Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Treasures of a Bold Renegade

Good news, bad news.

We'll get the bad news out of the way first. There are only two titles being released this year in the Disney Treasures DVD line. And unfortunately, neither features animation, anxiously awaited Disney anthology series content, nor material relating to Disney theme parks.

The good news however, is that the titles that have arrived, Zorro - The Complete First Season and Zorro - The Complete Second Season, are top-of-the-line productions and welcome additions to the Disney Treasures family.

The Zorro sets are unconventional Treasures. It is the first time Disney has ventured beyond the 2-disc, $32.99 SRP. These collections weigh in at a hefty six discs each and carry $59.99 price points (although smart shoppers can find them as low as $38.99). It also marks the first time Disney has marketed any of their vintage television properties in complete season sets. Disneyland program episodes have appeared in numerous themed Treasures collections, and an earlier Treasures set featured the very first week of the Mickey Mouse Club. Interestingly, Zorro collections have been offered in the past through the Disney DVD subscription club (albeit in the much maligned colorized versions originally aired on the Disney Channel), but not at retail. These new complete sets of the Bold Renegade seem to mark an equally bold marketing strategy for the normally more reserved execs at Disney Home Entertainment.

In my much younger days, I watched syndicated Zorro episodes on one of my local stations. (Yes, back in the days of antenna reception and a channel selection that included three networks, PBS and a couple of independents.) I was never a huge fan of the program, but it was a means of killing a half hour on a rainy summer afternoon. Revisiting Zorro some four decades later as a Disney enthusiast and historian has been a both enlightening and very entertaining experience.

Much like the Davy Crockett Disneyland episodes, Zorro exploded far beyond its television incarnation into a pop culture phenomenon. Its brief two-season run from 1957 to 1959 beget a national passion that encompassed publicity tours, Disneyland tie-ins and tons of merchandise. At its peak, it claimed more than 30 million weekly viewers, American Idol numbers by today's standards; a dominating 40% share of the audience in the less populated late 1950s. Legal squabbling between Disney and ABC brought about the program's premature demise and, although it has never made a very large impact on recent generations of Disney enthusiasts, it remains a very significant part of Disney Studio history.

Zorro is a wonderful mix of humor, adventure and engaging performances. Guy Williams, a relative unknown at the time, became an overnight star as he portrayed both the swashbuckling hero and his meek and submissive alter-ego Don Diego de la Vega. Henry Calvin, as the bumbling but well meaning Sergeant Garcia became an audience favorite. The production values of the series were also especially notable. As Leonard Maltin notes in his introduction to Season One, "Walt never did anything halfway," and Zorro certainly reflects this. Extensive location shooting mixed with Peter Ellenshaw's beautiful matte work demonstrated results more akin to feature films than to a weekly television program.

The Zorro DVDs certainly live up to the standards we've come to expect from the Disney Treasures line; high quality transfers and generous supplemental features. Each season features 39 episodes. Season One also includes "Zorro: El Bandido" and "Zorro: Adios El Cuchillo," a two-part adventure aired during the 1960 season of Walt Disney Presents, a combination of episodes originally intended to be part of a never realized third season; an excerpt from the 1957 "Fourth Anniversary Show" featuring an appearance by Guy Williams; and a history of the Zorro character entitled "The Life and Legend of Zorro."

The Season Two set provides two additional episodes from the 1961 season of Walt Disney Presents, "Zorro: The Postponed Wedding" and "Zorro: Auld Acquaintance." An additonal feature, "Behind the Mask," profiles star Guy Williams.

Whether you are a passionate Zorro fan, a Disney historian and enthusiast, or a person just simply wanting to enjoy some old fashioned swashbuckling entertainment, the Disney Treasures Zorro sets will be well worth your time and resources.


Steve Tanner at Magical Trash said...

Great to see a post from you, Jeff. And yes, the new Zorro sets are sweet

Anonymous said...

Can "The Scarecrow" be far behind? One can only hope...

Anonymous said...

More good news: The Scarecrow actually preceded Zorro; it came out as a Disney Treasures DVD last year.

BostonMouse said...

I was going to write the same thing as Tanerman, it's nice to see you posting Jeff. We missed you.

I love these treasures with the old shows, it's like a time capsule of what the studio was doing at the time. I have the Annette treasure and it's just a lot of fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I totally missed that. Just like I totally missed The Beatles on Ed Sullivan because I was too busy watching The Scarecrow on WWoC. I was 100% into that character. I put a broom stick through the shoulders of my coat and a bank sack over my head and ran around the playground at St. Nicholas school doing my best Patrick McGoohan imitation. Those were they days.

Donnie said...

Are the Zorro dvd's going to be as hard to find as The Scarecrow? That had to have been the most limited Treasure.

Unknown said...

LOVE Disney's Zorro!! I introduced my son to Zorro on "Vault Disney" on the Disney channel, before Disney stopped showing any kind of classic shows. =^( We would watch Zorro every night when he was off of school for the summer. Then.. when he would go to bed, I'd stay up and watch Spin and Marty, Wonderful world of color, and The old Mickey Mouse Club shows.

We're planning on having our own weekend marathon when we get our Zorro sets!