comes a horseman known as Zorro.
This bold renegade carves a Z with his blade,
a Z that stands for Zorro.
Zorro, the fox so cunning and free.
Zorro, who makes the sign of the Z.
Zorro! Zorro! Zorro! Zorro! Zorro!
Zorro is a 1957-1959 Disney-produced swashbuckler television series starring Guy Williams as the eponymous character. It is not the only TV series featuring the character, but it is certainly the most well known. Four feature-length TV specials were made until 1961 after the series' end.
Don Diego de la Vega, son of rancher Alejandro de la Vega, lives in California, at a time when it is still a Spanish colony. He returns from Spain at the beginning of the series and finds that the people are being oppressed by the military commander Enrique Monastario. Diego, a master swordsman thanks to his studies abroad, decides to play the part of a pacifist intellectual, and creates a Secret Identity to fight against evil: El Zorro! He is helped by his servant Bernardo, who also has a secret: he's mute, and pretends to be both deaf and mute. This allows Bernardo to eavesdrop and gather information people would never let slip around someone who could hear.
Zorro begins by helping Ignacio Torres, who has been falsely accused of treason, then continues to fight against Monastario's tyranny. When Monastario is eventually removed from his post, Diego thinks that there won't be any further need for Zorro, but he's forced to continue when he discovers the conspiracies of "The Eagle", a figure that is plotting the secession of California.
See also the 1990-1993 Zorro series starring Duncan Regehr.
Zorro provides examples of:
- Alternate History: The failed revolt by "The Eagle" is, of course, not based on any actual historical events. Still, California had briefly attempted to be an independent nation for a short time, and their flag used an animal (a bear, not an eagle).
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The various evil commandantes, starting with Commander Monastario, are the only members of the army who can last more than a minute in a swordfight against Zorro. Not that they ever win, of course, but at least they can give him a workout, unlike the rank-and-file soldiers (including Sergeant García), who just get humiliated even when outnumbering the masked outlaw.
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Although it can happen for Zorro to kill a mook in self-defense, it is much more frequent for his main foes to be Self-Disposing Villains or to be killed by an accomplice, sparing Zorro from doing the dirty job.
- Bait-and-Switch: One episode opens with a local peon frantically running around the plaza, telling everyone Zorro has been captured. Some soldiers even haul out a sturdy cage occupied by the masked outlaw. Then the peon runs over to a small carriage occupied by Diego and Bernardo. Turns out the caged "Zorro" is really one of the lancers and it's all a trick; the commandante is trying to make some of Zorro's accomplices reveal themselves so he can interrogate them about Zorro's identity. The townspeople begin preparing to help Zorro immediately and are even willing to risk arrest to free their masked protector. Luckily for them, the real Zorro shows up to warn them just before the commandante springs his trap.
- Because I Said So: García tells Ana Campillo that she must return to Spain, because the interim commander says so. Guess who the interim commander is?
- Beleaguered Assistant: Corporal Reyes.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge:
- Sergeant García and Corporal Reyes exchange shut-up kicks with each other when one of them is about to let slip to Don Alejandro that they know what happened to Don Diego (whom they knocked out and tied up to save him from fighting in a duel).
- On another occasion, a private gives García a warning kick to the rear after Monastario walks in on the soldiers drinking and singing a song about him... one with very unflattering lyrics.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Zorro has an uncanny ability to know when someone is in trouble... Little do the people know that it's largely thanks to Bernardo!
- Big Eater: Sergeant García.
- Catchphrase Insult: "Baboso!"
- Clark Kenting: Although Zorro is only wearing a mask covering the upper half of his face, nobody ever recognize him as the mild Don Diego. Confronted once with the notion, Sergeant García just laughs it off and tells Diego — no offense! — that Señor Zorro is much taller and muscular than him. Justified by the fact that many people in the Pueblo resemble Zorro while wearing his costume, even one of the Commandante's own men.
- Colorization: In 1991, Disney had the series digitally colorized for airing on The Disney Channel.
- Costume Copycat: At one point, Monastario makes a deal with a prisoner who has been jailed for murder: if he dresses up as Zorro to publicly discredit him, he will be allowed to escape. After the real Zorro foils his first attempt, the impostor robs the church, which proves much more effective. The public is so outraged that Diego doesn't dare to ride out as Zorro, and must track down the fake as himself. To make matters worse, Diego is forced to engage the impostor — who happens to be a highly skilled swordsman — in a duel... in full view of Monastario.
- Courtroom Antics: This being an action/adventure show, courtroom scenes are few and far between. However, the few that do crop up are invariably full of this.
- In an early episode, Monastario has arranged for the judge sent to preside over an important trial to be delayed. This allows his fellow conspirator Licenciado Pina to take over. The substitution sends the courtroom into an uproar, which is compounded when Pina freezes just before delivering a guilty verdict. The cause? Zorro holding a sword to his back. Then, to complicate matters even further, the real judge finally turns up.
- When García is put on trial for stealing his fellow soldiers' pay, this ensues thanks to his entirely unbelievable alibi. Diego's attempts to speak up in his friend's defense only make matters worse.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: Diego hides his impressive swordfighting skills from everyone in the pueblo to distance himself from Zorro. However, this leads to trouble when he is forced to participate in duels as himself, especially when (as is frequently the case) his life is on the line. Diego does blow his cover once, when Monastario watches him fight a skilled swordsman. Though Diego does his best to make it look like he won by sheer luck, his unlikely victory is enough for the Commandante to put the pieces together.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- When not dressed as Zorro, Diego relies on his sharp tongue and quick wit to make fools of his enemies.
- Padre Felipe delivers some excellent one-liners as well.Monastario: But wait, I am not finished telling you—
Padre Felipe: Confessions every Wednesday and Saturday at seven.
- The Ditz: Corporal Reyes first and foremost, giving Sergeant García someone to yell after for being dumber than him. Though even Reyes sometimes gets the Dumbass Has a Point role, to García's annoyance.
- Doomed by Canon: "The Eagle" and his separatist revolt don't last for more than a few hours. They can't; Spanish California will secede from Spain to be part of Mexico, not an independent nation.
- Dresses the Same: A male example — during a costumed party, both Sergeant García and the governor ends up dressed identically as Emperor Nero, to the sergeant's embarrassment and the governor's annoyance.
- Dressing as the Enemy: In "Slaves of the Eagle", everyone except the magistrado agrees that selling peons who cannot pay their taxes into slavery is unjust. García so firmly believes it's wrong that he posts only one guard in the cuartel and dresses as Zorro in order to free the prisoners himself. It backfires spectacularly. Not only is he caught and instantly recognized, the magistrado then orders that every available guard be posted, effectively ruining any chance the real Zorro might have had of freeing the prisoners.
- Enemy Mine: Yes, Zorro is an outlaw and Sergeant García is supposed to capture him. More often than not, however, they end up on the same side against the villains of the week. García sure doesn't mind much, almost gushing toward Zorro at times, and even if Diego is sometimes annoyed by the Sergeant's klutziness, he's still fond of him too.
- Everybody Knew Already: In the episode "Amnesty for Zorro", Zorro is offered exactly that... if he agrees to publicly reveal his identity. Diego is all set to go through with it, but is stopped by Don Alejandro, who reveals that he has known Zorro's identity for some time.
- In the very first episode, Commander Monastario (while stuck inside a prison cell) facepalms as he watches Zorro utterly humiliate Sergeant García and the rest of his soldiers for the first time (but certainly not the last).
- Zorro also takes a turn after watching Judge Vasca take a huge gulp of drugged ale, then go back for another sip... and yet another before the drug finally kicks in.
- Fat Idiot: Sergeant García is not the sharpest tool in the drawer (which he readily admits himself) and always has lots of trouble following the commandante's most convoluted plans. Although he does a decent job when commander by interim, and he's still smarter than Corporal Reyes.
- Flynning: Happens in all episodes. And if the enemy is supposed to be a master swordsman as well, it takes longer. This is made less obvious by using fencing drill (Guy Williams was a champion fencer) rather than a lot of wider swings.
- General Ripper: Monastario. Anything can be done, no matter how evil, if it helps to capture that damn Zorro!
- Gratuitous Spanish: Played completely straight, with characters peppering otherwise English dialogue with common Spanish words and phrases.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Zorro displays many examples of this, but the best one was against the wanderer Cleim. He fought a swordsman with just a knife... and won.
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade:
- In an early episode, Zorro grapples hand-to-hand with one of Los Angeles's many corrupt Commandantes on a rooftop. The Commandante seizes his chance and makes a grab at Zorro's mask, learning his true identity. Cue the villain realizing what a bad idea that was and backing away while begging Diego not to kill him. However, he promptly saves Zorro from grappling with the dilemma of whether to do just that by backing straight over the edge of the rooftop. García, attracted by the commotion, confirms that the fall killed him.
- At one point, one of Zorro's enemies takes him by surprise and succeeds in stunning him. He removes Zorro's mask and costume and dons them as trophies, thus learning Zorro's identity. This backfires only moments later, however, when soldiers mistake him for Zorro and (in a rare display of Combat Pragmatism) shoot him. Diego awakens shortly after and has only to feign innocence to preserve his secret.
- Kirk's Rock: Probably one of the earliest uses of this trope in television, dating from before they were called that. In the episode "The Missing Father", Zorro pursues a mysterious masked figure over the Rocks.
- Leitmotif: Almost every member of the main cast has one — a gentle violin riff for Diego, a variation on the same violin riff backed by brass for Zorro, a whimsical clarinet for Bernardo, a military trumpet for García, and so on.
- Live-Action Adaptation: The plots of individual episodes are adaptions of Zorro comic books published by Disney. Disney also created a novelization entitled Walt Disney's Zorro, published by Whitman in 1958.
- Masquerade Ball: The episode "Masquerade for Murder" features a masquerade ball at the De La Vega hacienda. Although it's a pretext to have a masked assassin meddling with the guests and try to kill the governor. Naturally, Sergeant García confuses Zorro with a masked guest.
- Mickey Mousing: Walt Disney's print sure can be found here; the music follows the action very closely. Especially whenever Bernardo explains something to Diego through charades; his leitmotif always varies to punctuate every gesture. There's also, for example, a scene of Zorro exchanging barrels of powder for barrels of cognac and handling them to Bernardo which goes on for quite a long time, but is made watchable by the perfectly timed music.
- Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight: There are guns in the setting, and Zorro eludes a shot now and then; but most of the time, when Zorro is on the scene, everybody tries to best him in a sword fight (and, of course, loses).
- Nice to the Waiter: A good way to gauge the morality of any prominent character is to take note of their reactions to Sergeant García. The good ones are, at worst, exasperated by his antics. The bad ones are inevitably infuriated by his innate goodness, incorruptible nature, and lack of intelligence combined with dumb luck.
- Obfuscating Disability: Diego's servant Bernardo is mute, but pretends to be deaf as well, the better to eavesdrop and gather information.
- Obfuscating Stupidity:
- Bernardo does this in addition to Obfuscating Disability, as mentioned above, to make himself seem even more harmless. Notably, his antics often work to inconvenience or mildly humiliate Zorro's enemies.
- Unusually for the franchise, Diego himself does not do this. Unlike many other incarnations of the character, who favor the Rich Idiot With No Day Job approach, he's vocal about his opinions and very active in the pueblo's affairs, to the point where the people view him as a Big Good. His main strategy for distancing himself from Zorro is pretending to be a pacifist who cannot handle a sword.
- Police Are Useless: Replace "police" with "soldiers" and you get the idea. The military is completely useless, whether they're chasing a mere man dressed in black or dealing with any other threat (which is almost always stopped by Zorro).
- Punch-Clock Villain: Sergeant García. Though he rarely fails to obey orders, he has a good heart, showing decency and respect to those he arrests and frequently expressing remorse when he is ordered to do something unjust by his superiors.
- Put Their Heads Together: In the season 2 episode "Zorro Fights a Duel", Zorro gets the drop on two banditos who tried to capture him for the reward, and knocks their heads together.
- Sadistic Choice: When Sergeant García is ordered by his superior to give false testimony on threat of being hanged, Zorro decides to give the sergeant an incentive to tell the truth by threatening to carve a Z on him... and he won't stop at ruining García's uniform. When García takes the stand at the trial, he is confronted by both a miniature gallows and a Z projected on one wall, reminding him that he faces punishment no matter what he says.
- Say My Name: Very rare is the episode where someone doesn't dramatically exclaim "Zorro!" upon seeing the masked outlaw (or sometimes just his Zorro Mark). Whether it be Sergeant García, the Commandante, the villain of the day or mere bystanders.
- Scarecrow Solution: Trying to catch an unjustly accused man who has taken sanctuary in the church of a monastery, Commandante Monastario invades the place with his soldiers to "protect" the church from a fictitious Indian attack. The monastery is so well-guarded that Zorro almost gets caught trying to reach the prisoner. Trading force for wits, Don Diego spreads a story about a vengeful ghost by telling it to the impressionable Sergeant García. Later that night, Zorro appears disguised as the ghost and scares all the soldiers into fleeing.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Zig-zagged. Zorro is usually more than happy to break prisoners out of jail or threaten government officials in the name of justice. However, at one point he cannot justify freeing a group of peons who are to be sold into slavery for failing to pay their taxes. Diego had already tried to pay off their debts with no success, and while the punishment is cruel, it is perfectly legal. His tune changes in a hurry when he realizes the tax collector who arranged the sale is part of the Eagle's conspiracy.
- Secret-Keeper: Bernardo. For a long time, Bernardo is the only person who knows that Diego and Zorro are one and the same. He is later joined by Don Alejandro.
- Secret Secret-Keeper: Don Alejandro. He figures out Diego's secret early on, but chooses not to confront him, instead waiting for Diego to come clean. He graduates to regular Secret-Keeper in "Amnesty for Zorro", when he dresses as Zorro and takes Diego hostage to stop him from publicly revealing his identity.
- Shoot the Rope: In "The Flaming Arrow", Zorro saves an old friend of Don Diego from hanging by shooting the rope with a flaming arrow. He does so before the trapdoor is opened, though, leaving time enough for the fire to burn the rope. He also pins the executor's sleeve to the gallows by firing another arrow to prevent him from interfering.
- Stout Strength: Sure, Sergeant García isn't that fast — not surprising, considering his bulk — nor is he a skilled swordsman... but if a bandito falls into his grasp, he's not getting away. Just asks Pablo, an evil Indio, who ends up in his death grip and is almost suffocated by García (mostly unintentionally, though the Sergeant was quite upset at the bad guy for trying to kill him).
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Sergeant García fits this trope to a T. Though he's often the one who rides in pursuit of the masked bandit, García comes to respect Zorro early in the series. He frequently expresses his hope that Zorro will intervene in unjust situations, and is sometimes visibly gleeful when Zorro eludes capture yet again.
- Timmy in a Well: This is how Don Diego meets with Phantom (his second steed). The horse shows up alone and tempts Diego into pursuit, but is too fast to be caught. The chase leads Diego to Phantom's wounded former master, Lieutenant Lopez, who was mugged and left for dead. Before dying, he begs Diego to take care of Phantom.
- Title Theme Tune: The show having both a Character Title and One-Word Title, the famous theme tune ends up as one by repeating "Zorro" over and over.
- Translation Convention: The show was aired for English-speaking audiences, so the majority of the dialogue is in English. However, Spanish words are substituted in periodically, to keep it fresh in the viewers' mind that the characters are actually Spanish-speaking.
- Whip It Good: Zorro isn't just adept with the sword, he's quite skilled with a whip too — up to slashing his Zorro Mark on a villain's cloth with it. Although rare, a few duels are entirely fought with whips, notably against some cruel slavers.
- White Stallion: Zorro usually favors a black stallion, Tornado, the better to vanish into the night. However, during a time he's away from his usual base of Los Angeles, he rides a white stallion, Phantom, who proves to be just as speedy and as intelligent as Tornado.
- Zorro Mark: The Trope Namer, cutting his classic letter Z on his opponents or the scenery. Many an episode ends up focusing on the "Z" title card while Zorro's leitmotif plays up.