The ‘Cringe’ History of ‘The Legend of Zelda’ TV Series

The Legend of Zelda has held a place in people’s hearts for decades. Most titles in Nintendo’s iconic video game franchise tell the story of Link as he travels the land of Hyrule to save Princess Zelda from the clutches of the evil Ganon. And while the games have entertained audiences since the 1980s, many fans of the series might not have known about the short-lived Legend of Zelda TV series.

Link figurine from Legend of Zelda with shop staff inside
Link figurine from Legend of Zelda with shop staff inside Nintendo Tokyo store in Shibuya | Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

‘The Legend of Zelda’ has been a beloved video game series for over 3 decades

The original Legend of Zelda game was first released in 1986, and the sequel Zelda II: The Adventure of Link came out the following year. Since then, the Zeldaverse has expanded into more than 20 video games, countless merch items, and even an often-forgotten TV show.

‘The Legend of Zelda’ became a short-lived TV series in 1989

The Legend of Zelda cartoon series premiered in the fall of 1989 and only aired for one season of 13 episodes. The show was heavily based on the original title in the video game series but included elements from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

The Legend of Zelda show aired at the same time another iconic Nintendo series was receiving the TV treatment. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! aired 54 episodes over the same period as The Legend of Zelda, and soon led to two more TV shows: 1990’s The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 and 1991’s Super Mario World.

Ganondorf
Statue of the villain Ganondorf from the Legend of Zelda series | Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post

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‘The Legend of Zelda’ TV show had ‘cringe’ moments according to screenwriter Eve Forward

Two screenwriters from the Legend of Zelda series spoke about their experiences with Twitter user @kzinssiebroiler in May 2021. Eve and Bob Forward are siblings in real life and both got to work on the series in the late 1980s.

“[Obviously] I cringe at how sexist etc. it was but this was in the ’80s and everything was still pretty sexist,” Eve pointed out. “The show actually thought they were pretty modern because Zelda didn’t wear a frilly dress usually.”

‘The Legend of Zelda’ series got less attention than the ‘Mario’ series

Bob revealed that there was less oversight in creating the Zelda series compared to the Mario series because it only aired once per week as opposed to Mario‘s four time.

Zelda was almost invisible at the time — it was only on Fridays, the other four days were The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, which had all the studio attention,” Bob revealed. “Since it had live-action components and they were pounding through four scripts a week to my one, I found myself being completely left alone other than a few budgetary and FCC requirements.” He added that it was his “favorite way to work.”

Bob went on to recount his favorite memory of working on the show. “Andy Hayward, the president of DIC [Entertainment], realized toward the end of the scripting that no one had been overseeing Zelda‘s scripts, so he sat down one day and read them all at once,” he recalled. “I figured I was about to get reamed for all the sneaky innuendo I’d managed to slip in, but Andy likes a bit of edge to his shows.”

“He looked up, beamed, said a ‘Every one’s a gem!’ and didn’t touch a thing,” he concluded. “Overall, Zelda was a lot of fun.”