Believe it or not, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is nearing its 30th anniversary since it debuted on American screens in 1993. However, its main source material and influence, Super Sentai, is even older. Super Sentai came onto the scene in 1975. However, over the first dozen series did not become part of the Power Rangers franchise. Still, Power Rangers would not have formed without Super Sentai’s existence.
Once Power Rangers made it to TV screens in America, children fell in love with the colorful team in droves. While the height of its popularity hit in the 1990s, the Power Rangers are still a significant franchise even today. New Power Rangers series continue to debut year after year, so Power Rangers is unlikely to die off any day soon.
How did Super Sentai become Power Rangers?
Originally, Marvel Comics tried to work together with Toei to bring the Super Sentai over to the west while Toei created a Japanese Spider-Man. Unfortunately, they never found any buyers willing to pick up the series. So, while the Japanese Spider-Man made its impact on Japan and the internet memes of today, Super Sentai did not make it over to America in the 70s.
However, there was a man whose dream brought about the Power Rangers phenomenon. A single man, named Haim Saban, made it his dream to create something like Super Sentai for America. He originally fell in love with the series when he saw it during a business trip to Japan. From that point on, he made it his mission to bring the series over to America. Even an initial rejection of a project inspired by Super Sentai, Bio-Man, did not deter him.
Eventually, Saban Entertainment and Fox Kids greenlit the Power Ranger. Thus, all they needed to do from that point was find teenagers with attitude.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1995)
To create a unique product that American children could relate to, Saban Entertainment realized that dubbing Super Sentai was not the way to go. Instead, they decided that they required an American cast to create the scenes for the Rangers when they were acting as civilians. Certainly, the popularity of shows like Saved by the Bell influenced their decision to create a high school drama as the backdrop for Power Rangers.
Thus, they made a casting call for five actors with backgrounds in martial arts, dancing, or any other physical activity. The first five actors to land the role of the Rangers were Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, Walter Emanuel Jones, Amy Jo Johnson, and David Yost. Meanwhile, Saban kept the action scenes from the original series, so the original Japanese actors remained in the series.
They also decided to not use the original Super Sentai series to initiate their Power Rangers Franchise. Instead, they turned to one of the series that was currently on air in Japan, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger or Dinosaur Squadron Zyuranger. This possibly was a stroke of genius since dinosaurs tend to attract the attention of children. Thus, the Japanese action scenes featured characters with dinosaur helmets and zords.
With these elements in place, it was time for American children all around to learn about morphin’ time.
Rita Repulsa’s Return and the call for teens with attitude
The series quickly set the stage with the return of an ancient which, Rita Repulsa, whom Zordon and past Rangers sealed away for 10,000 years. While Saban Entertainment kept Machiko Soga’s footage of her role as Witch Bandora, Barbara Goodson dubbed over her voice. After her release, Rita quickly made it her goal to achieve her dream of conquering over the earth with her henchmen in toe. These henchmen included Baboo, Goldar, and Squatt.
Luckily for Earth, one of its original protectors who defeated Rita Repulsa in the past was still around to sense her return. While Zordon had aided in the witch’s defeat in the past, he was now in a time warp and notably appeared as just ahead in a large canister. Thus, he needed the aid of a team, which he notably requested as five teens with attitude. His main assistant, Alpha 5, quickly set off to search the earth for the new team of rangers.
Eventually, Zordon’s call led them to a group of five teenagers from Angel Grove, California, who all attended the same high school. Thus, Jason Lee Scott, Trini Kwan, Zack Taylor, Kimberly Hart, and Billy Cranston found themselves teleported to Zordon’s lair. Not long after explaining the threat to the earth, each of these five teenagers received power coins with the ability to morph in the Power Rangers.
The Original Power Rangers
Austin St. John portrayed Jason Lee Scott, who took on the mantle of the original leader of the Power Rangers. With the power of the Tyrannosaurus, Jason became the Red Ranger and wielded the Power Sword. He also piloted the Red Tyrannosaurus Dinozard, which became the Megazord’s head and torso. After his Dinozord’s destruction, he piloted the Red Dragon Thunderzord.
Thuy Trang portrayed Trini Kwan, who became the yellow ranger. As the yellow ranger, Trini called upon the power of the saber-toothed tiger when she morphed. In combat, the Yellow Ranger wielded the power daggers. Likewise, she piloted the Saber-tooth Tiger Dinozard, which transformed into the Megazord’s right leg. After her Dinozard’s destruction, the Yellow Ranger piloted the Saber-tooth Tiger Griffin Thunderzord.
Walter Emanuel Jones portrayed Zack Taylor, who morphed into the black ranger and essentially acted as the second-in-command. In battle, he wielded the Power Axe. Zack piloted the Mastodon Dragonzord, which formed the back and arms of the Megazord. After his Dinozord’s destruction, he piloted the Mastodon Lion Thudnerzord.
Amy Jo Johnson portrayed Kimberly Hart, who morphed into the Pink Ranger with the power of the pterodactyl. As the Pink Ranger, she used the Power Bow while in combat against humanoid foes. Then, she piloted the Pterodactyl Dinozard which transformed into the Megazord’s chest plate. After her Dinozord’s destruction, the Pink Ranger piloted the Pterodactyl Firebird Thunderzord.
Finally, David Yost portrayed Billy Cranston, who called upon the power of the Triceratops to morph into the Blue Ranger. In hand-to-hand combat, the Blue Ranger wielded the Power Lance. Meanwhile, he was the pilot of the Triceratops Dinozard, which transformed into the Megazord’s left leg. After his original zord’s destruction, Billy became the pilot of the Triceratops Unicorn Thunderzord.
The Sixth Power Ranger
Not to be forgotten, the original team of Power Rangers quickly gained a sixth Ranger, who began as their adversary. Jason David Frank joined the cast as Tommy Oliver, a new student at Angel Groove High School. Not long after arriving in town, Rita Repulsa chose him to be her brainwashed minion to take down the Power Rangers with. He caught her attention with his excellence in martial arts, which rivaled Jason’s abilities.
Thus, Rita snatched Tommy away to test his abilities against a squad of her putty minions. After he passed her test, she cast a spell to enslave his mind and granted him a power coin with the power of a dragon. Thus, Tommy became the Green Ranger and posed a threat to the Power Rangers.
As Rita’s Green Ranger, Tommy wielded the Sword of Darkness, which both enhanced his abilities as well as kept him under her control. He tried to sabotage the Ranger’s Command Center and posed a deadly threat to the team. Later, he gained a dragon dagger to call upon an even greater threat, the Dragonzord. Eventually, the Rangers realized that Tommy was under a spell and broke the Sword of Darkness to free him.
After Rita’s spell broke, Tommy stayed the Green Ranger, helping the rest of the team in their battles. He continued to use the dragon dagger both in battle and to call upon the Dragonzord. Additionally, the Dragonzord empowered the rest of the zords by combining with them in two ways. First, it combined with the Mastodon, Triceratops, and Saber-Tooth Tiger Dinozords to form the battle mode. More importantly, it combined with the entire team to form the Mega Dragonzord.
The Pairing in Unholy Matrimony
The Power Rangers were not the only team to gain an additional member. Rita Repulsa also gained a new partner of sorts who overtook her role as the main adversary in the second season.
Robert Axelrod supplied the voice for Ed Neil’s uncredited performance as Lord Zedd, who stormed onto the scene in the second season. Initially, Rita’s consistent failures against the Rangers infuriated Lord Zedd. Thus, he shrunk her before sealing her away so that he could take over operations. Even though he had success in ridding Tommy’s Green Ranger power, he met the same difficulties as the witch.
Meanwhile, Rita Repulsa managed to secretly return before she cast a love potion on Lord Zedd. While she did not gain the infatuated lackey she was hoping for, Lord Zedd became Rita’s domineering husband. The pair then wed in unholy matrimony to cement their partnership.
As for Tommy, he did not remain powerless for long. He returned to the scene as the white ranger with the power of the white tiger. Likewise, he gained a new zord, the White Tigerzord which once again empowered the rest of the team to form the Mega Tigerzord.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
Nothing testifies to the popularity of Saban Entertainment’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers more than the cinematic movie. In 1995, the Power Rangers hit the silver screen with a new villain, new powers, and new zords.
Both Rita Repulsa and Lord Zed stepped aside after the release of Ivan Ooze, who entrapped the pair in a snow globe. Like Rita Repulsa, Ivan Ooze was one of Zordon’s prior foes, though he had ruled over the earth for a time 6,0000 years ago. Once Ivan cemented his command, he began spreading his ooze throughout Angel Groove to take over the minds of the adults. More importantly, as Ivan distracted the Power Rangers with his ooze monsters, he slipped into the command center before he annihilated the installation and incapacitated Zordon. This move separated the Rangers from their powers, returning them to normal teenagers.
Thus, Zordon sent the Rangers off on a quest for a new source of power. In the end, they found the power of the Ninjetti and gained new animal spirits. The Red Ranger, Rocky de Santos (Steve Cardenas), gained the power of the ape. Then, the Yellow Ranger, Aisha Campbell (Karan Ashley), now had the power of the bear. Billy, still the Blue Ranger, gained the powers of the wolf. Adam Park (Johnny Yong Bosh), now the Black Ranger, unhappily called upon the power of the frog. Kimberly, still the Pink Ranger, now called upon the Crane. Finally, Jason called upon the Falcon to become the white Ranger once more.
With their new powers in hand, the team confronted and defeated Ivan Ooze with their new Megazord.
Continued Legacy of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Well past the 1990s, the Power Rangers continues to debut new shows even up to the current day. In total, there have been 28 seasons on American televisions, with the last few going straight to streaming services like Netflix. Likewise, the Super Sentai series continues in Japan, creating more source material for the Power Rangers to localize.
Beyond the television series, there have been theatrical reboots of the Power Rangers, one in 2017 which did not fare well, and one that is still in production. Likewise, the Power Rangers had made their mark on comics, with Boom Studios currently holding the license.
Most importantly, the Power Rangers stay a successful toy line. While Saban originally maintained a relationship with the original creator of Super Sentai toys, Bandai, they ended their contract after 25 years. Instead, they turned to Hasbro to create the newest wave of Power Rangers toys and media. Thus, we are now looking forward to seeing crossover toys with Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
With their continued profitability, we are likely to see Power Rangers for years to come.
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