Disney’s Maleficent: Discover the Sussex and Hertfordshire setting of Angelina Jolie’s new film
Location manager Bill Darby guides us around Petworth Park and Ashridge Estate – the properties that double for the mystical backdrop in the movie
Filmed in two National Trust properties, Angelina Jolie's new movie follows Disney’s most popular villain, Maleficent, from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty.
The movie was filmed on set and location in the UK, including Petworth Park in West Sussex, which doubles as Maleficent’s Moors in the movie.
“It’s almost unique in the south of England,” explains Maleficent location manager Bill Darby. “Its 700 acres were an inspiration for JMW Turner, so it’s no surprise contemporary filmmakers also find it appealing.”
The park was designed in the 18th century by renowned landscape architect Capability Brown, in Jolie’s new movie it stands in for the lands surrounding the King’s Castle.
Darby explains: “The landscape is an Arcadian vision – a utopia of rolling hills, of open grassland studded with copses of ancient trees, and a heard of Fallow deer roaming free.
“On a hot summers day, looking southeast through the heat haze towards the downs, with the deer gathered in the shade of a spreading oak, you could almost imagine you were on an African plain. It’s beautiful and it costs nothing to walk or picnic in the park.”
Meanwhile, Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire doubles as Maleficent’s Enchanted Forest. It has 5,000 acres of beech and oak woodland, downland and commons.
“We can’t confirm we’ve seen any magical pixies and faeries in the woods,” says Kirsten Proctor, general manager at Ashridge, but “the estate is home to ancient trees, rare plants, butterflies, birds, insects and mammals including Fallow and Muntjac deer, all of which can be spotted and enjoyed on our special Maleficent-themed trail for families this summer.”
Darby maintains that, although there are a lot of special effects in the new Disney movie, the finished effect could not have been created without these two magnificent UK sites.
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“People think you can create almost any image with a computer these days, but we are not quite there just yet,” says Darby.
“The successful combination of reality and fantasy in film making is an art form in itself. Maleficent is a celebration of that form, in which both Ashridge Estate and Petworth Park play an integral part."
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Maleficent is released in UK cinemas on May 28, 2014.