- “I want that diamond. I've got to have The Devil's Eye.”
- ―Madame Medusa
Ken Anderson drew many different designs for Medusa, including a Lauren Bacall-esque "grande dame" (with snake-like locks of hair, true to her name), a vain, sinister, slender lady and a portly woman with a facade of make-up, in an attempt to find the right personality. The design eventually settled on a hideous appearance (of which she seemingly remains unaware), with an excess of makeup, false eyelashes, sagging breasts, green eyes, and wild, fiery red hair to suit her fiery personality.
For a small amount of time early in the film's production, the Disney story team was heavily considering reusing Cruella De Vil from their 1961 classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Drawings by Ken Anderson depicted her in alligator skins, suggesting that she would have visited, or had dealings with, Devil's Bayou. (John Canemaker, "Before the Animation Begins: The Life and Times of Disney inspirational Sketch Artists") This idea was abandoned, as the studio was not interested in producing sequels at the time, and Madame Medusa was created. Cruella and Medusa share certain characteristics, including fixation on a single goal, a fiery temper, vanity and a tendency to drive recklessly.
Medusa is loosely based on the Diamond Duchess, an elderly woman who served as the villain in Margery Sharp's original novel, Miss Bianca, and who similarly wanted to obtain a specific diamond and was using an orphan girl in her plan (named Patience in Sharp's novel). However, Medusa has a somewhat wilder, more eccentric personality than the Diamond Duchess.
In addition to inheriting some traits from Cruella, Medusa may well have passed on of her traits on to Ursula, including a similar appearance, and the possession of 2 scaly green pets (Brutus and Nero for Medusa; the Moray Eels, Flotsam and Jetsam for Ursula).
Medusa's name most likely comes from the Greek mythological monster of the same name. The monster had snakes for hair; the Disney character has normal red hair, which looks rather snaky. Whenever the Rescuers character stares at Penny, the girl freezes temporarily; whoever looked the Greek monster in the eye would turn to stone.
Medusa is an obsessive and greedy person. She is obsessed with diamonds; when we first see her pawn shop, there is a prominent sign advertising half rates for people who bring in diamonds. Her chief goal is to obtain the Devil's Eye, the world's biggest diamond, and she craves this single-mindedly to the point of giving no regard to smaller and still very valuable treasures. As demonstrated with Penny, Snoops, and even Brutus and Nero, the only thing she values in others is their usefulness, and she has no qualms betraying or attacking them if they are no longer useful to her.
Medusa is utterly ruthless in her goals: because of the small entrance to the pirate's cave, she kidnapped Penny, a little orphan girl, and showed no issue repeatedly sending her down into the cave to find the Devil's Eye. At her most impatient, she took Penny's teddy bear hostage and refused to pull her back up even as the cave began flooding; she even tried shooting at Penny when the girl tried escaping with the Devil's Eye. Despite this, she is a cunning villain: she shows significant patience, waiting three months for Penny to find the Devil's Eye and only stepping in to speed the process when she learns the girl had sent a message in a bottle. Though ill-tempered, she is also able to instantly don a façade of gentleness when anger would serve her poorly, taking pride in how she is able to deal with children. Yet the way she speaks to Penny shows no true kindness, only seeking to manipulate her into doing what she wants, even shaming her for wanting to leave Devil's Bayou or get adopted.
Despite being somewhat bumbling and possessing a comical fear of mice, Medusa's ruthlessness intimidates anyone on the receiving end. Even Penny, who was completely unafraid of Brutus and Nero, found her intimidating.
Madame Medusa bears a hideous appearance, of which she seemingly remains unaware. She has excess makeup, sagging breasts, green eyes with artificial eyelashes, and wild, fiery red hair to suit her fiery personality. She wears a red, shoulder-baring dress and pink high heels. She wore a purple fur coat while driving to the airport and, in Devil's Bayou, she wore a dark cloak whenever she left the riverboat.
Prior to the film, Medusa discovers that the world's largest diamond named the Devil's Eye is buried deep underground in a pirate's cave in Devil's Bayou. Much to her disappointment, the cave entrance is much too narrow for her to fit through. Neither her incompetent henchman Mr. Snoops nor her two pet crocodiles Brutus and Nero can fit through it. It is then that she decides to return to New York, where her pawn shop is located, and captures the poor orphan Penny to fetch the diamond for her.
Three months later (when the film introduces her), Medusa finds that although Snoops has managed to force Penny down into the cave, he cannot persuade her to search as she was too worried about drowning and her teddy bear getting wet. Moreover, he has caught the little girl sending out messages in bottles. Medusa, frustrated with Mr. Snoops' inability to manage a "little girl", takes the next flight back to Devil's Bayou to take charge herself.
Upon arriving, Medusa made things even more miserable for Penny, so much so that Penny attempted to run away numerous times, only to be caught by Medusa and her two faithful crocodiles every time. At this point, Medusa finally lost her patience with Penny and declared that no matter what, Penny would find the Devil's Eye, and would stay underground until she did so, regardless of the danger. Prior to their search, Bernard and Miss Bianca from the Rescue Aid Society in New York arrive to try to save Penny, but Medusa panics upon the sight of them and nearly blows them away with her shotgun. This fails, however, as the two mice escape and soon afterward meet Penny face-to-face.
She ultimately forces Penny down into the cave, holding her teddy bear hostage and refusing to lift her back out until she has found and retrieved the diamond. Since the cave fills with water at each high tide, Penny was aware that Medusa's threat was potentially lethal. She was accompanied by Bernard and Miss Bianca, and with their help, she found the Devil's Eye. Unfortunately, it was stuck in the skull of a dead pirate, and they could not get it out, but Medusa refused to hoist Penny up until she retrieved it. With the tide rising and the waters splashing violently, Penny and the mice recovered the diamond by opening the skull with a sword and were lifted back to the surface just in time. Medusa immediately indulged in her newfound wealth, refusing to let Snoops so much as a look at it, despite his pleas that they were partners and wanted an equal share. The group made their way to the riverboat, where Medusa planned her escape.
While Miss Bianca and Bernard called their swamp friends for help, Medusa held Penny and Snoops at gunpoint, intending to escape with the diamond herself (which she hid in Penny's teddy bear), threatening to kill Penny and/or Snoops if they tried to follow her. However, the two mice literally trip Medusa up, allowing Penny to grab her teddy bear with the diamond inside and make a run for it. Medusa is then attacked by the swamp critters (Luke prodding her in the bottom with his pitchfork) and is forced to use her shotgun against all of them, only to soon have that option removed when her shotgun was plugged up and backfired when she tried to fire it again. Medusa and her crocodiles fought the animals, slowing her down, but were easily overpowered, and was soon at the mercy of Mr. Snoops' fireworks after the animals set them off.
Despite this, Medusa nearly had Penny, grabbing hold of the back of the seat on the swampmobile as it began driving away, only to get her hands soundly smacked by Ellie Mae, forcing her to let go in pain. She clung to the vehicle's mooring rope, refusing to let go as Penny tried shaking her off. As the fireworks destroyed the riverboat, Brutus and Nero fell into the path of the chase. Medusa's boots crashed into the crocodiles' heads, using them as impromptu water skis and whipping them with the rope to try to make them swim faster. However, the rope broke when Penny veered sharply away from the sinking riverboat, and Medusa was sent flying into one of the smokestacks. Medusa watched miserably as Penny and the animals escaped with the Devil's Eye, clinging desperately to the top of the smokestack while the vindictive Brutus and Nero snapped at her in the water below, and Mr. Snoops, all tattered and torn, fled the scene on a makeshift raft, laughing at Medusa's misfortune.
Medusa made a few cameos in the animated series and was seen in a crowd shot in Mickey's House of Villains.
- Medusa is one of the 10 villains featured in the tongue-in-cheek Disney Villains: The Top Secret Files. Medusa's section of the book includes a photo of Nero and Brutus as babies and a catalog of the world's greatest diamonds (most of which Medusa has scrawled 'too small!' over). Medusa is ranked as the ninth greatest Disney Villain at the end of the book.
- It has been noted that Madame Medusa and Ursula share a similar facial structure.
- In early concept art, Madame Medusa was going to live in a derelict mansion rather than a half-sunken steamboat.
- Actress Geraldine Page, who provided the voice of Madame Medusa, was married to the actor Rip Torn. In 1997, 10 years after Page's death of a heart attack, Rip Torn provided the voice of Zeus in Disney's Hercules.
- The entirety of Medusa's lines were all done in a single take by Geraldine Page.
- Both Medusa and McLeach end up being chased by crocodiles.
- Disney based Medusa on The Duchess of Diamonds from Margery Sharp's novel.
- The car Medusa drives is very similar to that of Cruella De Vil.
- Madame Medusa was named after the Greek mythological creature, Medusa, which had the power to turn anyone or anything, who looks into her eyes, into stone and was later defeated by Perseus.
- Whenever Medusa looks at Penny, she freezes in fright, referring to Medusa's petrification.
- In Disney Tsum Tsum, Medusa appears as a non-playable Tsum, and was fought as a boss during the Disney Storybooks Classic Series II event.
- On her way to the airport, Medusa is driving like a maniac, which causes her suitcase to fall out, but she doesn't seem to notice as she continues driving on. It is unknown if when she arrived at the airport and realized her suitcase was missing, she went back to look for it and retrieved it, or she decided to fly to Devil's Bayou without it.
- Medusa's moods constantly fluctuate between positive and negative throughout the film she stars in, which seems to indicate that she suffers from bipolar disorder. However, the stress of dealing with uncooperative children like Penny or incompetent minions like Snoops may be an alternate reason for said mood swings or a contributing factor.