleficent screenwriter Linda Woolverton has signed a deal to write the script for a sequel. Based on this report it seems that Jolie's original contract didn't include sequels, which means that in order to bring her back for Maleficent 2 Disney will need to arrange a new deal. Apparently Jolie is being kept in the loop and the script is being written based on the assumption that she will reprise the role.
It's currently unclear whether Robert Stromberg, a visual effects artist and production designer who made his feature directorial debut with Maleficent, will return to direct the sequel, but Joe Roth is back on board as producer. Woolverton has been with Disney for many years, writing the screenplay for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and co-writing one of the studio's biggest hits, The Lion King.
Maleficent starts out as a prequel to Sleeping Beauty but eventually catches up with that movie's storyline and makes significant changes to how events play out (though the broad strokes remain the same). Although the movie was marketed on the basis of Jolie playing up the evil side of her character, Maleficent is more about telling the supposed villain's side of the story and showing that she's actually got a lot of good in her heart - terrifying appearance notwithstanding.
Between Marvel Studios movies, Star Wars movies, Pixar movies and other live-action adaptations, Disney's release schedule is filling up fast and the studio has the freedom to be very picky about which projects do and don't go ahead. That said, Maleficent made enough at the box office that, provided Jolie agrees to reprise her role, there should be few barriers to Maleficent 2's progress.
We'll keep you updated on the Maleficent sequel as the story develops.