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Right around the time of airing of the Super Mario Bros Super Show, DiC had also produced a short series of cartoons based on the first two games in the Legend of Zelda franchise (which were the only ones in existence at the time). Like the games, the animated series features Link's continuing adventures in the kingdom of Hyrule, battling the evil forces of Ganon alongside Princess Zelda and a Fairy Companion named Spryte. It shared a number of details in common with the comic book series produced by Valiant Comics around the same time.
Thirteen episodes were aired in total, and they would usually run during the Friday afternoon episodes. There presumably would have been more, but when SMBSS was cancelled, the Zelda segments went with it. The characters of Link and Zelda, along with their respective voice actors, were then adopted into the cast of Captain N: The Game Master, where Link had a rivalry-turned-friendship with the titular Captain.
The thirteen original episodes can be purchased in a DVD box set and are viewable on Hulu.
This series is the Trope Namer for:
The Zelda cartoon makes use of the following tropes:
- Absent-Minded Sovereign: King Harkinian has a hard time remembering Link's name.
- Action Girl: Zelda, usually in the form of She Fu.
- Adaptation Dye Job: Zelda is depicted in the sprite and manual art of the first two games as red-haired, but the cartoon gives her Hair of Gold.
- Almost Kiss: Link can never get a kiss from Zelda. Whenever she accepts, they're always interrupted.
- Anachronism Stew: Hyrule is generally presented as the Medieval Stasis world from the games; however, in "Stinging a Stinger," the peddler offers Ganon's Mooks a remote-controlled device in exchange for his freedom. Most of the female characters are depicted as wearing Day-Glo makeup. And in "Fairies in the Spring," Link wears a bathing suit reminiscent of the Forties, while Zelda's suit is a modern pink one-piece.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Ganon tries using a mind control necklace to force Zelda to marry him in "A Hitch in the Works."
- Aw, Look — They Really Do Love Each Other: These moments are rare, but they do happen.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Link and Zelda in the first episode, who tie themselves together with Link's belt.
- Baleful Polymorph: Link, in "Kiss 'N Tell," when a kiss from a disguised monster turns him into an anthropomorphic frog.
- Battle Couple: Link and Zelda, quite often. Just don't expect her to admit it.
- Beach Episode: Or water park episode, as the case was.
- Bomb Jump: Link does one during a chase scene.
- Bridal Carry: Happens to Zelda throughout the series both from Link and foes. Most infamously done to her by a Zola and she was unable to escape despite not being restrained in any way.
- Bungling Inventor: Doof, the castle handyman, in "A Hitch In the Works."
- Canon Foreigner: Spryte and King Harkinian (the latter of which would reappear in the CD-i games).
- Captain Obvious: Oh so much. "Ganon's up to something!" You think?
- Catch Phrase: Link has "Well excuse me, Princess", for when Zelda gets annoyed at him, and "This always happens", when he and Zelda fail to kiss.
- And Link's demanding Zelda to "kiss me" repeatedly, which is said almost as often as above's quote.
- Characterization Marches On: This Link is very different from the Heroic Mime we know today.
- Depending on the Writer: As the episodes had different writers Zelda's combat ability wildly varies from episode to episode being able to singehandedly invade Ganon's underworld and defeat him to not being able to even get out of a Bridal Carry unrestrained.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Spryte, who frequently complains to Link that Zelda is a "snot" and "you should stick with me." She also prevents Link from getting his requested kiss on two different occasions.
- Clingy MacGuffin: When Zelda needs to take the Triforce of Wisdom with her someplace, she attaches it to her belt with a rope and it floats along behind her like a balloon. It will only do this for her, as proven in the episode with the Evil Twin.
- Continuity Nod: In the first episode of the series, "The Ringer," there is a portrait in Link's bedroom of Zelda wearing what looks to be the same red gown she wore in the first game if Link had the Red Ring upon defeating Ganon.
- Cool Crown: Zelda's main outfit includes a tiara.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: In "Cold Spells," Zelda dispatches one of Ganon's creatures (the hawk-like Moby, to be specific) by forcing it to smell Link's dirty laundry.
- Cursed with Awesome: Link is turned into a frog, but does gain the ability to crawl on walls and ceilings, helping infiltrate Ganon's lair.
- Demoted to Extra: Spryte more or less became this, getting at least a certain amount of screentime early on. In later episodes, she is sometimes completely absent, with no explanation at all. One of the episodes that doesn't feature her explains her absence with her being on vacation.
- Depending on the Writer: Ganon's goals varied from getting Zelda's hand in marriage to getting the Triforce to getting Zelda's hand in marriage and getting the Triforce.
- Zelda is either a sassy action girl or a sassy damsel in distress.
- Distressed Damsel: Zelda, but less often than the games. She's often quite effective in combat, when the script lets her be.
- The Ditz: Ganon employs an entire army of ditzes, as proven in "The Moblins Are Revolting." The Mooks are so hopelessly incompetent that Link and Zelda don't even need to defend Hyrule Castle when they attack — they wipe each other out.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: When things are quiet in Hyrule, Zelda forces Link to earn his keep by doing chores and maintenance around the castle.
- Episode Title Card: At the start of every show.
- Ermine Cape Effect: Despite Zelda's usual outfit not being especially fancy, it does come with a tiara.
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: More than once.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Zelda, of course, but also Spryte; in "Kiss 'N Tell," she informs the others that her father is the king of the fairies.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: The Triforce of Wisdom sparkles, as compared to the Triforce of Power, which appears to be perpetually on fire.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: Link has a habit of twirling his sword around in his hand. In "The Missing Link," when he's non-corporeal and can't hold the sword, Zelda uses it — and does the exact same thing.
- Evil Twin: In the episode "Doppelganger," Ganon creates an identical copy of Zelda, whose job is to seduce Link into helping her steal the Triforce of Wisdom.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Getting Zelda to kiss Link.
- Fairy Companion: Spryte. Quite notably, she was the first character to serve as a fairy companion to Link, predating Navi by very nearly a decade.
- Fairy Sexy: Spryte
- Fanfare: The Hyrule overworld theme got played as a full fanfare for the first time here.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Normally the show's fights are pretty safe, but in one episode, Link kicks two Ropes (the snake-like enemies from the first game), and blood spurts out of their mouths.
- Faux Action Girl: Despite this and the Captain N Zelda being one in the same Zelda appears to have traded her wildly inconsistent fighting ability to being a 100% damsel who can't defend herself from the most basic of enemies and be simple eye candy. This is despite having the same abilities in both series'.
- Fun with Acronyms: When Ganon's mooks kick him out and try to take Hyrule on their own, they identify themselves as the Brotherhood of Underworld Monsters (B.U.M.)
- Fully-Absorbed Finale: Link and Zelda would appear in several episodes of Captain N after the cancellation of their own show. One episode involved them trying to prevent the resurrection of Ganon.
- Gag Boobs: Zelda's breast have been the subject of some of the show's humor (explained below). Oddly this Zelda is more ample in this area than most of those who both precede and proceed her.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Link, Spryte, and even occasionally Zelda each have their share of pervy comments throughout the series that went over the kids' heads.
Spryte: [while ogling Link in the bathtub] I like you just the way you are...especially at the moment!
- In the same episode:
Link: You swing like a girl!
- Glass Cannon: Even in episodes where Zelda competently fights alongside Link and being capable of causing the same amount of destruction to evil she tends to go down first when she takes the same amount of hits Link does.
- The Glomp: Zelda tackles Link with intent to kiss in "That Sinking Feeling." Unfortunately for Link, "Something always happens".
- Goofy Print Underwear: When Link hangs upside down in "Underworld Connections," his nightshirt falls over his head to reveal heart-printed boxer shorts.
- Hammerspace: The cartoon is the one of the few times in the whole of Zelda history that an attempt is made to show just how Link carries around so much equipment. He has a pouch of holding on his belt which can apparently store just about anything.
- Handsome Lech: Gender Flipped with Spryte.
- Heavy Sleeper: Link ties a rope to an arrow, shoots it from his own tower to Zelda's, and tightrope-walks over to her balcony — in his sleep.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Invoked by Zelda in "The White Knight," when meeting Prince Facade for the first time. She introduces Link as a string of titles, causing his status to deteriorate down to "someone I know slightly." Later in the same episode, she actually forgets he exists while talking to Facade.
- Heroic Mime: Inverted by this incarnation of Link, who is by far the most chatty of the three main characters.
- Indeed, the cartoon and the CD-i games are often cited as the reason why Link should never talk.
- Horseback Heroism: In a few episodes.
- Hypnotize the Princess: In "A Hitch in the Works," Ganon captures Zelda and puts a necklace on her which allows him to manipulate her mind. His plan, which actually almost works, is a simple one — marry the princess and get her Triforce.
- Hypno Trinket: The necklace that hypnotizes Zelda.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Ganon's mooks make the Stormtroopers look competent.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Link wears one of these in an attempt to prove he can be just as charming and high-class as Prince Facade. It doesn't work.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Part of Link's battle repertoire, which also includes Improbable Jumping Skills, Improbable Gymnastics Skills, Improbable Breathing Underwater Skills, Talking Underwater Skills, and Improbable Flame Surfing Skills.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Frequently; lampshaded in "Stinging a Stinger," after they've used a beehive to trick Ganon:
Zelda: Kiss me.
- Almost Kiss: Spryte interrupts a kiss between Link and Zelda at the end of episode one.
- Interspecies Romance: Spryte has a huge crush on Link, and has no qualms about letting it be known. She even kisses him to turn him back from frog status at one point.
- Some of Link's dialogue suggests he would go for Spryte if she weren't two inches tall.
- The Lancer: Zelda, who is less of a Distressed Damsel than usual, but still gets kidnapped by Ganon in a few episodes.
- Loves Me Not: Link does this at the start of the episode "Stinging The Stinger" and blames the flower on the poor result.
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: But of course.
- Magic Skirt: Averted Trope by Spryte. When she falls over at one point in the first episode, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot right up her skirt, with nothing underneath.
- Link's nightshirt is a case played straight, except in "Underworld Connections," where (as noted above) we get to see his Goofy Print Underwear.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Link takes being separated from his body and effectively turned into a ghost really well.
- Meaningful Name: Prince Facade, in "The White Knight." He's all about appearances.
- Modest Royalty: Averted with King Harkinian; played straight with Zelda, who is normally indistinguishable as a princess except for her hair circlet.
- Moment Killer: On those occasions when Zelda does consent to kiss Link, something always interrupts. Lampshaded more than once in a few episodes when Link complains, "This always happens!"
- Noodle Incident: "Remember the last time we took one of your shortcuts?"
- Off-Model: In "Doppleganger", after Link and Zelda fall, Zelda is drawn in her evil twin's red and black color scheme for a second.
- In "The White Knight," when Zelda is lying in the mud after Link dispatches the Zola, she is briefly seen in her regular outfit instead of her fancy dress.
- How can we forget "Fairies in the Spring"? You know, the one where there's a scene in which the Water Monster has no claws?
- Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Ganon has a lot of it, thanks to the Triforce of Power.
- Opening Narration: The intro for the show begins with a sequence in which Zelda explains to Link (and thus, the viewer) what Ganon's hoping to accomplish.
- Orcus on His Throne: Ganon frequently prefers to send his (largely useless) minions to do his dirty work.
- He mentions at least once that his powers wane in Hyrule proper and that he is only at full power in the Underworld.
- Pants-Free: Averted in the daytime; however, whenever Link is shown after he's gone to bed or just gotten up, he's only seen wearing a nightshirt.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Zelda has a few, such as when she dines with a neighboring princes.
- Playing Sick: Link pulls this in "Cold Spells" to get out of helping with the spring cleaning around the castle.
- Post-Kiss Catatonia: Link experiences this, albeit briefly, after getting kissed by the fake Zelda in "Doppelganger."
- The Power of Love: Ganon remarks that Link's love for Zelda is his greatest weakness. It also has to be rather strong, considering the amount of abuse Link takes from his would-be Love Interest.
- Prince Charmless: Zelda gets charmed by one of these, Prince Facade of Arcadia, thinking he's The White Prince, in the episode "The White Knight," but his True Colors are revealed when he won't rescue her from Ganon's minions... because they're in the mud and he doesn't want to get his clothes dirty.
- Princesses Prefer Pink: Zelda has a feather-trimmed nightgown, a bathing suit, and a pink dress for a portrait hanging in Link's room/Triforce sanctuary. Additionally, Spryte — who is a princess in her own right — wears pink on a daily basis, including pink eye shadow and pink frosted lip color.
- Pun-Based Title: More often than not, the individual episodes have rather punny or descriptive names. The episode "Sing for the Unicorn" features a character named Sing who is trying to rescue her unicorn. "A Hitch In the Works" is about Ganon kidnapping Zelda to force her to marry him. And then there's "The Moblins Are Revolting"...why yes, yes they are.
- Purple Is Powerful: Zelda's dark purple shirt, and light purple tights. Not only does it fit her royal status, but also fits her being an action girl in this series.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: Ganon makes an evil doppelganger of Zelda, and the only visible difference is that her top is black with a red vest instead of purple with a blue vest.
- Respawning Enemies: Given an in-universe explanation by the Evil Jar.
- Rhymes on a Dime: When the Triforce of Wisdom speaks, it always does so in rhyme, at least in theory. Sometimes the rhymes are a bit of a reach; for instance, "wise" and "advice." In "Cold Spells," Zelda responds with a sarcastic rhyme of her own.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Zelda qualifies when she actually helps out.
- Prince Facade is an adventurer, and is easily just as competent as Link as a fighter, even arguably superior in close combat despite having a crossbow as his chosen weapon. He's just too vain, and as such puts his looks above the lives of others.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: In "Doppelganger".
- Shirtless Scene: Link, while taking a bath in "The White Knight."
- Smooch of Victory: Averted. Link always wants one, but Zelda usually rejects him or, when she does agree to kiss, something happens that ends up preventing it from happening.
- Spiritual Successor: The Legend of Zelda CDI Games seem to have borrowed from this series (both having a King Harkinian who says "Mah boi," for one example). Of course, despite fans' varying opinions on the animated cartoon, they will invariably admit that compared to those games the cartoon is pure gold.
- Spot the Imposter: Fake Zelda kisses Link, while the real Zelda slaps him.
- Stalker with a Crush: Ganon seems to feel this way toward Zelda, as evidenced by his actions in a number of episodes.
Ganon: I want that princess!
- In "That Sinking Feeling," he explicitly states his intention to make her his queen once he conquers Hyrule.
- Spryte is sort of a lighter version of this (see Clingy Jealous Girl).
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Running Gag: Link getting smacked in the face any time Zelda opens and closes a door.
- Sword Beam: Part of the reason for Link's enduring success is his ability to fire these at distant enemies.
- To the point of not even using his sword as, you know, a sword. He actually declares a different sword to be useless because it can't shoot beams.
- Teleport Spam: Ganon does this all the time, while monologuing out loud to himself.
- Tentacle Rope: Zelda grabbed by an Octorok in "The White Knight," and she and Link both get snatched by underground vines in "Cold Spells."
- Title Drop: A number of episodes manage to work the individual episode title into the dialogue.
- Tomboy Princess: Zelda, even more so than her video game counterpart.
- Tsundere: Zelda, often — usually resulting in the Catch Phrase we all know and love.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In "Cold Spells," Ganon rides a giant insect (assumed to be a Lowder) up the side of Hyrule Castle...and no one notices.
- Vapor Wear: Spryte.
- A Wizard Did It: More or less the plot of "The Ringer," which is about an amateur wizarding competition that Ganon enters in disguise.
- Worth It: Link wonders why he agreed to live in the castle, when it's boring a lot of the time... until he sees Zelda in her morning gown.
- Xenafication: Happened to Zelda.
- You Can See Me?: One of the best-known episodes, "The Missing Link," has Link's spirit knocked out of his body, which is then stolen by Ganon. The only one who can see Link's ghostlike form is Zelda, for very interesting reasons.
- Interestingly, Spryte can't see him, despite being far more open and forward with her feelings toward Link. However, it might be explained as an issue of "more Lust than Love".