Archivist Spotlight: Emily Quackfaster, DuckTales
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
The recently reimagined DuckTales has gone to great lengths to update and modernize its main characters in order to differentiate them from their 1980s counterparts. The same can also be said for secondary and tertiary characters like our focus today: Emily Quackfaster.
In the comics and the original cartoon series, Miss Quackfaster was Scrooge McDuck’s secretary, a matronly woman at the beck and call of her employer. Her first appearance was in Uncle Scrooge #36 (1953) and she’s been a staple of the DuckTales world ever since, though her name, appearance, and even her voice have been a bit malleable. In the comics, she was referred to as Miss Typefast on occasion (probably because she was a secretary and who cares about getting their names right?) and the original DuckTales cartoon changed her name to Mrs. Featherby (for reasons?) where she was voiced by three different voice actors: Tress MacNeille, Susan Blu, and June Foray.
The latest incarnation of Emily Quackfaster is, like many of the revamped characters, an ostentatious individual prone to feats of theatricality. But now she’s an archivist! Scrooge’s personal archivist/librarian, to be exact, and keeper of the McDuck family history and records at Scrooge’s Money Bin. A job she takes very seriously, by the way. So seriously that when Dewey (Ben Schwartz) and Webby (Kate Micucci) go to the archives to search for information about Dewey’s mother, Quackfaster (now voiced to perfection by Susanne Blakeslee) turns it into a noble quest complete with puzzles, obstacles, and a grand chase sequence.
It would be easy to say that Quackfaster is an over-the-top caricature, a parody of a person employed in a seemingly mundane job who attempts to make it seem more important than it is. I mean, it’s very possible that was the intention, but in altering the conditions of Dewey’s fact-finding mission, she forces him to earn the information he seeks while simultaneously displaying passion for her work. Given her insistence that Dewey is on a hero’s journey, Quackfaster sees herself as a guide. A guide who wields a sword and forces children to do 50% of her work, but a guide nonetheless. I would also like to point out that her organizational abilities and attention to detail are considered assets and plot points that help Dewey navigate the vastness that is the archive. So there.
If there’s one quibble I have with the episode in which she appears (The Great Dime Chase) it’s the terminology used in reference to her profession. Webby takes Dewey to the library, but Quackfaster is referred to as an archivist, not a librarian. In fact, most of the episode uses the words “library” and “archive” as if they were synonymous, which I assure you they are not. It’s a minor nitpick, I know, but it does speak to the ongoing work of distinguishing the two worlds regardless of their similarities.
Either way, I still want Emily Quackfaster to be the official archives mascot. She’s got everything: brains, passion, a sword, the ability to disappear in a cloud of smoke in a dramatic fashion…all things we should value in an archivist. But until we finish our fencing lessons and Darkwing levels of martial arts and invisibility, we’ll just have to settle for these clips as a form of aspiration.