El Zorro: how are the “lost chapters” of the series that were never seen in Argentina

The series that have remained unchanged over time, both in their dramatic construction and in the audience’s enthusiasm for them, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And of all, The Fox It has been the one that has survived the best.

Soon to be 65 years old (it premiered in the United States on October 10, 1957), the story of the masked vigilante starring Guy Williams it returned at noon on eltrece starting this month, and once again brought together its unconditional fans from yesterday and today, who place it daily among the most viewed proposals in the segment. Neither the addition of color in the 90s, nor the previous or successive adaptations of the character could with it: Zorro there is only one and it is this.

However, even those who are able to recite the dialogues by heart, know the plans of the Eagle or saw how Alejandro de la Vega discovered the secret identity of his son, may not know that there are a handful of chapters that were never seen in our country, the last adventures of Zorro.

To understand the reason for such curiosity, a bit of context is necessary. The Zorro series was Walt Disney’s great television bet for the mid-1950s. At first glance it sounded risky, because although the character had been born from the pen of journalist and writer Johnston McCulley in 1919, his editorial life had been short . A book that collected those first stories gave him some oxygen, and the premiere in 1920 of the film the mark of fox, written by and starring Douglas Fairbanks, gave him the ultimate accolade. Just two decades later, Tyrone Power would return him to the cinema in a film that became a symbol of his time.

Walt Disney -enthusiastic of the character and especially of this last film- personally supervised the first television adaptation of Zorro. Casting, sets, scripts, everything went through his hands. His idea was to recreate the adventurous style of the story with a cinematographic imprint, and without sparing any expense. He even went so far as to create an investment fund that would be the initial kick for the birth of Disneyland. All thanks to the Fox. Although at first it seemed like an impossible undertaking to carry out, the appearance as a partner of the ABC chain changed the panorama.

Between 1957 and 1959, 78 episodes were filmed, which were divided into two seasons (those that are usually broadcast) aimed at children, but with the necessary imprint to seduce parents as well.

The problem was the costs. Between exteriors, crew and actors, each chapter of the program added several zeros to the budget of a conventional one, and although the repercussion was excellent, the numbers did not close. The solution was merchandising, as the episodes progressed, businesses were filled with products with the “Z” on their packaging. Sponsors weren’t a problem either, while other productions stockpiled brands, the swordsman had exclusivity with 7Up and General Motors. The actors also began to make live presentations, something that Guy Williams would continue decades after hanging up his cape, and would bring him to Argentina, where he remained until his death.

Another resource was to take advantage of locations and record scenes for different chapters at the same time. That is why it is common for all the characters to have the same clothes: on the same day they were made for different episodes. Then it was up to the director and the editors to put each one in its proper place.

It was never in Walt Disney’s mind to end the series after the second season. In fact the last chapter is far from being an epilogue, it is just a minor adventure where Bernardo is mistaken for a highway robber and his friend must prove his innocence.

Sustained success led to a legal battle between ABC and Walt Disney over profit percentages, which prevented a new set of episodes from being made as planned. But Walt Disney had an ace up his sleeve, and after a year he decided to go ahead on his own, with new stories that would become the “lost chapters” of the series..

The third season of Zorro, the one that was not colored or seen in Argentina, premiered in the United States at the end of October 1960. Despite having the same spirit as its predecessors, some changes were made in the face of the dispute ongoing legal and Disney’s need to try new things.

They were no longer half-hour chapters, but each story lasted 60 minutes. Neither was the iconic theme composed by Norman Foster and George Bruns, but rather it was Walt himself who made the presentation: “Half a century before the days of the gold rush, California was the sunny land of Spanish ranchers. In that romantic age, life was quiet and refined, but it was also a lawless country. The weakness of the representatives of order in California favored violence and vandalism. The story tells us of a legendary hero who lived in that troubled time, a carefree and smiling young man during the day, but at night he put on a mask and walked the fields protecting the oppressed. Hated and feared by his adversaries, honored and respected by those he defended, he was known as Zorro”.

The main cast returned in its entirety (Disney had kept their contracts to make sure they were available), but there were some curious facts, such as actors who returned but playing different characters.

In the third installment, entitled “The Postponed Wedding”, the guest star was the actress and singer Annette Funicello. Her participation drew attention, since she had been very identified with the role of Anita Campillo, a girl who is looking for her father, in one of the most memorable episodes of the second season.

Something similar happened with the actress Suzanne Lloyd, who had an important role in the past in the role of Raquel Toledano, the treacherous wife of the town commander. In the fourth and last episode of this short season, the star returns but playing another woman, who has nothing to do with hers.

What did remain, and was even enhanced, was the presence of guest stars. In the double episode that started the season, Zorro’s antagonist is Gilbert Roland, an actor born in Mexico who was one of the first Latin Americans to conquer Hollywood. While in the last episode, Ricardo Montalban is Diego de la Vega’s nemesis.

Although more deliveries were scheduled to be made, Disney did not find the same repercussion in the audience as in the past and decided to conclude the saga forever.. This time the story of Zorro did have a conclusion, which although it did not live up to its history, it was enough to put his secret identity and his future as a vigilante in check, when an old rival from Diego’s time in Spain (Montalbán ) arrives in California and decides to tell everyone who the masked man really is. There is suspense, duels, and the humor that characterized the story in its different incarnations.

While there is talk of Robert Rodríguez preparing to update the character with a woman as the protagonist (something that Mexican cinema already did in the 1960s with productions such as the daughters of fox either the invinciblesavailable on Amazon Prime Video), Guy Williams rides Tornado every noon, to show that the epic adventurer has no time or age.

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El Zorro: how are the “lost chapters” of the series that were never seen in Argentina

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