In 1959, Princess Aurora taught romantics everywhere that comas are best cured by true love's kiss. Fast forward to 2014, and Disney's Maleficent, along with science, turns that theory on its head. Despite the large gap in time - and going from a cartoon to full-fledged 3D fantasy - Sleeping Beauty's story continue's its My Little Pony mantra: Friendship is magic. That's true whether you're Aurora hanging out with fairies or Maleficent chilling with a crazy looking raven. Even then, the times are-a-changin'. For example, did you know that Maleficent's crow was actually a badass shapeshifter? Neither did I. But it's a cool addition to the ever evolving fairy tale.
Sam Riley plays the ornithological nightmare, now named Diaval. He's served Maleficent for 16 years after she saved his life from a farmer. In [Maleficent](movie:39352)'s darkness, he's the only one able to keep her grounded in a fantastically grim reality. While his purpose is to serve as exposition for Angelina Jolie's character, he also provides some of the moments best special effects through his shapeshifting.
"I designed most of the creatures myself," director Robert Stromberg says. It's not really a surprise: Stromberg's contributions in art direction won him two Academy Awards back-to-back for his work in James Cameron's Avatar and Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland. "Every time he changed into a different creature, I wanted there to be this, like, resonance of the bird in that creature," he explains. "So, when he changes into a wolf - if you look closely - the the nose is slightly beak-like, the feet are bird-like."
As such, there's always an element of a feather left behind, even when he turns into a real animal. "When he turns into a horse," Stromberg says, "We had an actual horse and did a prosthetic horse-face that had a beak quality to it and the mane was actually made of feathers."
As such, Diaval's transition into a human or different animal isn't seamless. "There are always the remnants," Stromberg says. "Even as a human, there are still some remnants of him as a bird."