Early animal development is controlled by maternally encoded RNAs and proteins, which are loaded into the egg during oogenesis. Oocyte maturation and egg activation trigger changes in the translational status and the stability of specific maternal mRNAs. Whereas both maturation and activation have been studied in depth in amphibians and echinoderms, only recently have these processes begun to be dissected using the powerful genetic and molecular tools available in Drosophila. This review focuses on the mechanisms and functions of regulated maternal mRNA translation and stability in Drosophila—and compares these mechanisms with those elucidated in other animal models, particularly Xenopus—beginning late in oogenesis and continuing to the mid-blastula transition, when developmental control is transferred to zygotically synthesized transcripts. Developmental Dynamics 232:593–608, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.