Perhaps no other TV show represents the best fusion of East meets West than Power Rangers. This iconic (and wholly '90s) creation was the result of Israeli businessman, Haim Saban, surfing channels in a Tokyo hotel room in 1984. When his eyes first landed upon the Super Sentai series, he was put on a trajectory to create one of the most beloved multimedia franchises in pop culture history.
Mixing footage from the original Japanese show with that of an all-American cast, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were born. The first season followed a group of high schoolers that are chosen by an ancient being, known as Zordon, to fight against an eclectic collection of monsters and aliens sent by the space witch, Rita Repulsa.
Each Ranger was bestowed with a differently-colored costume, as well as their own ability, weapon, and morphing shape. And so, a cultural obssession began to take root in the minds of America's children. Twenty-five years later and the franchise is as popular as ever, prompting Insight Editions to commission an incredibly-detailed visual history of the toys, shows, and films.
Written by Jody Revenson and Ramin Zahed, Power Rangers: The Ultimate Visual History goes on sale early next week. We did some exclusive page reveals already, but we also scoured the massive tome for the best tidbits about the iconic Power Rangers brand. More than a few things surprised us, even after all these years.
Here they are...
The prehistoric pilot name:
According to the Foreword written by Amy Jo Johnson (the OG Pink Ranger herself), the original name for the show was called "Dino Rangers." While the title was eventually changed to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the idea of prehistoric lizards remained a part of the series in the form of Dinozords (used to fight against Repulsa's kaiju-esque minions) and the Dino Charge season in 2015.
The NFL connection and the mother of invention:
Believe it or not, but the National Football League had an influence on the iconic and colorful costumes we all know and love. At first, the show's head costume designer Danielle Baker was tasked with replicating the suits from the Japanese series. This soon proved to be difficult as, "The Japanese used a fabric that was a one-way stretch—it only stretched up and down."
In the end, Baker turned to a Rhode Island-based company that made uniforms for professional football players. Their fabric turned out to be better-suited to the American series, which had more involved stunts. "It was super comfortable, and they could move any way they wanted tom so no stunts were off limits," Baker says in the book.
One Japanese element that was used (other than footage, that is) was the Super Sentai toys, mainly the Morphers, which were being sold in the U.S. at the time. So, a Power Rangers sticker was slapped onto them and used as official props. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
We're off to see the Zordon:
The show was such a massive hit, that a movie version was inveitable. Indeed, this came to pass in 1995 with the Bryan Spicer-directed Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Interestingly, Spicer was partly basing the movie on an American cinematic classic.
"If you look at the whole structure of the story, it's a little bit like a Wizard of Oz journey," he says in the book's section on the first film. "[You are] meeting people along the way that help you or hurt you or stop you. There are hurdles along the way they have to get past, and once you get past each hurdle."
One deliberate nod to Oz, however, was the Tengu warrior birds, which were meant to be a direct homage to the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys.
Funnily enough, the producers wanted Rita Repulsa to be like the Wicked Witch of the West when the show first began in '93. Barbara Goodson provided the voice, while Machiko Soga and Carla Perez provided the face. When the pilot first aired, the producers were unsure of keeping Goodson on, fearing that her voice performance wasn't terrifying enough. To convince them, she belted out on long cackle, which would become a trademark of the character. Goodson got to keep her job, but reveals in the book that her last-ditch effort was the result of "being completely annoyed."
Tom Hanks prompted a character's name change:
Originally named Zoltar for the pilot, the Rangers' mentor needed to change his name due to a little 1988 film called Big, which starred budding superstar Tom Hanks.
"Somebody must have brought up the fact that Zoltar was the name of the arcade game in the movie Big, so they changed it to Zordon," recounts David Fielding, the voice of Zordon.
Technically, Zoltar was more a mechanical fortune teller that granted wishes, not an arcade game, but we won't get into semantics.
Kids and kids at heart:
What person doesn't have the words "GO! GO! POWER RANGERS!" nesting deep in their brains? A memorable theme song like that sticks around forever because of the way in which it was written. While it only took Ron Wasserman a little over two hours to write, he intended for the rock/metal-inspired to be enjoyed by both kids and adults alike.
"It came from a real rock-and-roll place inside me. I think the kids sensed that honesty," Wasserman says in the book's excerpt on his beloved brain.
Power Rangers PSAs:
Whenever something entertains children, you just know there's a parent ready to complain. Just as people claimed that D&D encouraged Satanism, Power Rangers came under parental fire for "promoting" violence.
Co-creator Shuki Levy once remarked in an interview that the Rangers were not violent by nature, only defending themselves when the fight came to them. Nevertheless, over one hundred public service announcements were produced, where the cast lectured the young audience about non-violence and saying no to drugs.
Power Rangers: The Ultimate Visual History goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 6.