Just twelve days before Christmas morning on December 13th, 1994, a four-year-old blonde-haired energetic boy with a bowl cut, his father, and his pregnant mother attended one of the greatest spectacles a 90’s kid could experience. The venue was the Universal Amphitheater, the event was “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers World Tour Live on Stage”. At the time The Power Rangers were an absolute worldwide phenomenon. MMPR was a children’s TV show that came on right as the youngsters were returning home from school. It’s about a group of six “teenagers with attitude” sporting bright-colored coordinating spandex costumes, wielding magical weapons, and summoning giant dinosaur robots (called Zords). All this was done in the name of “good” as the Rangers attempted to defeat the monster-of-the-week who was commanded by the wicked space witch Rita Repulsa and her complicated love interest, the ignoble Lord Zed. For those keeping score at home, Lord Zed’s costume design still holds up as one of the most unique, menacing, and great-looking villains from the 1990’s.
If you had a pulse and were under the age of eleven in 1993, the Power Rangers consumed your life. From light up sneakers, fruit snacks, school supplies, to even shaving kits for kids (yes, for whatever reason these were popular with 90’s kids), the Power Rangers were everywhere, and the kids couldn’t get enough. 1993 was “Morphin’ Time” baybay!
So just like every other popular entity in existence, the Power Rangers went on tour! Which brings us back to December 13th, 1994. The blonde-haired boy was me. To be honest, I wish I could remember more from that night, but I can’t. I can only imagine it was the most important moment of my life up to that point. The one thing I do remember is learning a lesson in knowing your status in a social setting.
Let me set the stage. It’s the night of the MMPR World Tour show and it’s minutes away from starting. The atmosphere was full of amped up excitement from the kids and a continuous “settle down” commentary from the crowd-controlling parents. I remember sitting far from the landing where people would go back and forth to the different levels and to the lobby of the venue. This area was just big enough for six to seven young elementary boys to imitate their best Red Ranger moves on one another (In actuality, it was mostly just a lot of uncoordinated hugging and wrestling to the ground.)
Photos of 4-Year-Old Max at Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Live in 1994
Of course being a mischief maker myself, the moment I saw these boys I too wanted to join in the rough-housing. With the perfect mother’s intuition, my mom urged me to play with the other boys on the landing. As I am going down the staircase to join the group, in the peripheral vision of my right eye, I see a white blur quickly approaching my target destination. As my left eye aligned with my right, what came into focus was no blur at all. It could’ve come right out of the Command Center itself. The blur was a kid a little older than me, at most two years, in a deluxe-looking (at least that’s how I remember it; I guess I remember more than I thought) Power Rangers White Ranger costume.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers averaged 4.8 million daily viewers in its first season, and 6.9 million in its second
Now as a kid, the White Ranger was the epitome of a badass. The White Ranger was the leader of the Power Rangers, at least in seasons 2 & 3 of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and the teenager in the suit was “Tommy Oliver” played by legendary and recently deceased Jason David Frank. Tommy was in white and gold armor, and his signature weapon was the enchanted short-sword, which had a talking white tiger head named “Saba” on the hilt. For a kid in the 90’s, if you had the toy of Tommy’s previous weapon, the Dragon Dagger, you were considered to be lucky. But, if you had the “Saba” toy, you were downright cool.
So as I watched this mysterious kid in the deluxe costume come down the steps, I noticed they had a ponytail bouncing back and forth, north and south, ricocheting off the elastic string holding their mask in place. It dawns on me…this White Ranger child is a girl! With each step I descend the stairs, I am closer to the group. I am beyond excited at this point. With five or so steps left before I hit the landing, I see Girl White Ranger approach the group and immediately roundhouse kick the chest of the first boy she saw. Then she proceeds to punish the next kid sporting a Power Rangers t-shirt with a textbook arm-drag takedown combo. Next I see Girl White Ranger approach her third victim, at which point I respond by turning around and heading right back up to join my parents. As I came back to my seat, my mom said “What happened? How come you didn’t want to play?” I responded with “…I changed my mind…”.
This little microcosm was the perfect illustration of the Power Rangers worldwide phenomenon: over-enthused kids awaiting the presence of the Power Rangers, parents at the mercy of their own amenability, merchandise galore, and oh yeah, higher enrollments in karate classes all across America.
But what made Power Rangers so big with the kids?
You look at it now with today’s lenses and question how something so primitive can shape an entire generation (and that’s not hyperbole). What’s the appeal of every episode having the same formula? The Power Rangers, usually as their teen selves, are faced with a challenge of morality or virtue, the monster-of-the-week invokes the teens to overcome said morality challenge by defeating the monster in their Ranger form, said monster is then vanquished, the teens then state the important lesson they learned, and the episode is over, only to repeat the exact same formula again in tomorrow’s new episode. And believe it or not, that formula has lasted 30 straight years, 973 episodes (as of the time of this article’s publishing), brought in multiple hundreds of millions of dollars, and is still going.
I can honestly say I found the answer to this question.
Back in August of 2022, I was able to attend Power Morphicon, the biggest designated Power Rangers convention in the world, located in Pasadena, California. The convention is organized by Scott Zillner, an avid toy collector and pop culture enthusiast who hosts multiple conventions throughout the year all across the LA region. Simply put, Power Morphicon is the Super Bowl for the Power Rangers fandom! Nowhere else in the world can you meet this many actors, suit actors, voice actors, writers, composers, prop masters and other professionals who have been directly involved with the Power Rangers franchise all in one location. It was at Power Morphicon where I had the privilege to have an interview with Karan Ashley aka “Aisha”, the Yellow Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (seasons 1-3), as she shared her thoughts on the upcoming 30th anniversary of the series. “Honestly, it feels like it was yesterday. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long but it’s been an amazing journey…If you would’ve told us thirty years ago we’d still be talking about Power Rangers and we’d still have amazing shows, I would’ve never believed you. None of us would’ve. It’s such a blessing to be part of something that has given so much to our fans, and our fans obviously give so much to us.”
Listen to all of Ready 2 Retro’s interviews from Power Morphicon 2022
The same sentiment of the Power Rangers community was shared by Brennan Mejia, who played Tyler the Red Dino Charge Ranger in Power Rangers Dino Charge (seasons 22-23). “Coming back (to Powermorphincon) is surreal. Getting to see all the Rangers again that are like family now. Meeting the new cast. Getting to see all the fans again. I am a fan too so it’s always fun getting to see the older Rangers who inspired me.”
Watch Ready 2 Retro’s full interview with the “Dino Charge Red Ranger”, Brennan Mejia, on YouTube
It’s about family, community and inclusion. This is why the Power Rangers franchise is still standing 30 years after.
Whether you’ve watched any part of the series or attended a convention with Power Rangers fanatics like those at Power Morphicon, the sense of unity within the franchise is evident. No matter how strong each Power Ranger is on their own, their greatest strength is the team. Every season and every episode emphasizes teamwork and working together to overcome a challenge. Only together can they defeat the monster-of-the-week. Only together can the Rangers conquer the forces of evil.
Much of the footage of the Power Rangers is taken from the Japanese counterpart called Super Sentai and then is dubbed by the American actors. It’s in the Power Rangers rendition, not so much Super Sentai, where the emphasis of teamwork is prominent, which can be accredited to the creator of MMPR, Haim Saban (The irony is that Saban has the reputation of being a cutthroat businessman who created a nonunion show, paid his actors $600 a week without any residuals or any cut of the product’s revenue, had unsafe working conditions, and fired anyone who tried to unionize the show. But that conversation is its own article).
All that to say, yes, the MMPR creative team back in 1993 not only wanted to create a show to sell toys, they also were instilling the value of unity. Even the racial makeup of each team is diverse. In fact, the original Black Ranger, Zack played by actor Walter Emanuel Jones, was the first ever black superhero on TV! Power Rangers valued inclusion on the screen. Unity, diversity and family always prevailed against the forces of evil on the show, is it so farfetched to say that’s the same case in the real world?
Image of Powers Rangers from many differents seasons teaming up on Season 27, Episode 13 titled “Grid Connection”
In a time where war is rampant all over the world, the global economy is hanging by a thread, and the global ecosystem is heating up causing catastrophic results, it seems like we need the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers the most right now. Or maybe we just need to embody the lessons they taught us beyond just the playground.
That’s what I was experiencing on that December night in 1994: a strong shared interest with others, which brought me connection (even if White Ranger Girl was after my head).
It was the Power Rangers who taught me that good can alway prevail, but only when we work together. This is how evil can be conquered.