August 05, 2023


            In 1975, Shotaro Ishinomori created a Japanese media franchise for Toei Company called Super Sentai. Shows made within it were of the tokusatsu genre, which featured live-action characters and colorful special effects geared towards children. The protagonists of these programs were a team of people who transformed into superheroes with powers via wrist-worn or hand-held devices, complete with color-coded outfits, signature weapons, sidearms, specialized vehicles and enhanced fighting skills. Their foes were typically monstrous supervillains from other worlds seeking to take over the Earth with their army of soldiers and a monster that could become a giant, necessitating its defeat via a mecha piloted by the heroes. Himitsu Sentai Gorenger was the first, running from 1975-77, followed by J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai in 1977. A partnership with Marvel Comics to produce a live-action Spider-Man would see the introduction of giant robots into the franchise.

The Sentai that would become Power Rangers.

            In 1984, while on a business trip to Japan, Haim Saban was introduced to Super Sentai through Choudenshi Bioman. Fascinated with the concept as well as its popularity, and feeling like it had great potential for American audiences, he and partner Shuki Levy quickly produced a pilot called Bio-Man in 1986. Unfortunately, the networks didn’t see the same potential they did and the pilot was hopelessly shopped around and rejected for five years. It wasn’t until Margaret Loesch became the head of Fox Kids that the idea gained any traction. Loesch was familiar with Super Sentai as the former head of Marvel Productions, who were at one point trying to do the same thing as Saban with a series called Sun Vulcan based on the 5th entry in the Super Sentai series, Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan. While Loesch was amenable, her boss was not and reluctantly allowed financing for a pilot, which Saban based around the latest Sentai season, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. The pilot was received well enough to get a 40-episode order for the series that would become Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Teenagers with attitude: the original cast of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

            Mighty Morphin would set the standards by which all Power Rangers shows would follow. Saban’s crew would pour through countless hours of the Sentai to find any footage that wouldn’t betray its Japanese origins, then intercut them with all-new American footage. Saban would also acquire the hero and monster suits from Toei. The series was set up that galactic wizard Zordon (Daivd J. Felding & Bob Manahan) recruited five teenagers with attitude to bestow powers up to deal with the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa (Machiko Soga & Carla Perez with Barbara Goodson) from her 10,000-year confinement. The series made its debut on August 28, 1993, and was a smash success despite criticism over its violent content. The actors became overnight celebrities, and the toys produced by Bandai flew off shelves. Mighty Morphin ended up being aired 6 days a week on the Fox Kids programming block, and additional episodes beyond the original 40 were ordered. This eventually prompted Saban to commission Toei to film more scenes that they could use as they exhausted the original broadcast footage. Additionally, the franchise received a theatrical movie spin-off, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, which featured specially-designed suits and utilized no Japanese footage for the first time.

New mostly-teenagers with attitude: the final cast of Power Rangers Turbo.

            Once their Sentai supply had run dry again, Saban opted to embrace a Sentai tradition of having the Rangers get new powers each season. This transition was handled by de-aging the Power Rangers and having a team of Aliens from the planet Aquitar temporarily take their place during the second half of the third season. Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers utilized footage from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. The Rangers were restored and given new powers in Power Rangers Zeo, adapting Chouriki Sentai OhRanger. A second film, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, was used to establish the next set of powers in Power Rangers Turbo, adapting Gekisou Sentai Carranger. The membership roster would also undergo some changes as actors left over pay disputes or just being ready to move on, or were simply replaced to help renew audience interest and inject new life into the franchise.

Power Rangers heads to space.

            Power Rangers in Space, adapting Denji Sentai Megaranger, was set to be the final series in the franchise as ratings had significantly declined during Turbo. However, as In Space’s ratings dramatically improved, it was decided to keep the franchise going while adopting another Sentai tradition: a continually changing cast. Along with the new powers, each new season would feature all-new characters and fictional cities for them to protect. In Space was used to end what has become known as the Zordon Era, culminating in the character’s death used as a catalyst to eliminate all of the foes plaguing the Rangers up to that point. It would also begin the tradition of the team-up episode, where past incarnations of Rangers would meet up with the current for an adventure (although it should be noted that Zeo did crossover with the Alien Rangers).

The cast of Wild Force.

       Power Rangers continued on unchanged until Wild Force, which adapted Hyakuju Sentai Gaoranger. In 1996, Saban Entertainment took their relationship with Fox Kids to the next level and merged with their parent company, Fox Children’s Productions, to form Fox Kids Worldwide. It became Fox Family Worldwide after acquiring International Family Entertainment the following year, owners of The Family Channel which became Fox Family Channel. Unfortunately, Fox Kids began to struggle as affiliates moved away from the block and Fox Family Channel lost a significant number of its audience after all their changes. In 2001, Disney purchased Fox Family Worldwide, acquiring Saban and all of its properties—such as Power Rangers—in the process. Disney finished out the second half of Wild Force with full intentions of ending the series right there, but were convinced to keep it going after being assured they could save a fortune by moving production to New Zealand. MMPR Productions, the subsidiary of Saban set-up exclusively to manage the franchise, was dissolved and replaced by BVS Entertainment.

RPM, the end of the Disney Era.

           Power Rangers Ninja Storm, adapting Ninpu Sentai Hurricaneger, became the official beginning of what’s known as the Disney Era of Power Rangers; which aired on various Disney-owned networks. It stood on its own, featuring no crossover with Wild Force due to the expense of transporting the actors over, and had a dramatically more comedic tone than previous entries. While fans initially didn’t know what to make of it, they eventually came around and the season was often regarded as the best of the franchise. Disney continued producing several more seasons of Power Rangers until wanting to get out once again with the conclusion of Jungle Fury, which adapted Juken Sentai Gekiranger. Obligations to Bandai led to the production of one additional season, RPM, adapting Engine Sentai Go-Onger. Disney’s final contribution to the franchise came with re-releasing the first 32 episodes of Mighty Morphin with a new intro and new special effects, known as the “Reversioned” episodes.

Saban returns: Power Rangers Samurai.

            In 2010, Haim Saban bought back the Power Rangers franchise from Disney to begin the second Saban Era (also known as The New Saban Era, the Saban Brands Era, the Nickelodeon Era or the Neo-Saban Era). Production resumed with Power Rangers Samurai, adapting Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, under new Saban subsidiary Saban Brands. A deal was also reached with Nickelodeon to air the series on their network, with reruns of older seasons airing on Nicktoons. Samurai became the first time since the Zordon Era that the same cast appeared for multiple seasons, as the show was split into two due to Nickelodeon airing restrictions and given the adjusted title Power Rangers Super Samurai. This would happen for every entry in the New Saban Era. In 2017, Saban made their third crack at a film franchise with Power Rangers; a darker, fully-Americanized reboot of the series. Unfortunately, it ended up being a box-office bomb and sequel plans were abandoned.

Beast-morphin into the Hasbro Era.

            In 2018, Saban and Bandai announced that they would be ending their long-standing partnership and that Hasbro would become the master toy licensor for the franchise starting the following year, with an option to buy the franchise outright. Hasbro exercised that option and bought Power Rangers and other Saban assets in May of 2018. Power Rangers Beast Morphers, adapting Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, became the first entry of the Hasbro Era, produced by Hasbro’s Allspark Pictures. Production moved to Entertainment One for Power Rangers Dino Fury, which adapted Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger with additional props and costumes from Ressha Sentai ToQger. Upon expiration of the agreement with Nickelodeon in 2021, airing of the franchise moved to Netflix exclusively for the second season.

Comic Fury, the end of an era?

            Because Dino Fury was so well-received, Hasbro opted to give it a third limited season of 10 episodes. It was renamed Cosmic Fury for marketing purposes and now included elements from Uchu Sentai Kyuranger. Cosmic Fury would be the first series to utilize mostly American footage and all-new suits, and the first to feature a full-time female Red Ranger. Additionally, a 30th anniversary special featuring a mix of both generations of the original Mighty Morphin cast called Power Rangers: Once & Always was produced and aired in 2023. It had no Sentai footage at all outside of a flashback sequence and remade previously used stock footage in CGI. After 30 years, Hasbro decided to bring the current production of Power Rangers to an end in favor of a complete reboot of the series in association with Paramount. Once production wrapped on Cosmic Fury, the crew left New Zealand behind after 20 years to head into the unknown future of Hasbro’s Power Rangers.

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