When Disney went all in on television animation in 1987 with the original DuckTales, the company knew something had to change from the classic Scrooge McDuck adventure comics by Carl Barks. While Daisy Duck served as a romantic foil and voice of reason for Donald, she never joined in any of the male ducks' adventures. Neither, for the most part, did her nieces, April, May and June. In the world of 1980s children's television, whose strict, focus-tested formulas always included at least one girl character, that wouldn't fly.
Thus, DuckTales '87 creator Jymn Magon and his staff introduced Webby Vanderquack. The granddaughter of Scrooge's housekeeper, Mrs. Beakley, Webby (voiced by the late, great Russi Taylor) was younger than the boys but still capable, and willing to tag along on adventures, even joining the Junior Woodchucks.
Unfortunately, she was saddled with all the typical baggage of girls on '80s kids' shows, even with interesting stories (in one episode, she was blown up to giant size) and proving more capable than the boys on many occasions. She was timid, loved animals (which, admittedly, came in handy), always carried a "Quacky-Patch" doll around and generally acted as a cutesy thorn in Scrooge's side to remind him to not be so darned greedy. In the tie-in DuckTales comics, she didn't fare that well, either: The 1990 "Scrooge's Quest" storyline saw her kidnapped by Magica De Spell for most of the story and then not really doing that much once she was rescued.
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A mainstay throughout the show and its movie spinoff, 1990's Treasure of the Lost Lamp, it was a given that Webby would appear in the 2017 DuckTales reboot on Disney Channel. But times had changed, and Webby needed to as well.
21st Century (Duck) Girl
By the time the DuckTales reboot was announced in 2015, children's animation, and Disney in particular, had undergone a welcome (and still ongoing) sea change. It was no longer enough to have just one token girl character; they had to be more than gendered stereotypes based on marketing. Again, Disney has gone along with this, using recent films like Tangled, Frozen and Brave to offer up postmodern riffs on the traditional Disney Princess archetype.
Accordingly, the 2017 Webby (now voiced by Kate Micucci) is both a near-complete rejection of everything '87 Webby was and a response to the breakout star of one of Disney's best cartoons: Mabel Pines of Gravity Falls.
While not boy-crazy like Mabel, Webby has a lot in common with her, including a grappling hook. Proudly, loudly weird but also deeply insecure and socially awkward, the new Webby is initially a shut-in. Raised by an overprotective Beakley (Toks Olagundoye), who passed on many of her secret-agent skills, Webby is also an expert on Scrooge and McDuck clan history as well as being the first to tell the triplets that Donald was Scrooge's sidekick.
While she joins in and manages to out-brave the triplets on most adventures, Webby's most daring endeavor was befriending the slightly older, hipper Lena (Kimiko Glenn), who bonded with her after they crashed, and then escaped from, Ma Beagle's birthday party.
However, Lena turned out to be the sentient shadow of Magica De Spell (Catherine Tate), who created her 15 years earlier when, in a battle on Mt. Vesuvius, she wound up trapped inside Scrooge's Number One Dime. Using the last of her power, Magica created Lena and, bequeathing her the amulet that was the source of her powers, sent her off as a spy to work toward Magica's return.
However, as Lena became more sentient, she longed to be free of Magica's abuse. Having seen what true family is, thanks to Webby, Lena rebelled against Magica, but was possessed by her and, eventually, recovered the Dime and restored Magica to her full self.
In the ensuing battle, Lena was dissipated back into the Shadow Realm. Still connected to Webby through the power of their friendship bracelets, Lena helped to defeat Magica. However, she wasn't made corporeal again until the recent episode, "Friendship Hates Magic!"
TV And Beyond
Although the reimagined Webby isn't even five years old, in real-world terms, she's already made a big splash. Disney has featured her in a "Webby Reacts" YouTube series promoting other Disney Channel properties; she appears in the IDW DuckTales comic and she's even featured in the Kingdom Hearts mobile game Kingdom Hearts Union χ [Cross].
Clearly, this plucky young duck isn't going anywhere anytime soon.