Toon Talk: Zorro: The Complete First and Second Seasons
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by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney Treasures:
Since his creation in 1919 by American pulp fiction author Johnston McCulley, the masked avenger known as Zorro has lived on in everything from comic books to cartoons to video games, even a stage musical. But it is his onscreen persona that has been the most enduring, including multiple feature film incarnations performed over the years by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Power, George Hamilton and Antonio Banderas. However, arguably his most iconic embodiment was Guy Williams’ beloved portrayal on the classic Disney television program Zorro.
Following a Disney Movie Club exclusive set, the 1957-1959 series makes its DVD debut to the general public as complete season sets in this year’s wave of Walt Disney Treasures. Their now familiar tin cases jet-black for the occasion, the two separate, six-disc releases (complete with collectable pins) became available this week.
Filled with daring-do and swashbuckling action, each of the series’ 78 half-hour episodes (ranging from stand-alone stories to multi-parters) are included, as well as the four hour-long adventures (originally intended for the third season of Zorro) presented on Walt Disney Presents. Once again, your host Leonard Maltin is on hand to introduce each Treasures set, as well as offer his specialized commentary — as both fan and Disney historian — in the bonus materials.
Premiering in the fall of 1957, Zorro was Disney’s first foray into serialized television, and what a perfect fit was for the studio. With its own dashing Robin Hood of a hero dedicated to protecting the innocent and upholding justice in the “wild west” of Old California, Zorro was an ideal vehicle to extend the studios’ presence on the then-nascent medium. And, like Davy Crockett before it, it was an instant success, spawning a slew of merchandise and a hit song and making a star out of its leading man, Guy Williams.
Perfectly cast, the handsome Williams (a former model) brought a rascally charm to his dual role as the “Spanish Fox” and his Clark Kent-like alter ego, Don Diego de la Vega. With his matinee idol good looks and beaming smile, he is a joy to watch whether he’s sword fighting with a bad guy or riding off into the sunset astride his black stallion Tornado. And for the most part that was Williams, as he performed a lot of his own stunts.
Adding to the entertainment value of each episode was the talents of Henry Calvin as the bumbling Sergeant Garcia and Gene Sheldon as Zorro’s own “Butler Alfred”, the mute Bernardo. The two stage veterans (Calvin in opera, Sheldon in vaudeville) provided the comic relief for the series, and would later team up again as the villain’s henchmen in the Disney musical Babes in Toyland.