The incredible life of Tornado, the Zorro horse that mesmerized Walt Disney as a thoroughbred champion

“For freedom I bleed, I fight and I live. For freedom I feel more hearts than sands in my chest. the poetry of Miguel Hernandez in the music and voice of Joan Manuel Serrat represents the wound of a people, the Spanish, eaten away by the Civil War. But those words can calmly serve to exemplify what someone looking for that concept feels, wherever they are, whatever they do and whoever they are. Even an animal.

Behind the legendary series The Fox there were people with very particular storiesa protagonist who lived in Argentinaand even an actor who was in World War II. But there were also horses. Above all one: Twisterthe side of the hero of the show, who liked freedom more than anyone.

Also read: “Guy Williams was alone and lying on the floor”: this is how they found the protagonist of “El Zorro” when he died in Argentina

His life went from being constant training to win races and be crowned champion on several occasions, to become an absolute TV star: so impressed Walt Disney that he was the only horse to own in the series. To take care of it, in addition, the creators they had gotten him stunt doubles.

Who was the horse behind Tornado, Zorro’s faithful companion

Tornado’s real name was Diamond Decorator and was born on January 1, 1950. He was a thoroughbred who came from a legendary family of these animals, the son of Silver King and Pat described on the site All Breed Pedigree.

According to the website Wester Horsemanthe maternal grandfather was a racing legend named Joe Hancockwhile the paternal grandfather was Old Sorrel, one of the base stallions in the King Ranch breeding. Both are listed in the Hall of Fame of the American Quarter Horse.

From that cross it was impossible for there not to be a champion. Diamond Decorator was raised in Double Diamond Ranch in Reno, Nevada, where he was first trained as a racehorse. Although he also excelled in other types of competitions during his early years.

Guy Williams riding Diamond Decorator on the set of “El Zorro”. (Photo: Guy Williams Jr.)

In the records of the American Quarter Horse figure that in 1952 achieved a record of merit for the races in which he competed with a speed index of 85. That year, he entered 15 races, came third twice, second again and won twice.

But his year of great prestige and that served him to show himself in another way was 1953. According to what the May 2014 edition of the magazine points out working horsein a note about his father, Silver KingDiamond Decorator came to prevail in the Grand Finale Medal Class that runs in the Cow Palace from San Francisco.

The article also mentions that the horse that embodied Tornado He came to win 14 times in a row before becoming the character that made him famous. The official numbers also establish that he made a profit of $1,117 (at that time) and that he last competed in September 1953.

On one of those crowded weekend afternoons at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, a Hollywood personality was there and was blown away by Diamond Decorator. The speed, the impetus and the brilliant jet color of the horse mesmerized him forever. walt disney he was about to change his life.

The transformation of Diamond Decorator into Tornado, the faithful horse of “El Zorro”

The creator of the series The Fox it was Walt Disney who was horse racing fan and sword fights. That is why the creator of one of the emporiums of current entertainment sought to combine these two passions.

Somehow, this is how the fiction that raised to stardom guy williams like the masked hero of the early 1820s who had a double identity.

On the one hand it was Don Diego de la Vega, the son of an aristocrat, a diplomat and politician who was behind his father’s activities. On the other, he put on a mask to fight the corruption, violence and injustice of a society in full construction.

A moment of filming "The Fox".  (Photo: Western Horseman/Disney)
A moment from the filming of “El Zorro”. (Photo: Western Horseman/Disney)

Based on the character created by Johnston McCulleythe series breathed battles of swords, fights and chases on horseback all time. “Walt Disney was the biggest fan. He really liked this kind of action. He always went on Fridays, which was the day we trained the fight, ”Williams himself said, in an interview with Susana Gimenez in 1988.

That fanaticism made, in the first moments of the series, Disney will make important decisions. One of them was to directly take charge of the companion of the main character. For that, he bought Diamond Decorator, which became the only one of the horses used for fiction that belonged to him.

As specified by the historian of the series El Zorro Bill Cotter on his site, the show’s main horse was Tornado who appeared in 72 episodes. But he was not the only one. There was also another steed that the hero rode when the Moon rose: Ghost.

Who was Ghost, the white steed of El Zorro

The intervention of Ghost in the series The Fox it was fortuitous The scriptwriters of the cycle decided that the main character will travel to the city of Monterrey at the beginning of the second season.

“It would have been hard to explain where Tornado came from when Diego became The Foxso the writers introduced a new horse,” Cotter detailed. Ghost was white and, in fiction, Zorro had inherited it from a dying soldier.. His final fate was never explained in the series.

Guy Williams with the horse King who played Ghost in "The Fox".  (Photo: Guy Williams Jr.)
Guy Williams with the horse King who played Ghost in “El Zorro”. (Photo: Guy Williams Jr.)

Ghost’s real name was King and one of its main weapons was its fur: dazzled anyone because of how white it was. Its owner was the father of the Disney horse trainer Corky Randall. “He was almost silver. It had a very unusual color. It was very good to work with him,” said the media specialist. western horseman.

King was during 13 episodes. It was only used for very specific script issues. But in the cast he left a good memory. “I never missed a sign. She stood silently, listened and moved through the scene without a problem, ”he explained to that medium, Britt Lomondwho embodied Captain Monastery.

This horse did not only The Fox. After participating in the series, she worked in other fictions such as The Swamp Fox, spin and marty and several westerns.

The other horses that were Tornado in “El Zorro”

In addition to King and Diamond Decorator, there were other horses that took part in the series and surprised by their feats in front of the camera. Of course, they all had a single objective: to take care of the main slope of The Fox.

There were at least 11 horses used during the filming of The Fox to embody Twister. The historian Bill Cotter and the journalist specializing in equines Jennifer L. Schooley They agreed in their notes that there were three other proper names that stood out more and helped create the myth of the black steed: Ribbon, Midnight and Rex.

The shooting mechanism for the horse scenes was clear. While Diamond Decorator stood in front of cameras To make the scenes less risky, his doubles showed everything that Walt Disney was not willing to let his thoroughbred do to avoid risking it: running at high speed or fighting alongside El Zorro.

Guy Williams' stunt double running Ribbon, one of the horses that played Tornado.  (Photo: Guy Williams Jr.)
Guy Williams’ stunt double running Ribbon, one of the horses that played Tornado. (Photo: Guy Williams Jr.)

Buddy Van Hornthe double of Guy Williams who rode all these horses, he said according to western horseman that the speed that Ribbon had was incredible and, therefore, it was one of the most used. “He could outrun a car with a camera and they had to work to keep up with him (when filming),” he said.

In an article published in the paper magazine american cowboy of August 2004, this is also recorded. jack lilley, one of the men who specialized in breeding horses to work in the movie industry, raved about the Diamond Decorator stunt double. “Ribbon, who left Rancho Matador near Amarillo, Texas, He was the best horse I have ever met.”, he defined.

What was the final fate of Tornado, the faithful horse of “El Zorro”

When the series of The Fox ended, the artistic life of Diamond Decorator It ended. The intentions were not bad. Quite the opposite. Walt Disney preserved it from any risk exposure and kept it to himself.

Even in the special exhibitions that were made about the series, commissioned by Disney itself, Guy Williams appeared with his black steed. “Despite distractions from eager fans, he was always well behaved,” said historian Bill Cotter.

The mythical image of the series "The Fox".  (Photo: Disney)
The mythical image of the series “El Zorro”. (Photo: Disney)

Diamond Decorator spent his last years in the Golden Oak Ranch from Disney, near Newhall, California. There it was the favorite place of the owner of the entertainment emporium and one of the locations of the series that made the horse a legendary figure, despite not appear in the credits with his real name.

Guy Williams’ son commented at the time to western horseman that his father did not end the relationship with the horse only when he recorded the final scene. She went to visit him several times at the Disney property, while his faithful companion lived happy and peaceful days.

Perhaps the key to understanding the magnetism caused by the figure of this horse is in the words said by the double of Guy Williams in The Fox, Buddy Van Horn. with a knowledge very reliable how the animal behaved all the time, described his way of being.

Also read: The story of Guy Williams, the protagonist of “El Zorro”: early retirement, a movie love and its tragic end in Argentina

“If you touched it with your knee, he was ready to go. She liked to move a lot, ”she commented. Diamond Decorator she loved the freedom she finally got until the end of his days.

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The incredible life of Tornado, the Zorro horse that mesmerized Walt Disney as a thoroughbred champion

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