By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin November 21, 2009 at 5:41AM
It’s taken ten years, but I can finally announce that all 78 episodes of the Zorro TV series produced by Walt Disney in 1957-58, along with four one-hour Zorro specials that aired on Walt Disney Presents, are now available on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures. This marks the ninth installment of the series which I pitched to then-Disney chairman Dick Cook ten years ago. I wanted Zorro to be among...
our first releases, but there was a problem with underlying rights that prevented us from proceeding at that time. Other stumbling blocks got in the way later on, but last year the Disney company earmarked a large sum of money for restoration and rerecording of the original 35mm black & white negatives, and now, Zorro is finally here. Season One and Season Two take up six discs apiece (remember, back in the 1950s a season lasted 39 episodes!)
Guy Williams, Jr. was an eager participant and gave us access to family photos and home movies of his father, as well as his precious memories of visiting the set of the show when he was a youngster. Other Zorro fans and experts were just as willing to pitch in, so our background piece on the history of the character and a profile of Guy Williams benefit from the input of veteran stunt man Buddy Van Horn (who doubled Guy Williams—and often fenced opposite him), film historian Rudy Behlmer, film music expert Jon Burlingame, Zorro guest star Suzanne Lloyd, illustrator and sculptor Ruben Procopio, Gerry Dooley, author of The Zorro Television Companion (an indispensible resource), Guy Williams biographer Antoinette Lane, Disney TV historian Bill Cotter, Zorro superfan Kathy Gregory, and the good folks at the Walt Disney Archives, especially Rebecca Cline and Rob Klein, who arranged for us to shoot vintage Zorro costumes and merchandise.
The best part of this project for me was reacquainting myself with the original series (and those little-seen one-hour specials). I can’t pretend this felt like work: I had a ball. I know my feelings are colored by the nostalgia of having seen and enjoyed the shows when I was young, but I think they hold up quite well, and reveal the care that went into their production. One word of warning: the folks at Disney Home Video aren’t kidding when they call this a “limited edition.” Most video retailers are given a finite number of these tin-boxed DVD sets and aren’t able to re-order when they run out. Last year Dr. Syn (The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh) was sold out within weeks of its release, and Disney decided not to issue more tins. I had no say in the matter, so I advise anyone who’s interested in Zorro to act now.