Zorro was also the title of a half-hour Walt Disney Productions TV series based on the character, which premiered October 10, 1957 on ABC. The final network broadcast was June 2, 1959. Seventy-eight episodes were produced, and 4 hour-long specials were aired on the Walt Disney anthology series between October 30, 1960 and April 2, 1961.
Zorro's secret identity, Don Diego de la Vega (portrayed by Guy Williams), is depicted as a former University student, newly recalled by his father from Spain to his home outside El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula (later shortened as Los Angeles). Just before reaching California, Diego learns of the tyranny of Captain Monastario, and realizes that his father, Don Alejandro, summoned him to help fight this injustice. Although he won medals for his fencing back in Spain, Diego decides that his best course of action is to conceal his ability with a sword, and to affect the demeanor of a milquetoast intellectual rather than a decisive man of action. His alter ego, Zorro, operates primarily at night, taking the direct action that Diego cannot. This deception does not always sit well with Diego, especially as it affects his relationship with his disappointed father. In reality, Diego relies heavily on his wits, both with and without the mask on. Later in the series, Diego emerges as a respected figure in his own right, a clever thinker and loyal friend who just happens to be hopeless at swordplay.
For most of its brief run, Zorro's episodes were part of continuing story arcs, each about thirteen episodes long. The first of these chronicles the arrival of Zorro / Diego and his battle of wits with the greedy and cruel local Commandante, Captain Monastario. After Monastario's final defeat, in the second storyline, Zorro must uncover and counter the machinations of the evil Magistrado Galindo, who is part of a plot to rule California. The third story arc concerns the leader of that conspiracy, the shadowy figure of the Eagle, revealed as vain and insecure José Sebastian Varga. Season one concludes with Varga's death.
Season two opens with Diego in Monterey, the colonial capital, where privately collected money to bring a supply ship to California is consistently diverted to a gang of bandits. Diego stays to investigate, both as himself and as Zorro, and becomes interested in Ana Maria Verdugo, the daughter of the man organizing the effort. Once Zorro defeats the thieves, he enters into a rivalry with his old friend Ricardo del Amo, a practical joker who is also interested in Ana Maria. Ana Maria in turn is in love with Zorro. While in Monterey, Zorro and Sergeant Garcia also get involved in a dispute between the peons and a repressive Lieutenant Governor. Diego is on the verge of giving up his mask to marry Ana Maria, but Don Alejandro talks him out of it. Zorro (and Diego) says goodbye to Ana Maria and returns to Los Angeles, where he gets involved in a series of shorter adventures. In one three episode story arc, guest starring Annette Funicello, Zorro must solve the mystery of Anita Campillo's father, a man who does not seem to exist. Other storylines late in the series involve Diego's ne'er-do-well uncle (Cesar Romero), a plot against the governor of California, an encounter with an American "mountain man", and outwitting a greedy emissary from Spain.