The Enchanting Magica De Spellby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
It was nice to see that readers enjoyed a glimpse at Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone, but another Disney witch who I feel also doesn't get enough attention is Magica De Spell.
Magica is a Disney witch who is distinctly Italian and was created by Disney Legend Carl Barks in 1961. Today, she is a popular character on a variety of merchandise from pins to a Funko figure.
While Barks decided to make the character Italian to reference popular Italian movie actresses at the time like Gina Lollobrigida, Italy has had a long association with witchcraft.
In an interview with Klaus Strzyz in 1980, Barks recalled:
"I thought at the time Disney has always had witches who were ugly and repulsive. Why shouldn't I draw one that's not ugly but outright sexy? That's why she's Italian and of course very popular with readers in Italy. She knows that if she took a barrel of Scrooge's money, why, in a little while it would be gone, but if she had that Old Number One Dime and made it into this very lucky amulet, she would have many barrels of her own money and would be the most powerful person in the world. She'd also be the richest."
The name, obviously, references a "magic spell." "Magico" is the Italian word for "magic" so adding the "a" at the end makes it feminine.
When Bruce Hamilton began reprinting Barks' stories, Barks told him that the physical appearance of Magica was modeled on the character of Morticia Addams, "the dark haired witch from the Charles Addams family cartoons in the New Yorker which I liked very much. She was downright sexy."
It was atypical for Barks to have a story with real magic. As a former Disney storyman, he was familiar with Walt Disney's philosophy of "The Plausible Impossible" meaning taking something that is against the laws of nature, basically impossible, and make it appear rational and acceptable or "plausible."
So when Barks introduced the character of Magica, her magic entailed devices like her "Foof" flash blinders (that were actually just chemical pellets) or a battery-powered gadget on her arm that generated a "stun ray – a power more stupefying than the evil eye" as well as being a master of disguise and hypnotism so that her so-called powers that were all easily explained by science rather than sorcery.
Later, in Uncle Scrooge No. 43 (1964), he had Magica find a crypt beneath the oldest temple of Zeus, the cave of Circe and the ruined temples of Boreas, Juno and the Furies where she found recipes and herbs from these characters who "were more likely live sorcerers than figments of ancient dreams".
She dipped her wand into the horrendous mixture and was able to conjure fantastic powers. While the nephews broke it apart into little pieces, she was apparently able to repair it or replace it because she used it in later adventures.
Barks obviously felt he had limited his storytelling with a character who was not truly magical and was solely focused on getting hold of Scrooge McDuck's first dime. As he continued the stories, he shifted the approach so that Magica had real magic and in his last two stories with her shifted her attention to artifacts like golden eggs and a flying carpet that had somewhat magical properties.
Of course, Magica treats everyone in the same condescending, domineering manner and always speaks in a stilted, formal tone, rarely even using contractions in an elite-type of speech that at times seems almost operatic. She is the only recurring villainess in the Disney duck comics.
Barks only produced nine comic book stories featuring Magica:
- The Midas Touch (Uncle Scrooge No. 36 - 1961) Magica is introduced and succeeds in getting Scrooge's first dime when he carelessly sells it to her for a dollar. When he realizes his mistake, he, Donald and the nephews give chase to Italy before she can melt it down into a lucky amulet.
- Ten-Cent Valentine (Walt Disney Comics and Stories No. 258 - 1962) Magica disguises herself as a secretary in order to get hold of the desirable dime but he has given it to Donald to protect it. At the end of the story Magica, seemingly, witnesses the destruction of the coin in a meat grinder. She storms off but the dime miraculously materializes from a special cake made for the desolated Scrooge because the nephews switched it with a phony dime.
- The Unsafe Safe (Uncle Scrooge No. 38 - 1962) Scrooge has created an unbreakable glass safe in his Money Bin that frustrates the Beagle Boys in their attempts to rob it. Feeling finally that his fortune is secure from robbers, Scrooge takes an around the world vacation with Donald and the nephews. Magica fails to break into the safe as well using a variety of musical objects to try to shatter the glass. In Africa, Scrooge discovers the Tanganyika Yeeker bird whose disagreeable cry shatters his glasses so could shatter his vault. Magica finds Scrooge and steals a Yeeker to take back to Duckburg with Scrooge and his relatives in pursuit. She does manage to steal the dime but her stunner weapon fails and Scrooge retrieves his prize.
- Raven Mad (Walt Disney Comics and Stories No. 265 - 1962) Magica hypnotizes Randolph the raven into stealing Scrooge's dime from an outdoor display and place it on the top of a rocket about to launch for the sun. Donald disguised as Magica hypnotizes the raven to save the coin at the last minute.
- Oddball Odyssey (Uncle Scrooge No. 40 - 1963) Scrooge and the Ducks arrive at the Greek mythological enchantress Circe's island, where Magica in disguise tries to barter the dime for worthless junk. In the process, she happens to find Circe's ancient wand that can transform living beings into anything she likes. She transforms Scrooge into a mule, the nephews into pigs, and Donald into a goat and, next, a turtle in order to force Scrooge to part with his special dime.
- For Old Dime's Sake (Uncle Scrooge No. 43 - 1963) Scrooge's Money Bin is protected from lightning, cyclone and a meteor because his two spies watching Magica had discovered she has been able to create a formula to give her wand control over the weather. Failing to break into the Bin to get the dime, Magica disguises herself as Scrooge and gets the combination to the vault and steals the dime. She is thwarted by the nephews who see through her deception and destroy her wand.
- Isle of Golden Geese (Uncle Scrooge No. 45 - 1963) Scrooge finds a golden goose egg in a regular egg carton. Scrooge discovers there are golden geese living on Featherbrain Island, but Magica De Spell, who now lives temporarily in Duckburg to spy on him, tries to stop him with the Beagle Boys as her crew who she torments by throwing lightning bolts from her hands.
- The Many Faces of Magica De Spell (Uncle Scrooge No. 48 - 1964) Magica makes a potion she found in Circe's cave that can change a person's face into whoever they look at. She fools Scrooge's two detectives but Scrooge finds out about her scheme and flies with Donald and the nephews to an Unknown Valley in the Jungles of Nowhere where faceless people live in a maze of caves. She squirts Scrooge's face but thanks to the actions of the nephews she loses her own face while they restore their uncle's face.
- Rug Riders in the Sky (Uncle Scrooge No. 50 - 1964) Magica tricks Scrooge into buying a flying magic carpet that will take her to a cave containing the treasure of Aladdin. She tries twice to steal the carpet but the ducks regain it and fly to the cave themselves.
Barks' stories found a new audience when they inspired the DuckTales American animated syndicated television series produced by Walt Disney Television animation. It premiered on September 18, 1987 and ran for four seasons and 100 episodes until November 28, 1990.
CEO Michael Eisner wanted to expand into the lucrative syndication market but not risk using top-of-the-line characters for fear of damaging their brand. However, he was not adverse to using "supporting" characters who might have a connection to one of Disney's major cartoon stars.
It was decided that the adventures of Scrooge McDuck from the popular comic books produced by writer and artist Carl Barks would provide some good adventure stories. Donald Duck would enlist in the Navy and Scrooge would become the guardian for Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Tom Ruzicka, associate producer of the series, said in 1987, "Although the show was initially based on the concept of doing Scrooge McDuck and his nephews, Barks was never really consulted. We discovered that a lot of stuff that made wonderful comics wouldn't translate into the 1980s or into animation, so we started evolving new characters and other things to contemporize the show. As we did that, the stories got further and further away from the comics, although a few episodes are lifted right out of them."
Many of Barks' characters were borrowed from the comic book pages including the Beagle Boys, Flintheart Glomgold, Gyro Gearloose and others including Magica De Spell who would appear in animation for the first time.
Her voice was provided by veteran voice actress June Foray using a pseudo-Slavic accent similar to the one she provided for the character of Natasha Fatale in the Jay Ward cartoons.
Magica was a prominent character in the first season of the show, but as the show started developing its own characters, she disappeared except for one more episode based on a Barks comic book story.
Her raven called Ratface who was her familiar in the comic books was re-christened as Poe in reference to Edgar Allan Poe who wrote a famous poem about a raven. He was now also her brother who was under a curse. In this television version Magica lives on her own unnamed volcanic island rather than on the slope of Mt. Vesuvius.
- Send in the Clones (9/21/87) Magica turns the Beagle Boys Bigtime, Babyface and Burger into look-alikes of Huey, Dewey and Louie to help her get Scrooge's lucky dime. Later she transforms herself into Mrs. Beakley. She gets the dime and takes Mrs. Beakley and Huey to her lair with her where they get into a potion fight with many transformations. Scrooge shows up and tricks her out of the dime and rescues her hostages.
- Magica's Shadow War (9/28/87) Magica brings her shadow to life to steal Scrooge's lucky dime but it takes on a personality of its own and wants to use the dime to free all the shadows in the world. Scrooge has to reluctantly team up with Magica to defeat this menace as it multiplies. Huey, Dewey and Louie destroy the extra shadows as well as the main super-shadow.
- Raiders of the Lost Harp (11/20/87) While uncovering the treasures of ancient Troy, Scrooge finds a golden harp with a carving of a beautiful female duck who can detect lies. Magica disguises herself as Helen of Troy to try to get the prize but the harp reveals her deception. A chase ensues. That night when Scrooge's Trojan Museum is to open, a fifty-foot stone minotaur who is the guardian of the harp invades Duckburg to retrieve it. Scrooge foils Magica's last attempt and returns the harp to the minotaur.
- Magica's Magic Mirror (11/30/87) In disguise Magica gives Scrooge a mirror that will supposedly reveal the future but it is a trick. She stages future events broadcast over a second mirror to fool him but Huey, Dewey and Louie finally foil the sorceress.
- Duck to the Future (12/1/87) Disguised as a fortune teller, Magica uses her "Sands of Time" to send Scrooge forty years in the future to Duckburg. There he finds that Magica has gotten rid of him, taken his dime and now runs Magica-McDuck Enterprises that controls everything. Scrooge retrieves the dime and journeys back to the past with Magica hot on his heels.
- Dime Enough for Luck (12/4/87) Magica hypnotizes Gladstone Gander to use his incredible luck to steal Scrooge's lucky dime. When he does, his luck turns bad since he used his good luck for a wicked purpose so he must journey to Magica's fortress and recover the dime to restore his luck. He does and both his and Scrooge's fortunes blossom.
- Nothing to Fear (12/14/87) Magica's gigantic "fear cloud" envelopes the McDuck mansion and everyone there is menaced by their worst fears. Scrooge and the nephews are even tormented by their nasty "opposites". It is only when they stop running and face their fears that they conquer them and turn the spell against Magica.
- Till Nephews Do Us Part (1/1/88) Magica has a short non-speaking cameo appearance at Scrooge's wedding along with almost three dozen other characters who had appeared at some time on the series.
- The Unbreakable Bin (11/15/89) based on the Barks' comic story The UnSafe Safe Gyro Gearloose invents a special unbreakable glass for Scrooge's Money Bin that is immune from Magica's spells. She gets a bird with a shriek that can shatter the glass and Gizmoduck must help protect the Bin.
A reboot of the DuckTales animated series premiered August 12, 2017 with some significant differences while maintaining the basic formula of the original show. Magica's voice was now portrayed by Catherine Tate, who uses her own British accent.
Fifteen years before the start of the series, Magica De Spell was Scrooge McDuck's bitterest rival. During a battle between them atop Mount Vesuvius, Magica attempted to harness the power of the Lunar eclipse to trap Scrooge within his No. 1 dime, however, Scrooge was able to turn the tables on her and imprisoned Magica in the dime instead.
Before she was sealed in the dime, Magica was able to create a living being from her shadow, to act as her surrogate. The shadow took on the form of a young girl named Lena, who took the source of Magica's power, an amulet she held within the head of her staff and worked to free her creator.
She became best friends with Webby, who becomes progressively more under Magica's disembodied control as in The Other Bin of Scrooge McDuck (7/21/2018) where Magica directs her to steal the dime. Magica first appeared in the form of a black shadow with red glowing eyes in The Beagle Birthday Massacre! (9/30/2017) and made her first speaking appearance in Terror of the Terra-firmians! (10/2/2017)
In The Shadow War! (8/18/2018) a two-part episode, she regains her physical appearance: a tall green-feathered slender duck with yellow eyes and short black hair
Why does she looks like a snake with yellow eyes that have reptilian pupils? According to Frank Angones, the show's co-executive producer and story editor, "The yellow and green is the corrupting effect of her magic. The slender, taller appearance harkens back to her first appearance in a Barks book. And the triangle pupils are like the opposite of the pie eyes that everyone else has. It makes her extra subliminally upsetting."
In The Shadow War!, once she has Scrooge's first dime in her possession, Magica's physical form is released from the dime with her shadow releasing Lena's body from her control. Magica reverts Lena back to her original form as a shadow and traps her within Magica's own shadow, while Scrooge is sucked into his own No. 1 dime remaining trapped as Magica was for the past 15 years.
Magica casts a spell upon all the citizens of Duckburg, with their shadows beginning to come alive and thus creating for herself an army of shadow puppets and swearing to Scrooge she will destroy everything he ever loved starting with Duckburg. In the ensuing fights, Lena protects Webby, Magica's blast hits the dime freeing Scrooge who gets the upper hand and Donald's head breaks the magical ball on her staff causing her to lose her powers and shadow army.
Months later, in A Nightmare on Killmotor Hill (9/5/2019), Magica begins haunting the dreams of Lena in an attempt to regain her magic powers and seduce Lena back to the dark side. Magica uses a telepathic helmet and drone to enter Lena's dreams and pressure her. Lena magically destroys the equipment and Magica is defeated.
In Glom Tales (9/10/2019), having lost her powers, Magica is stuck working at Funso's Fun Zone performing fake magic tricks for children's birthday parties. She teams up with Scrooge's rival Flintheart Glomgold, who is forming a group of Scrooge's enemies—including the Beagle Boys and Mark Beaks—to finally bring about the downfall of McDuck and his family. Through some clever trickery, Louie defeats Glomgold and his allies turn on him. The wrong character model for Magica was sent to the overseas animation studio, so in this episode her feathers are white rather than green.
Magica is a major character in Disney Italian comics, where she's called Amelia, "la fattucchiera che ammalia" (literally, "the bewitching witch") and interacts with family members.
Appearing in only one DuckTales comic book story "Dime After Dime" (Disney Adventures 1990), the character of Magica's young niece, Minima De Spell became so popular that she appeared in several Italian comic book stories and was the inspiration for the character Lena in the rebooted animated series.
Granny De Spell (whose real name is Caraldina De Spell) was Magica's grandmother and taught her sorcery when she was a child. She first appeared in an Australian comic book story "A Lesson from Granny" (Magica De Spell Giant Special No. 381 - 1966) where she comes out of retirement to help Magica get Scrooge's dime.
The character was redesigned by artist Giorgio Cavazzano for a 1995 Italian comic book story "Magica De Spell and the Great Rock of Power-Plus" written by Francisco Artibani. Since then, Granny has appeared in several stories.
Magica makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in the Darkwing Duck animated series episode "In Like Blunt" (11/15/1991) where she, along with the Beagle Boys and Flintheart Glomgold, bid for the secret S.H.U.S.H. agent list at a criminal auction. She later appeared in the Darkwing Duck comic book series published by Boom! Studios.
Besides her many other comic book appearances by other writers and artists, she also appeared in animation in video games including DuckTales/ DuckTales Remastered, DuckTales: The Quest for Gold, DuckTales: Scrooge's Loot, Mickey's Racing Adventure, Donald Duck: The Lucky Dime Caper and Donald Duck: Goin' Quackers.
The sexy sorceress continues to enchant new fans with many more magical adventures ahead of her.