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In the animated film, Maleficent arrives at King Stefan and Queen Leah's castle during the christening of their newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. She expresses displeasure about not receiving an invitation, to which the good fairy Merryweather replies that she was unwanted. Angered, she prepares to leave. Queen Leah asks her if she is offended, causing Maleficent to deny her rage, and subsequently offers to bestow a "gift" on Aurora to show that she "bears no ill will". Maleficent confirms that Aurora will grow in grace and beauty, "beloved by all who know her", but as revenge for not being invited, she places a curse on Aurora so that before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Laughing, her presence leaves, with the Royal Guards unable to seize her. Merryweather, who still has a gift to bestow, is unable to dispel Maleficent's power, but is able to weaken the curse so that Aurora will fall into a deep sleep instead, with only a kiss from her true love needed to awaken her.
Later, at her castle in the Forbidden Mountains, a frustrated Maleficent asks her bestial army why they have been unable to find Aurora, who had been hidden by the three good fairies. Maleficent learns that they have focused on searching for a baby the entire time, even though years have passed. Maleficent flies into a destructive rage, and soon desperately instructs her pet raven, Diablo, to find Aurora. The bird manages to succeed due to a magical quarrel between two of the fairies, which exposes their location.
On the evening of Aurora's sixteenth birthday, after the three fairies have momentarily left the depressed princess alone, Maleficent visits Aurora in the form of a will-o-the-wisp, luring the princess to a room where Maleficent transforms into a spinning wheel. Aurora pricks her finger on the spindle, fulfilling the curse.
Later on, Maleficent and her servants capture Prince Phillip, Aurora's true love, and imprison him. Maleficent then rests well, thinking she has triumphed. Maleficent later wakes up and, by seeing that Diablo has been turned to stone, discovers that the fairies have freed Philip from her dungeon. She climbs to the top of one of her castle's towers and proceeds to blast Philip with lightning, and after the good fairies foil these attempts, she summons a forest of thorns, through which Philip slices his way out. In despair, she blows away and confronts him in front of King Stefan's castle, and transforms into a huge dark dragon. The three fairies cast an enhancing enchantment on Phillip's Sword of Truth, which he throws into Maleficent's heart, mortally wounding her before she falls off the crumbling cliff to her death.