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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

Now that we’re into the month of October, I think it’s time to get ready for the big holiday that is fast approaching.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Canada, we actually have two holidays that we celebrate in October.  Because our harvest season in Canada is six weeks earlier than that of the United States, we end up celebrating our Thanksgiving this coming Monday (in Canada, our Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October).

But for the rest of you reading this blog, another holiday is coming up at the end of the month.

I’m talking about Halloween, of course!  And, just as I have done last year around this time, I will be doing a heavy focus on some spooky songs, macabre movies, terror-filled television, and chilling cartoons.  Not every entry will be Halloween themed this month, but I’m sure that you’ll like the choices I have selected for this upcoming month.

(At least I HOPE you will anyway.)

I’m sure that most of you are really looking forward to Halloween, especially if you are a child.  After all, Halloween is probably the one holiday that most dentists dread the most with all of the candy bars, licorice twists, caramel chews, and Tootsie Roll Pops being given out to ghosts and goblins who wish to satisfy their desire for sweets.  Believe the days when I used to go trick-or-treating, I would stay out from 5:30 in the evening to almost nine o’clock, trying to get as much candy as I possibly could before the lights were turned out for the night. 

I was very hard core when it came to Halloween candy.

As most of you know, there is a lot more preparation than just buying bags of candy.  You also have to buy a pumpkin that is suitable for transforming into a jack-o-lantern, and decorations that will transform your home into the spookiest house on the block.

And, of course, there are the costumes.

Whether you went to the local department store to purchase a store-bought costume, or had your costumes hand-made (most of mine were made by a variety of relatives including my mother, grandmother, and two sisters), choosing the perfect Halloween costume was incredibly important.  You choose the wrong costume, you were teased mercilessly for it.

The last year I dressed up in a costume and went trick-or-treating was Halloween 1993.  I only remember the exact date because there was a massive blizzard that year, and I was getting too big to go out much longer.  Even though I was only twelve years old in 1993, I was already 5’7”, and my voice was starting to crack.  Because 1993 was my last year getting free candy, I was not about to let a few snowflakes stop me from experiencing my final year of trick-or-treating.

If I remember correctly, 1993 was the year I dressed up as Jughead Jones...or, maybe it was the can of Coca-Cola.  I can’t really remember the exact order, but I did wear both costumes at one time.  But you could tell what the popular costumes were back in 1993.  There were lots of Disney Princess costumes...I seem to recall seeing a lot of Princess Jasmine in particular, since “Aladdin” had come out the year before.  Superhero costumes were also big that year, such as Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman.  Even old standby costumes such as ghosts, pumpkins, mummies, and spiders were still very much popular.

But in 1993, I also saw some rather weird costumes.  They were skin-tight costumes with what appeared to look like they had a white argyle print on the front of them.  They came in a variety of colours, such as red, pink, yellow, black, and blue and you couldn’t tell who was who, as they all wore elaborate masks with them.  To me, they looked like the Foot Soldiers from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” after they had fallen into a vat of Crayola crayon wax.

Little did I know that these strange characters were part of a brand new children’s show that had debuted on both YTV and Global Television here in Canada.  It was a show that originated in Japan, and as of 2011 has undergone quite a few reincarnations and cast changes. 

For today’s blog entry, we’re going to take a look at the original series that kicked it all off.

Whether you loved them or hated them, today’s blog topic is all about the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”, a show that debuted in the United States on August 28, 1993.

Well, okay...the AMERICAN version debuted in August 1993.  In reality, the show that inspired the Power Rangers was filmed exactly one year earlier in 1992. 

Some of the footage that ended up being edited into episodes of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” came from the 16th installment of the long running Japanese series “Super Sentai”.

To bring the program to American audiences, scenes were filmed on a California soundstage, and were incorporated with the Japanese footage to create a story arc for the American characters that were introduced.

I’ll readily admit to not watching this program much when it was most popular.  At age 12, I watched a few episodes of it, but it didn’t really catch my attention.  Perhaps if I had been a few years younger, I would have had more appreciation for the show, but I had stopped playing with action figures and had moved on to video games around that time, so the show didn’t exactly appeal to me.  I imagine that there were millions of boys and girls who watched this program wanting to be Power Rangers themselves, and because of that desire, it lead to some rather controversial moments.  But, I’ll save that for later.

Anyway, the basic plot of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” is this.  Two astronauts end up exploring the surface of a mysterious planet where they come across a strange extraterrestrial container.  The astronauts accidentally open the container, and release an evil alien sorceress named Rita Repulsa.  She and her minions were sealed in the container ten thousand years earlier by a sage named Zordon in an effort to bring the universe peace.  However, upon Rita’s release, she sets sight on conquering the nearest planet within the solar system.

Unfortunately for us, it’s Earth.

What’s worse, Zordon is unable to do anything about it as he (for whatever reason) is nothing more than a gigantic head in a tube.  It kind of reminded me of a low-budget version of “The Wizard of Oz”.  But Zordon hasn’t given up yet.  He orders his robotic assistant, Alpha 5 to look for five teenagers with attitude who can defend the Earth against Rita’s attacks.

And here’s a shocker...all five teens were found in the same city...the fictional Angel Grove, California.  The five teenagers were Jason Lee Scott (Austin St. John), Trini Kwan (Thuy Trang), Billy Cranston (David Yost), Zack Taylor (Walter Jones), and Kimberly Hart (Amy Jo Johnson).  All five teenagers had their own strengths and personalities.  Jason, for example, was a trained martial artist who often competed in tournaments.  Trini was trained in the art of kung fu.  Billy was the brains of the operation who knew all about electronics, machinery, and technology.  Zack was the stereotypical jock who dabbled in dancing and womanizing, and Kimberly was a trained gymnast who sometimes acted on impulse, rather than common sense, but had a heart of pure gold.

Together, these five were chosen to become the Power Rangers by Zordon himself.  They were given Power Coins, which could transform them into the Power Rangers, five soldiers who were strong enough to battle against Rita’s monsters.  In case you were wondering, the Power Ranger colours corresponded to the colours I highlighted each of the character names in the paragraph where I introduce all of you to the characters.  They were also given weapons that they could use to defend themselves against Rita’s monsters.  Some of the monsters were from Rita’s personal arsenal, but others were enchanted items (such as one of Trini’s dolls, for example).  Sometimes, Rita would use her magic to make the monsters grow to ten times their size, which sometimes lead to the Power Rangers using more brute force.

You see, with the teens transforming into the Power Rangers, they were also given robotic vehicles (kind of similar to what you may see on “Transformers”) known as Zords.  And each Zord was named after a particular prehistoric animal.  I did some research, and the five Zords were tyrannosaurus rex, sabre-toothed tiger, triceratops, mastodon, and pterodactyl (the colours of the Zords corresponded with the colour of the Power Ranger.  

If things got too hairy for the Power Rangers, the Zords could combine together to become the MegaZord, which could destroy almost all threats that Rita Repulsa sent.

(My goodness, I forgot just how cheesy this show really wonder I only managed to get through two or three shows...)

As if dealing with Rita wasn’t bad enough, the gang also had to deal with school bullies Bulk (Paul Schrier) and Skull (Jason Narvey), who not only picked on them when they were living the lives of average teenagers, but who tried to find out who the Power Rangers really were.  But considering that both of them had the IQ of a sack of potatoes, they never really did succeed in either.

Jason, Trini, Billy, Zack, and Kimberly were the original Power Rangers...but over the show’s original three-year run, four original characters would eventually leave the show to be replaced with four new actors, and a brand new character was also added.  During season one, a new character, Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank) enrolled as a new student at Angel Grove High, and he immediately forged a friendship with Jason and developed a crush on Kimberly.  But Rita initially brainwashed him into being an enemy of the Power Rangers.  Initially, he proves to be a major threat to the Power Rangers, but after he is defeated, and Jason breaks the spell Rita put on him, Tommy ends up becoming the sixth Ranger.  Initially, he starts off as the Green Ranger, but later becomes the White Ranger.  He also is the only Ranger to control two different Zords...firstly, the dragonzord, and then the tigerzord.

During season two, Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, and Walter Jones all left the show in a contract dispute, and three new cast members were brought in to replace them after Jason, Trini, and Zack left to attend a world peace conference.  The new characters were Rocky DeSantos (Steve Cardenas), Aisha Campbell (Karan Ashley), and Adam Park (Johnny Yong Bosch).  It is after this switch is made that the first of two Power Rangers feature films were released in 1995.  And in season three when Amy Jo Johnson wanted to pursue other projects, she left the show and was replaced by Australian actress Catherine Sutherland to play the second Pink Ranger Katherine Hillard.

The show was immensely popular between 1993 and 1994, as many kids watched the shows, bought the action figures, and wore the clothing.  But many parents were concerned about the level of violence that was being exhibited in the program, and some stations took drastic measures after some kids ended up getting hurt as a result of trying to imitate the moves shown on the program.  In one bizarre case in Norway, an eleven-year-old girl died after her friends murdered her while attempting to recreate a scene from the show (though later reports state that they were actually watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”).  At any rate, YTV in Canada opted to pull the show after just one year on the air due to complaints from parents groups, and in the United States, the program was preceded by warnings, and were blocked by the then brand new V-Chip.  The show was also pulled from air in New Zealand.

It’s been seventeen years since the original reincarnation of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” has aired, and I can think of several shows that were a lot WORSE in content than that...but it really was a big deal back then.  Then again, ABC Kids recently reaired the whole series as recently as 2010, so maybe time healed all wounds, so to speak.

And, mind you, the acting quality on the show wasn’t exactly Oscar winning...but it was a show marketed towards young kids, so I can sort of forgive that fact.  But there have been some success stories.  Amy Jo Johnson ended up acting in “Felicity” and “Flashpoint”, for example, and Johnny Yong Bosch is a key voice actor in the English dubbing of Japanese anime.

Sadly, not all the actors had such a happy ending.  In September 2001, Thuy Trang ended up dying in a car accident at the age of 27.  And, David Yost made the accusations that he was forced to quit the show after crew members of the show made homophobic comments towards him (he came out around 1999-2000), a claim that the crew has since denied.

But one thing is for sure...whether you loved the show or hated it, it certainly made a huge mark in 1990s pop culture.  So, I say that it deserves a space in this blog.

After all, it did influence one of 1993’s most popular Halloween costume choices.

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