Before Batman was a twinkle in Bob Kane's eye, there was Zorro, a masked vigilante with panache and a penchant for dramatic capes. Created in 1919, the hero has had many iterations in the past century, but it's been ages since mild-mannered Don Diego de la Vega's flamboyant alter ego last left his signature mark on film or TV.
That's about to change, with Wilmer Valderrama taking up the legendary mantle for a new series from Disney.
The project, currently in development, will be a reimagining of the classic '50s Disney TV show as a period piece set in Pueblo de Los Angeles, the precursor to modern-day L.A., and told in a contemporary telenovela style.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; ABC Photo Archives/Disney Wilmer Valderrama, and Guy Williams on 'Zorro'
Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television, promises "richly drawn contemporary characters and relationships set against the action, drama, suspense, and humor of the original, iconic Zorro."
Zorro first appeared in the 1919 novel The Curse of Capistrano, by Johnston McCulley, and the following year it was adapted into The Mark of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks. As the inaugural release under United Artists — the production company founded by Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith — it was a smash success.
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The Mark of Zorro inspired countless other films around the world starring the dashing hero, and in 1957 he swashbuckled his way onto television. Disney's popular Zorro series starred Guy Williams as the titular masked avenger and ran for 78 episodes over two years, as well as four hourlong specials for The Magical World of Disney anthology series in 1960-61.
"Growing up, Zorro was the one character that made me, as a Latino, feel like I could be a hero," Valderrama said in a statement. "As an adult and a storyteller, I have a responsibility in the stories that I help bring to life. To partner with Gary [Marsh, executive producer] and Disney to bring Zorro back into the family after 60 years and be a part of the legacy for other children to know they too can be the heroes of their own stories is a dream come true."