Western Animation: The Legend of Zelda
In 1989, right around the time of airing of the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
had also produced a short series of cartoons based on the NES Zelda
games (including elements of both, The Legend of Zelda
and The Adventure of Link
). Like the games, the animated series features Link's continuing adventures in the kingdom of Hyrule, battling the evil forces of Ganon alongside Princess Zelda and a Fairy Companion
named Spryte. It shared a number of details in common with the comic book series
produced by Valiant Comics
around the same time.
Thirteen cartoons were aired in total, and they would usually run during the Friday afternoon episodes. There presumably would have been more, but when SMBSS
was cancelled, the Zelda
segments went with it. The characters of Link and Zelda, along with their respective voice actors, were then adopted into the cast of Captain N: The Game Master
, where Link had a rivalry-turned-friendship with the titular Captain.
The thirteen original episodes can be purchased in a DVD
The Legend of Zelda cartoon provides examples of the following tropes:
- Absent-Minded Sovereign: King Harkinian has a hard time remembering Link's name.
- Accidental Aiming Skills/Pinball Projectile: In "The Missing Link", Ganon uses a special wand that zaps humans to the underworld with the intent of taking Zelda with him. She uses Link's shield to deflect the wand's magic fireball, which ricochets off the castle walls while Link watches, until it falls onto its potential accidental target; he tries getting out of the fireball's way, but because of the magic being weakened, parts of the fireball hit him, zapping his body to the underworld and putting new meaning to the idiom "getting the spirit knocked out of you". Nice job sending your hero's body into the underworld, Princess!
- Action Girl: Zelda, usually in the form of She-Fu, archery, and boomerangs.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Zelda is depicted in the sprite and manual art of the first two games as red-haired, but the cartoon makes her blonde.
- Adaptational Badass: Zelda.
- Adaptational Wimp: Compared to the Ganon of the games, Ganon here is pretty incompetent.
- All Webbed Up: Zelda's tied up by spiders' webs in "That Sinking Feeling."
- Almost Kiss: Link can never get a kiss from Zelda. Whenever she accepts, they're always interrupted.
- Anachronism Stew: Hyrule is generally presented as the Medieval Stasis world from the games; however, in "Stinging a Stinger," the peddler offers Ganon's mooks a remote-controlled device in exchange for his freedom. Most of the female characters are depicted as wearing Day-Glo makeup. In "Fairies in the Spring," Link wears a bathing suit reminiscent of The Forties, while Zelda's suit is a modern pink one-piece.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Ganon tries using a mind control necklace to force Zelda to marry him in "A Hitch in the Works."
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: These moments are rare, but they do happen. It's even a plot point in "The Missing Link".
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Link and Zelda in the first episode, when they tie themselves together with Link's belt.
- Badass Princess: Sometimes Zelda gets kidnapped, but other times she is just as good a fighter as Link, and other times she even tops him.
- Baleful Polymorph: Link, in "Kiss 'N Tell," when a kiss from a disguised monster turns him into an anthropomorphic frog.
- Battle Couple: Link and Zelda, quite often. Just don't expect her to admit it.
Link (hands Zelda some weapons): "Better take these, Princess. We've got some party-poopers to pulverize."
- Beach Episode: Or water park episode, as the case was.
- Bewitched Amphibians: Happens to Link on one occasion.
- Bomb Jump: Link does one during a chase scene.
- Bungling Inventor: Doof, the castle handyman, in "A Hitch In the Works."
- Canon Foreigner:
- Catchphrase: Link has "Well excuuuuuuuuse me, Princess!", for when Zelda gets annoyed at him, "This always happens", when he and Zelda fail to kiss and Link's demanding that Zelda "kiss me" repeatedly.
- Characterization Marches On: This Link is very different from the Heroic Mime we know today.
- Chekhov's Gun: If a particular item is found and/or passed out (ie: a boomerang or the Power Bracelet), it'll be used by the time the episode is over.
- In "Stinging a Stinger", we see a montage of Link, Zelda, and Sleezenose gathering various insect nests to fight Ganon because Ganon has Link's stolen sword. Among them is an anthill that's placed in a covered box, but it doesn't get used during the main attack. Later, it turns out that Spryte disguised the anthill box as the Triforce of Wisdom while the real one was hidden in case Sleezenose tried to steal it. Which he did while the others were fighting.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Spryte frequently complains to Link that Zelda is a "snot" and "you should stick with me." She also prevents Link from getting his requested kiss on two different occasions.
- Clingy MacGuffin: When Zelda needs to take the Triforce of Wisdom with her someplace, she attaches it to her belt with a rope and it floats along behind her like a balloon. It will only do this for her, as proven in the episode with the Evil Twin.
- Continuity Nod: In the first episode of the series, "The Ringer," there is a portrait in Link's bedroom of Zelda wearing what looks to be the same red gown she wore in the game.
- Con Man: Sleezenose from "Stinging a Stinger". He pretended to be a merchant under attack by thugs, and Link came to the rescue. Sleezenose gave him a fancy-looking sword as a gift and took Link's sword in return, telling him the fancy one makes the bearer irresistible to ladies, especially princesses. Figuring it would up his chances at wooing Zelda, Link agreed, only to discover that his new sword is a worthless fake that breaks easily.
- Cool Crown: Zelda's main outfit includes a tiara.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: In "Cold Spells," Zelda dispatches one of Ganon's creatures by forcing it to smell Link's dirty laundry.
- In "The Moblins Are Revolting," Ganon punishes his army by making them clean the Underworld... with their tongues.
- Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose: Zelda does this to Link... to motivate him to do Spring Cleaning.
- Cursed with Awesome: Link is turned into a frog and gains the ability to crawl on walls and ceilings, allowing him to infiltrate Ganon's lair. Also, when Ganon sends two football-sized spiders against him, Link eats them with his frog tongue.
- Damsel in Distress: Zelda is occasionally captured but is just as often fighting with Link. One time, when Link ditched a promise to go riding with Zelda, she sees a damsel, and decides to do the rescuing, for both the fun of it and because Link would be sorry he missed it.
- Demoted to Extra: Spryte. In later episodes, she is sometimes completely absent, with no explanation at all. One of the episodes that doesn't feature her explains her absence with her being on vacation.
- Depending on the Writer:
- Ganon's goals varied from getting Zelda's hand in marriage to getting the Triforce to getting Zelda's hand in marriage and getting the Triforce.
- Zelda is either a sassy action girl or a sassy damsel in distress.
- The Ditz:
- Ganon employs an entire army of ditzes, as proven in "The Moblins Are Revolting." The mooks are so hopelessly incompetent that Link and Zelda don't even need to defend Hyrule Castle when they attack — they wipe each other out.
- King Harkinian often has moments like this. See Absent Minded Soverign.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: When things are quiet in Hyrule, Zelda forces Link to earn his keep by doing chores and maintenance around the castle.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first episode has the only time the Triforce of Power speaks.
- Episode Title Card: At the start of every show.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: More than once and usually because of a lame kiss scheme.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Zelda, of course, but also Spryte; in "Kiss 'N Tell," she informs the others that her father is the king of the fairies.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: The Triforce of Wisdom sparkles, as compared to the Triforce of Power, which appears to be perpetually on fire.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: Link has a habit of twirling his sword around in his hand. In "The Missing Link," when he's non-corporeal and can't hold the sword, Zelda uses it — and does the exact same thing.
- Evil Plan: As seen in the page quote, Ganon wants the Triforce of Wisdom so he can take over Hyrule.
- Evil Twin: In the episode "Doppelganger," Ganon creates an identical copy of Zelda, whose job is to seduce Link into helping her steal the Triforce of Wisdom.
- Exact Words: Only a kiss from a princess will cure Link's frog curse in "Kiss 'N Tell." No one said it had to be Zelda though. Spryte is the one who kisses him back to normal.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Link's quest for a kiss always ends in failure. Even when he makes an effort to be romantic and Zelda is willing, something will interfere.
- Fairy Companion: Spryte was the first character to serve as a fairy companion to Link, predating Navi by very nearly a decade. Interestingly, the inclusion of a Fairy Companion was popular, as it showed up both in an ALttP manga and a LA manga, as well as in the Valiant Comic. Navi was at best the fifth Fairy Companion Link had, though the first in-game one.
- Fairy Sexy: Spryte wears a mini dress over her Tinkerbelle-like figure.
- Fanfare: The Hyrule overworld theme got played as a full fanfare for the first time here.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Normally the show's fights are pretty safe, but in one episode, Link kicks two snakes, and blood spurts out of their mouths.
- Fun with Acronyms: When Ganon's mooks kick him out and try to take Hyrule on their own, they identify themselves as the Brotherhood of Underworld Monsters (B.U.M.)
- Fully Absorbed Finale: Link and Zelda would appear in several episodes of Captain N: The Game Master after the cancellation of their own show. One episode involved them trying to prevent the resurrection of Ganon. In one of those episodes Link finally got his long-awaited kiss from Princess Zelda.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Link, Spryte, and even occasionally Zelda each have their share of pervy comments throughout the series that went over the kids' heads.
Spryte: [while ogling Link in the bathtub] I like you just the way you are... especially at the moment!
Link: [while looking down at Zelda in her off-shoulder nightdress] Looking good, Princess! Especially from this angle!
Link: [while he's a ghost and Zelda wants to get his body back] Don't tell me you only like me for my body!
- The Glomp: Zelda tackles Link with intent to kiss in "That Sinking Feeling." Unfortunately for Link, "Something always happens".
- Goofy Print Underwear: When Link hangs upside down in "Underworld Connections," his nightshirt falls over his head to reveal heart-printed boxer shorts.
- Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Zelda's preferred weapons were the bow and boomerang.
- Guttural Growler: Ganon's voice sometimes lowers in pitch, becoming this. It's pretty jarring.
- Hammerspace: The cartoon is one of the few times in the whole of Zelda history that an attempt is made to show just how Link carries around so much equipment. He has a pouch of holding on his belt which can store just about anything. This has more or less been adopted by fans as canon, and entered canon to a certain degree as of Wind Waker, though Link in that has more than one Bag of Holding.
- Handsome Lech: Played straight with Link, Gender Flipped with Spryte.
- Heavy Sleeper: Link ties a rope to an arrow, shoots it from his own tower to Zelda's, and tightrope-walks over to her balcony — in his sleep.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Invoked by Zelda in "The White Knight," when meeting Prince Facade for the first time. She introduces Link as a string of titles, causing his status to deteriorate down to "someone I know slightly." Later in the same episode, she forgets he exists while talking to Facade.
- Heroic Mime: Averted by this incarnation of Link, who is by far the most chatty of the three main characters. He even talks to himself if there's no one else around.
- Horseback Heroism: In a few episodes Link rides a horse.
- Hypnotize the Princess: In "A Hitch in the Works," Ganon captures Zelda and puts a necklace on her which allows him to manipulate her mind. His plan is a simple one — marry the princess and get her Triforce.
- Hypno Trinket: The necklace that hypnotizes Zelda.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Ganon's mooks make the Stormtroopers look competent.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Link wears one of these in an attempt to prove he can be just as charming and high-class as Prince Facade. It doesn't work.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Part of Link's battle repertoire, which also includes Improbable Jumping Skills, Improbable Gymnastics Skills, Improbable Breathing Underwater Skills, Improbable Talking Underwater Skills, and Improbable Flame Surfing Skills.
- Instant Expert: Averted. When Zelda has to use Link's sword, she has a lot of difficultly with it since she's never used it before.
- Intangibility: Link suffers from this in "The Missing Link", when he tries picking up the sword he has left, only to find that he is a ghost and can't pick it up.
- Interrupted Kiss: Spryte interrupts a kiss between Link and Zelda at the end of the pilot.
- She does it a couple more times over the series.
- Interspecies Romance: Spryte has a huge crush on Link, and has no qualms about letting it be known. She even kisses him to turn him back from frog status at one point. Some of Link's dialogue suggests he would go for Spryte if she weren't two inches tall.
- Ironic Echo: In "The Missing Link", Zelda borrows Link's shield and leaves him to fight off Ganon's invasion alone:
Zelda: You hold them here!
Link: Hey! Thanks heaps, Princess!
- Later, after moblins are sent after the duo in the underworld...
Link's Ghost: Just hold them a while!
Zelda: Thanks heaps!
- Lady of War: Zelda.
- Lame Pun Reaction: Frequently; one example occurs in "Stinging a Stinger," after they've used a beehive to trick Ganon:
Zelda: Kiss me.
Link: I'd bee happy to, honey!
Zelda: Ugh! I hate bad puns!
- The Lancer: Zelda is more like Link's battle partner in this universe than a Damsel in Distress he has to save or The Herald that points him toward Ganon. Her haughty princess demeanor provides a contrast to the over-confidend hero.
- Loves Me Not: Link does this at the start of the episode "Stinging The Stinger" and blames the flower on the poor result.
- Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: Something of an extreme case, as Link's shield is able to resist lava, dragon's firebreath, and explosions powerful enough to level an apartment building without even getting scratched. This makes it Link's favorite means of getting across dangerous terrain.
- Magic Compass: One episode had them using one to locate pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom.
- Magic Skirt:
- Averted by Spryte. When she falls over at one point in the first episode, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot right up her skirt, with nothing underneath.
- Link's nightshirt is a case played straight, except in "Underworld Connections," where (as noted above) we get to see his Goofy Print Underwear.
- Male Gaze: Link's room is on a tower higher than Zelda's, which give him a good view when she wears a low cut dress.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Link takes being separated from his body and effectively turned into a ghost really well.
- Meaningful Name: Prince Facade, in "The White Knight." He's all about appearances.
- Mistaken for Granite: In "Sing For The Unicorn," Link and Zelda encounter and accidentally awaken giant Armos statues in the Underworld. To his credit, Link knew better than to touch them, but didn't explain the reason to Zelda before she touched one's base, innocently asking, "Why?" Cue Facepalm.
- Modest Royalty: Averted with King Harkinian; played straight with Zelda, who is normally indistinguishable as a princess except for her circlet.
- Moment Killer: On those occasions when Zelda consents to kiss Link, something always interrupts. Lampshaded more than once in a few episodes when Link complains, "This always happens!"
- Mundane Utility: Ganon finds walking beneath him so he teleports to get anywhere, even to the other side of a room.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "The Moblins Are Revolting", Link and Zelda could have gotten away with the Triforce of Power if the former hadn't decided to play around with Ganon, who was trapped in a magic bubble that was impervious to anything but said Triforce. He tosses the Ganon-Bubble to Zelda, who tries to knock it away, but it lands on the Triforce behind her and pops the bubble.
- Noodle Incident: "Remember the last time we took one of your shortcuts?"
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Ganon had moments where he was truly dangerous, such as chaining Link up and preparing to blast him while he couldn't move.
- Off Model:
- In "Doppleganger", after Link and Zelda fall, Zelda is drawn in her evil twin's red and black color scheme for a second.
- In "The White Knight," when Zelda is lying in the mud after Link dispatches the Zola, she is briefly seen in her regular outfit instead of her dress.
- "Fairies in the Spring": the scene in which the Water Monster has no claws.
- Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Ganon has a lot of it, thanks to the Triforce of Power.
- Once per Episode: Link's most famous Catch Phrase, "Well, Excuuuuuuse Me, Princess!", is uttered twice per episode on average, three times if you count the opening.
- Opening Narration: Each episode begins with a sequence in which Zelda explains to Link (and thus, the viewer) what Ganon's hoping to accomplish.
- Orcus on His Throne: Ganon frequently prefers to send his (largely useless) minions to do his dirty work. Justified because he mentions at least once that his powers wane in Hyrule proper and that he is only at full power in the Underworld.
- Our Fairies Are Different: Fairies are the type that are little flying people with some magic powers.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: In this case, Link's ghost in "The Missing Link".
- Out-Gambitted: Zelda outscams a Con Man at the end of "Stinging The Stinger".
- Pants-Free: Averted in the daytime; whenever Link is shown after he's gone to bed or just gotten up, he's only seen wearing a nightshirt.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Zelda has a few, such as a yellow dress with gold trim, when she dines with the visiting Prince Facade.
- Playing Sick: Link pulls this in "Cold Spells" to get out of helping with the spring cleaning around the castle. It works for a little while, although Zelda isn't really fooled.
- Post-Kiss Catatonia: Link experiences this briefly, after getting kissed by the fake Zelda in "Doppelganger."
- The Power of Love: Ganon remarks that Link's love for Zelda is his greatest weakness. It also has to be rather strong, considering the amount of abuse Link takes from his would-be Love Interest. In "Missing Link" her love for him allows her to see his spirit when it has been separated from his body.
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: Zelda wielded these at times.
- Prince Charmless: In the episode "The White Knight," Zelda is charmed by one of these, Prince Facade of Arcadia. She thinks he's Prince Charming but his True Colors are revealed when he won't rescue her from Ganon's minions... because they're in the mud and he doesn't want to get his clothes dirty.
- Princesses Prefer Pink:
- Pun-Based Title: More often than not, the individual episodes have rather punny or descriptive names. The episode "Sing for the Unicorn" features a character named Sing who is trying to rescue her unicorn. "A Hitch In the Works" is about Ganon kidnapping Zelda to force her to marry him. And then there's "The Moblins Are Revolting"...why yes, yes they are.
- Purple Is Powerful / Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Zelda's dark purple shirt and light purple tights. Not only does it fit her royal status, but also fits her being an action girl in this series. Her pink nightgown is also trimmed with purple feathers.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: Ganon makes an evil doppelganger of Zelda, and the only visible difference is that her top is black with a red vest instead of purple with a light blue vest.
- Respawning Enemies: Given an in-universe explanation by the Evil Jar. Both the mooks and Ganon himself respawn there after Link zaps them.
- Rhymes on a Dime: When the Triforce of Wisdom speaks, it always does so in rhyme, although sometimes the rhymes are a bit of a reach; for instance, "wise" and "advice." In "Cold Spells," Zelda responds with a sarcastic rhyme of her own.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something:
- Zelda qualifies when she joins the fight.
- Prince Facade is an adventurer, and is just as competent as Link as a fighter and arguably superior in close combat despite having a crossbow as his chosen weapon. He's just so vain that he puts his looks above the lives of others.
- Running Gag: Link getting smacked in the face any time Zelda opens and closes a door.
- Link trying to get a kiss from Zelda and failing.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: In "Doppelganger."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here! / 10-Minute Retirement: For a good portion of "The White Knight," Zelda ignores Link and fawns over Prince Facade, making Link extremely jealous. Her laughing at Link's klutz attack after he tries to impress her with his Impractically Fancy Outfit is the last straw; he calls it quits as the Triforce's protector and leaves the castle without telling her. But when he hears her screaming after Ganon's minions have taken her, he hesitates for only a few moments before racing back to the rescue. ("I'm such a sucker!")
- Shipper on Deck: When the king pays attention to Link, he sometimes helps Link try to romance Zelda.
- Shirtless Scene: Link, while taking a bath in "The White Knight."
- Shout-Out: The King of the Fairies is named Oberon.
- Smooch of Victory: Link always wants one, but Zelda usually rejects him, which leads him to say one of his catch phrases.
- Spot the Imposter: Fake Zelda kisses Link, while the real Zelda slaps him.
Link: That's my Zelda all right.
- Stalker with a Crush: Ganon seems to feel this way toward Zelda, as evidenced by his actions in a number of episodes.
Ganon: I want that princess!
- In "That Sinking Feeling," he explicitly states his intention to make her his queen once he conquers Hyrule.
- Spryte is a lighter version of this (see Clingy Jealous Girl).
- Stuff Blowing Up: Link has bombs here like in the games.
- Sword Beam: Part of the reason for Link's enduring success is his ability to fire these at distant enemies. He declares a different sword to be useless because it can't shoot beams. Though that was a fake given to him by a Con Man.
- Teleport Spam: Ganon does this all the time, while monologuing out loud to himself.
- Tentacle Rope:
- Zelda is grabbed by an octorok in "The White Knight".
- Zelda and Link both get snatched by large plant roots in "Cold Spells", although one at a time, with one able to save the other.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: In "That Sinking Feeling," Ganon's reaction when he finds the Triforce of Wisdom is missing is to throw a tantrum and yell "I'M VERY UPSET!"
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Link finally gets his long-awaited kiss from Princess Zelda in an episode of Captain N: The Video Game Master which aired after the cancellation of The Legend of Zelda animated series.
- Title Drop: A number of episodes manage to work the individual episode title into the dialogue.
- Tomboy Princess: Zelda, even more so than her video game counterpart, because of her style of clothing and greater combat time.
- Took a Level in Badass: Octoroks. In The Legend Of Zelda they were The Goomba and in Zelda II they weren't much tougher. They only appeared a few times in the cartoon and were powerful, dangerous adversaries when they did.
- Zelda as well is more of an action hero in this series than in either of the NES games.
- Tsundere: Zelda (Type A/Tsun tsun) loves Link but denies it and gives him a hard time — usually resulting in the catchphrase we all know and love.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In "Cold Spells," Ganon rides a giant insect up the side of Hyrule Castle... and no one notices.
- Vapor Wear: There's nothing under Spryte's dress.
- Villains Act, Heroes React: Zelda grows tired of this trope in "That Sinking Feeling" and tries to fight Ganon before he can attack again.
- Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: The Trope Namer, being Link's catch phrase, about how Zelda acts around him.
- Worth It: Link wonders why he agreed to live in the castle when it's boring a lot of the time... then he sees Zelda in her low-cut morning gown.
- Xenafication: Zelda here would be more at home in the Super Smash Bros. games than in the early Zelda games.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: In "That Sinking Feeling," Zelda is overjoyed at a picnic Link has set up and glomps him. She's just about to kiss him when Ganon attacks and ruins the mood.
Zelda: It's an underworld entrance. We're being attacked!
Link: They couldn't have waited ten seconds?
- You Can See Me?: "The Missing Link" has Link's spirit knocked out of his body, which is then stolen by Ganon. The only one who can see Link's ghostlike form is Zelda because, as Ganon points out, she's secretly in love with him. Interestingly, Spryte can't see him, despite being far more open and forward with her feelings toward Link. One only assume it's more Lust than love.
Hey! EXCUUUUUUUUSE me, Princess!