Zorro! The legendary hero who wears his black suit and hides in the shadows to fight those who oppress the people of California. The only thing we can see is the sparkle of his sword and his smile.
That’s how many over 40 remember the character that was on television with actor Guy Williams. Time went by and we could still see his adventures in comics, cartoons and finally in theaters, in a great production with Anthony Hopkins, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Zorro Mask was practically a continuation of everything we knew, as Don Diego now passed the Mask to someone else. Still, it was a great movie.
And now The Fox turns 100 this August and we are already in our third part of the special about the character that during the twentieth century and still in the 21st century stands firm in the world pop culture. Soon Zorro will return in various ways, with new series, Escape Room and other news.
In the first interview, with historian Scott Cherrin, we approached its origin, curiosities, media and others. Now we will cover what’s next!
Check out our exclusive interview with John Gertz of Zorro Productions.
Thunder Wave: 100 years. This is for a few characters. We have many older ones that have undergone many changes in their characteristics, but Zorro remains true to its traditions. Was this intended as a rule for the hero to appear in all media? Or was it just something that happened?
John: When Zorro appeared in the first installment of the original Zorro story, “The Curse of Capistrano,” in August 1919, creator Johnston McCulley certainly had no idea that one day the character would appear in all manner of media like television, comic books, musicals, theme parks, and video games. In fact, at the end of the first story Zorro reveals his secret identity to all of Los Angeles, effectively killing any potential mystery for future installments. McCulley only understood the hero’s enormous potential appeal after Douglas Fairbanks’s smash hit film “The Mark of Zorro” was released in the following year. Responding to popular demand, McCulley went on to write many more ZORRO short stories and books.
Zorro’s basic characteristics – defending the weak and fighting against injustice and corruption – have always remained the same wherever he appears, because without these things, he ceases to be Zorro. Zorro of course grows and evolves with the spirit of his times, he may appear in supernatural adventures or even futuristic settings. But we are always careful to make sure that he stays true to the original character that appeared for the first time 100 years ago.
Thunder Wave: In 2021 Zorro will have a musical and will pass through the city of São Paulo, Brazil. What can fans of the character expect?
John: The Sao Paulo production opened August 2, 2019 at Teatro Santander’s 33ROOFTOP facility. It should be an excellent production; a Brazilian take on the story, with the fantastic music of the Gipsy Kings. It will be an “immersive performance,” in which the audience is seated inside a set evocative of a Spanish tapas bar to see the troupe act out the story. Tapas and wine are even served during the performance. It is directed by Ulysses Cruz, starring Marcos Mion, Leticia Spiller, Bruno Fagundes, and Nicole Rosemberg.
Thunder Wave: We are in the digital age, where social networks, applications, and other forms of communication are a constant part of our daily lives. Will Zorro also win apps and be more constant in this digital universe? What’s to come?
John: I personally do not use social media, and I admit that I barely understand the medium. As we produce new movies and TV I will leave it to the marketing geniuses at the studio to work on our social media presence. However, I do know that Aristocrat Technologies’ Product Madness has a free-to-play Zorro social slot machine game included in their popular Cashman Casino Zorro app. We have also been making exciting updates on our website and on the various Zorro Productions social media (Facebook:@Zorro, Twitter:@ZorroProduction, Instagram:@ZorroProductionsOfficial) related to the 100th anniversary, including giveaways that were coordinated with Licensing Expo and San Diego Comic-Con, and possible upcoming tie-ins with New York Comic-Con. At least half a dozen Zorro licensees, including roleplaying and board games (and our 100th anniversary art book, The Mark of Zorro: 100 Years of the Masked Avenger) have also had great success with the Kickstarter platform, allowing them to bring Zorro to life for fans in new ways. I know that all of these examples have been inspiring people more tech-focused than I to create new app-based games and other digital adventures for fans of Zorro to enjoy.
Thunder Wave: Still talking about the digital age, games are a hit with all generations. Can we expect any hero-based games?
John: YES! We have about five new computer games in development for virtually every platform, including Playstation, Nintendo Switch, phone apps, AR games, and online social gaming. Look for a very big video game presence in 2020 and beyond.
Thunder Wave: HBO’s Game of Thrones, The Witcher on NetFlix, are examples of fantasy literature that worked and brought expectations. Can Zorro reach any of these companies like Amazon Prime, HBO or any of the same style?
John: We are currently publishing a lot of fantasy related ZORRO comic books. We use these as idea incubators. We are in deep discussions now with several streaming companies about developing ZORRO for live TV.
Thunder Wave: What is like to deal with a centenary character and still keep him alive and coherent for so many different cultures?
John: Of course we look at Zorro with a great deal of respect for his age and continuing importance for so many people around the world. Ultimately, while he is many things to many different people, the simplicity of the character makes it easier to keep him relevant and true to who he is. The black cape, black mask, whip, sword, and powerful horse are simple, iconic, and easily recognizable, and his devotion to “Justice for all!” is something everyone can embrace across cultural lines. We all want to do what is right and defend those weaker than us, no matter how old we are or where we’re from. So as long as we stay true to who he is, it’s easy to keep Zorro alive.
Thunder Wave: What does Zorro Productions plan for the coming years of character releases? Is there any calendar ready?
John: Our major forthcoming projects are: a new motion picture, most likely for release in late 2020 or early 2021; more episodes of our CGI animated series, ZORRO CHRONICLES; a live action TV series based upon a modern day female ZORRO; many more issues of new comic book material; a Broadway opening for our ZORRO musical, with a score by the world famous GIPSY KINGS (it has already played in London, Paris, Moscow, Amsterdam, Germany, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, many other places, and is opening now in Sao Paolo); and computer games for virtually every platform, including smart phone apps.
Thunder Wave: To you, who is Zorro?
John: While ZORRO’s main attributes have changed little over the years, the interpretation of who he is has always been influenced within the spirit of his times. ZORRO, as always, remains a very human hero. He has no super powers. He was never bitten by a radioactive spider or born on another planet. For this reason, any of us can become a ZORRO — all we need is the training, a willingness to don the mask and move stealthily within the night, and most of all to be committed to justice for all. ZORRO uses minimal violence to achieve his goals. He is more likely to humiliate a villain with three unsightly slashes of his sword than to kill him. He is smart, cunning, and wise, and has a great sense of humor as he oscillates between a ridiculous fop and a hero. He is also the quintessential Latin lover. While ZORRO’s main attributes have changed little over the years, the interpretation who he is has indeed been influenced within the spirit of his times. What has changed, though, is our willingness to grapple with the issues of the day. For example, when we produced ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE, we consciously allowed ZORRO to identify with an oppressed sub-culture (this was the early 1980s). When we produced a TV series in the early 1990’s we were careful to cast actual Hispanic actors in key roles. And soon we will produce a new TV series based in current times on the mean streets of Los Angeles with a female ZORRO playing the lead. This is who Zorro is to me; a passionate, wise, cunning hero, who fights for those who cannot fight and constantly evolves with the times.