In this film, edited from eight episodes of Disney's hit TV series, Don Diego returns home to find his town under the heel of a cruel dictator, Capitan Monastario. Diego dons the mask of Zorro to fight the evil commandant's tyranny, and, with the help of his mute servant Bernardo, free the pueblo from his oppression.
George J. Lewis
William H. Anderson
Lowell S. Hawley
The Sign of Zorro
By 1957, Zorro had his own television series--simply entitled Zorro--produced by Walt Disney, starring Guy Williams, and airing on ABC. It was a major hit, and when season two ended in 1959 after 78 total episodes, ratings were so high that season three seemed a certainty. It was not to be. The show had been produced in black-and-white, and Disney now wanted color; the network balked at the cost, and Disney pulled the plug. However, the show did return to television in late 1960 in the form of four hour-long specials, filmed in color, that aired on Disney's anthology program Walt Disney Presents.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney had five early episodes of Zorro edited into a feature film: The Sign of Zorro (1960). Disney had been planning to do this since the end of the show's first season, wanting to emulate the success of his Davey Crockett feature films, released in 1955 and 1956. Those movies had also been created by stringing together episodes of a TV series. The Sign of Zorro did well enough that Disney produced a second Zorro feature in the same manner, Zorro the Avenger.
Guy Williams, who learned fencing as a child and seemed ideal for the role, was very popular with kids all over the country thanks to the TV show, and to promote this movie he made costumed appearances at theaters all over the country. Also in the cast, as Diego's (Zorro's) father, is George Lewis, who had appeared in the 1944 Republic serial Zorro's Black Whip.
Plenty more Zorro movies were still to come, but in the wake of this film's release, other studios re-released their own old Zorro pictures pretty much all at once: from Republic came Ghost of Zorro (1949) and Zorro Rides Again (1937), while Fox re-released the Tyrone Power, Jr. classic The Mark of Zorro (1940). None of these re-releases did very well, however, and while Zorro would become a mainstay in Italian cinema of the 1960s, it would be another fifteen to twenty years before Zorro re-entered American movie or TV screens with any real significance.
By Jeremy Arnold
Sandra Curtis, Zorro Unmasked
Antoinette Girgenti Lane, Guy Williams: The Man Behind the Mask
Leonard Maltin, The Disney Films
Bill Yenne, The Legend of Zorro