After years of waiting, Zorro fans were finally able to collect the entire series on DVD in the original B&W versions when the shows were released on November 3, 2009 as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series. This even included the rare hour-long episodes! I was lucky enough to be one of the people interviewed for the extras on the DVDs, making this release even more special for me.
Let's take a look at what was included on the DVDs. To begin, each season was sold in a black tin container. Here are the covers for the two sets.
Each season contains all 39 half-hour episodes from that season plus two of the anthology series episodes and supplemental material produced just for this release. Inside each of the tins you'll find a collector's pin, a reproduction of a vintage publicity photograph, a certificate of authenticity, a booklet about the series, and finally, what we've all been waiting for - six discs packed with Zorro. Here are the discs from Set One:
The menus on each disc are rather simple, consisting of black-and-white artwork with the Zorro theme song playing in the background.
Disc One starts with an introduction by Leonard Maltin, the driving force behind this release, who provides a brief history of the Zorro character and sets the stage for the fun to follow. After that's time to watch the episodes themselves.
And what a treat that is. The shows have been carefully restored, looking the best I have ever seen them. For some reason the opening titles don't appear to have gotten quite the same level of attention, for they look a bit grainy, but the episodes themselves are outstanding. There are some spots where stock footage was used when the episodes were originally created and some of that is not as clear as the material shot for the shows themselves, but overall this will be a viewing experience that you will enjoy. The sound is just as good, making it hard to believe these shows are actually more than 50 years old. All are presented in their original aspect ratio, and for some extra fun, they have the original "Next week on Zorro" previews from the original airings.
Disc Six holds all of the supplemental material for Set One. Here's the menu listing the contents:
The two hour-long episodes, which were originally aired on the "Walt Disney Presents" anthology series, will be a special treat for most Zorro fans, for they have rarely been seen since their originally airing and were not included on the previous colorized releases. This disc also includes a new 12 minute documentary:
Here's a look at the people interviewed:
It was a real thrill to be part of this documentary. Although not seen on screen, Leonard is a great interviewer, making what can be an awkward process much more pleasant. Interviews like this require the speakers to basically parrot back the original question, as the question itself won't be heard on the final product. So, for example, if the question is "How well did Zorro do in the ratings?" you can't just answer "It did very well." Instead, you have to remember the question, think of your answer, then speak as if the thought had just come to you: "Zorro did very well in the ratings, with the second season doing even better than the first." It may sound easy, but when you're in a chair surrounded by lights, cameras, sound technicians, etc. it gets just a little bit more difficult. And then, as soon as they shut things down and you start heading home you realize all of the wonderful things you should have said or how you could have phrased something better. Leonard is a wizard, though, at this whole process, and he is just as nice in person as he appears on screen.