Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was never a shortage of small screen superhero cartoons, but there weren’t too many shows of that nature geared toward younger viewers in live action. That changed in a big way in 1993, when Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first exploded onto screens, to the delight of kids everywhere – and to the alarm of some parents!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers centred on a quintet (later a sextet) of teenagers who are drafted by a benevolent alien super-being named Zordon to become the world’s most powerful fighting team and protect Earth from the threat of space witch Rita Repulsa. A bizarre, low-budget action-adventure show, it was largely built around footage from a pre-existing TV series, Japan’s Super Sentai, with costumed battle scenes and monster-vs-robot action cut together (not always convincingly) with new, specially shot footage featuring an American cast.
It was campy, colourful and often patently absurd, but it became a popular sensation, and spawned a multi-media franchise which endures to this day. Did you know the following fascinating facts about the TV show that started it all?
20. Stan Lee and Marvel tried to get the show made years earlier
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the brainchild of producer Haim Saban and his partner Shuki Levy.
The 80s had seen a number of Japanese cartoons re-edited and dubbed for Western audiences, e.g. Voltron and Battle of the Planets.
Saban saw the potential of taking a similar approach with Japanese live-action series Super Sentai.
However, Haim Saban wasn’t the first person in the US entertainment industry to hit upon this notion.
Earlier on, Stan Lee – figurehead of legendary comic company and future film giants Marvel – unsuccessfully pitched much the same idea to the US TV networks.
Marvel already had connections in Japan, following the production of a notoriously outlandish Spider-Man live action series there; indeed, it has been remarked that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers owes a debt stylistically to the Japanese Spider-Man series.
19. The Yellow Ranger was originally male
The initial line-up of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers consisted of three boys and two girls.
These were Red Ranger Jason (Austin St. John), Black Ranger Zack (Walter Emmanuel Jones) and Blue Ranger Billy (David Yost), plus Pink Ranger Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson) and Yellow Ranger Trini (Thuy Trang).
Later, Jason David Frank joined as Tommy, the Green Ranger who eventually became the White Ranger.
However, this initial line-up deviated from the original Super Sentai in one pretty notable way.
In the original Japanese show, the Yellow Ranger was actually male, and footage of this masked male performer is used in place of Thuy Trang.
If you look closely at the fight scenes in early episodes this is fairly obvious. (What can we say, they’re in spandex.)
18. Blue Ranger Billy Cranston was named after Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston
David Yost’s Blue Ranger is known as Billy Cranston – a name which might sound familiar to modern audiences.
The writers of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers named the character in honour of actor Bryan Cranston.
Back in the early 90s, Cranston was a little-known jobbing actor, and he voiced some of the monsters in a few of the show’s early episodes.
Within a decade, Cranston would rise to global fame through two very different small screen roles.
These were Hal on sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, and most notably Walter White on acclaimed crime drama Breaking Bad.
Cranston would later honour the show by taking the role of Zordon in the 2017 Power Rangers movie.
17. The theme tune was a top ten Christmas hit in the UK
Like any great kids TV show, a big part of why Mighty Morphin Power Rangers made such an impression on the audience was its incredibly catchy and memorable theme tune.
Producers Haim Saban and Shuki Levy understood this very well, as they composed music for many beloved 80s cartoon shows.
Saban and Levy’s musical credits include He-Man, She-Ra and Inspector Gadget (although there have been allegations that the duo sometimes passed off the work of other composers as their own).
However, Saban and Levy did not come up with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme, which was composed and performed by musician Ron Wasserman.
The theme tune proved so popular that it was released as a single in December 1994, entitled Go Go Power Rangers.
The song was a hit in a number of countries including the United Kingdom, where it made the top ten at Christmas.
That same year, East 17‘s Stay Another Day was the UK’s Christmas number one, with Mariah Carey‘s All I Want for Christmas is You at number two.
16. The show was taken off air in some countries after angry parents complained it was too violent for kids
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers proved to be massively popular with the young kids it was targeted towards.
However, the show didn’t go down so well with a lot of disgruntled parents and critics of media violence.
Many argued the show was completely inappropriate for children because it glamourised fighting and weaponry.
In the US, complaints about the series were sent to the Federal Communications Commission, whilst in the UK it was aired with a pre-show warning to children telling them not to imitate the Power Rangers’ moves.
The show proved particularly controversial in Canada and New Zealand; in both these territories, it was pulled off the air following widespread complaints.
The New Zealand ban proved particularly ironic, as from 2003 onwards New Zealand became the production base for the Power Rangers franchise.
15. Three original cast members were replaced after they asked for more money
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers may have become a massively profitable franchise, but this money didn’t always see its way to the cast and crew.
The original show was a non-union production, shot on a very low budget, and all the actors were paid a basic one-off salary of only $600 a week, with no royalties from merchandise or reruns.
Red Ranger actor Austin St. John once said he “could have worked the window at McDonald’s and probably made the same money the first season.”
Midway through the second season, St. John and his co-stars Walter Emmanuel Jones and Thuy Trang banded together to demand a better pay deal.
This didn’t work out, and all three actors were promptly written off the show to be replaced by Steve Cardenas (second Red Ranger Rocky), Johnny Yong Bosch (second Black Ranger Adam), and Karan Ashley (second Yellow Ranger Aisha).
It was this line-up that first took the franchise to the big screen in 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
14. Actor David Yost was bullied on set over his sexuality
The five good-natured young heroes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are never anything but friendly and respectful to one another on-camera.
Sadly, that same philosophy wasn’t always followed by everyone who worked on the series behind the scenes.
Billy actor David Yost had to put up with persistent mockery and bullying from the crew because he was gay.
Yost recalls being addressed by hateful slurs, by “creators, producers, writers [and] directors” on the series.
While this abuse didn’t prevent Yost from being the longest-serving original cast member, it took its toll psychologically, and eventually prompted him to quit the series.
Afterwards, Yost underwent so-called conversion therapy in the hopes of turning him straight. Happily, the actor is now at peace with his sexuality.
13. Actress Thuy Trang died in a car accident in 2001
Thuy Trang enjoyed some acting success after leaving Mighty Morphin Power Rangers during the second season.
The Trini actress went on to land movie roles in The Crow: City of Angels and Leslie Nielsen comedy Spy Hard.
Tragically, her life was cut short when she was killed in a car accident in 2001, aged just 27.
Trang was a passenger in the vehicle with a soon-to-be-married friend for whom she was poised to be a bridesmaid.
Trang was the only fatality in the accident, the driver and other passengers surviving with serious injuries.
The 2001 Power Rangers Time Force episode Circuit Unsure was dedicated to Trang’s memory.
12. There have since been 24 more Power Rangers shows
After three seasons, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers officially came to an end in 1996.
This, however, was most certainly not the end of the Power Rangers small screen franchise.
The series has endured by essentially rebooting almost annually since 1996, each time with a new cast and a slightly different angle on the mythos.
At the time of writing, there have been 24 such sequel shows. First there was Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, then Power Rangers Zeo, Power Rangers Turbo, Power Rangers in Space, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue and Power Rangers Time Force.
Next came Power Rangers Wild Force, Power Rangers Ninja Storm, Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Power Rangers SPD, Power Rangers Mystic Force, Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, Power Rangers Jungle Fury and Power Rangers RPM. (You’d better be taking this all in, as there will be a test.)
The most recent incarnations of the franchise include (deep breath) Power Rangers Samurai and its sequel Super Samurai, Power Rangers Megaforce and sequel Super Megaforce, Power Rangers Dino Charge/Super Dino Charge, Power Rangers Ninja Steel, Power Ranger Beast Morphers, and the upcoming Power Rangers Dino Fury. Phew!
11. Austin St. John lived in his car after quitting the show
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were described as ‘five teenagers with attitude’ – but Austin St. John was the only actor in the original line-up still in his teens.
The original Red Ranger was 19 when the show began, and barely 20 when he quit over low pay and poor working conditions.
Unfortunately, as bad as things might have been for St John, they only got worse after he left the show.
The struggling actor wound up homeless, and says he “ended up sleeping out of my jeep.”
St. John largely retreated from acting, instead teaching martial arts and ultimately becoming a paramedic.
However, he would reprise his role of Jason in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, and has made several more guest appearances in the TV franchise.
10. The actors did their own stunts (and a lot of their own fight choreography)
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cast were all largely inexperienced actors who came from an athletic background.
Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, Walter Emmanuel Jones and Jason David Frank were experienced martial artists, whilst Amy Jo Johnson and David Yost were decorated gymnasts.
These skills came heavily into play in the series, as – on top of the repurposed battle scenes from Super Sentai – plenty of original action scenes were also filmed.
Because the show was shot on such a low budget, the cast often had to perform potentially risky moves themselves without stunt doubles.
On top of this, they were also frequently called upon to choreograph their own action sequences.
A particular challenge was set to Walter Emmanuel Jones, who was asked to create his own unique fighting style – Hip Hop Kido – especially for the show.
The physical side of the show proved hazardous, and all the cast members suffered minor injuries. In one episode Amy Jo Johnson and David Yost were electrocuted, and Johnson was almost set on fire on the set of Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.
9. Zordon actor David Fielding shot his entire role in a single day
The crew on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers did everything they could to keep production costs low.
One such money-saving technique was to constantly re-use as much existing footage as possible over the duration of the series.
David Fielding, the actor who portrays the Power Rangers’ alien mentor Zordon, was only on set a single day.
The footage that was shot of Fielding’s face was then used again in every subsequent episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
This explains why we never see Zordon’s lips moving. Still, Fielding did have to come back in regularly to record new dialogue.
Unfortunately for Fielding, the role of Zordon would be instead taken by actor Nicholas Bell in the 1995 movie.
8. Amy Jo Johnson once went busking in her Pink Power Ranger suit
The second longest-serving member of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cast (after David Yost) was Amy Jo Johnson.
As Pink Ranger Kimberly, Johnson became a huge fan favourite – and the first crush of a great many viewers.
After leaving the series in 1995, Johnson became probably the most successful Power Rangers alumni in terms of acting. She landed plenty of film and TV roles including a guest appearance in Saved by the Bell: The New Class, and a recurring role in Felicity.
Johnson has also gone on to enjoy success as a singer-songwriter, releasing three albums. On top of this, she has also worked as a director, with two short films and two full-length features on her resume at present.
In 2014, Johnson funded her first movie, The Space Between, through crowdfunding website Indiegogo – and when her campaign proved a success, she celebrated in an unexpected way.
After being dared to do so by David Yost, Johnson took to the streets of Toronto in her old Pink Power Ranger suit to sing.
This went down very well with longtime Power Rangers fans, and later Johnson had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the 2017 Power Rangers movie alongside Jason David Frank.
7. The young cast partied like crazy
As you’d probably expect from a cast of college-age kids enjoying sudden success, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cast loved to party.
Co-stars Austin St. John and Walter Emmanuel Jones co-shared a house in Glendale, California which became a major hub for after-hours socialising.
Jones recalls, “I’d come home sometimes and there were 150 people in our house that we didn’t know. I’d be like, ‘Hey, what’s going on’ and I guess we’re having a party.”
According to St. John, “We had some parties that were so big. Multiple kegs. Inevitably somebody would call the police and a helicopter would show up and put a spotlight on the backyard where we had a volleyball net [and] a big trampoline.”
“A cop would come knock on the door, “Excuse me, could you guys keep it down.” That was just business as usual.”
Guests at these wild shindigs would apparently often include actors from other popular shows of the time, although Jones and St. John are sworn to secrecy as to exactly who was there and what they got up to.
6. A different actress was cast as Trini in the pilot episode
The sadly missed Thuy Trang wound up playing Trini, the Yellow Ranger – but this wasn’t always the plan.
Back when the initial, unaired pilot episode for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was shot, Trini was portrayed by actress Audri Dubois.
Dubois was 25 at the time, making her the oldest of the original Power Rangers actors.
Considering what wound up happening with Austin St. John, Walter Emmanuel Jones and Dubois’ replacement Thuy Trang, it’s no great surprise that the actress wound up being dismissed over money.
Dubois asked for a higher salary than Saban Entertainment were offering, so they fired her.
She has since admitted regretting this decision, considering how successful Mighty Morphin Power Rangers became.
Dubois went on to do some work in stunts, and has been inducted into the American Karate Kung Fu Hall of Fame, as well as appearing at fan conventions.
5. The title was changed in some countries because they thought ‘Morphin’ meant morphine
When Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first hit the air, the word ‘morphing’ was pretty new in the popular vernacular.
The term was popularised by the CGI special effect by which one thing morphs into something else, a technique made famous by Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
This, then, was what was meant by the ‘morphin’ of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as the ordinary teenagers morph into superheroes (although the expensive CGI effect was never used on the low-budget show).
However, TV networks in some territories were horrified by the title, as they thought it referred to the drug morphine.
Because of this, ‘Morphin’ was deleted from the title in Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
In addition, all uses of the show’s frequently used catchphrase “it’s morphin’ time!” were also cut.
This was a particularly sensitive subject in these Far Eastern nations from which the opiate trade originates.
4. The show was originally going to be called Dino Rangers
Considering how iconic the title has become, it’s hard to imagine the series being called anything but Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
This wasn’t the plan at first, though, as the series was at first developed under the title Dino Rangers.
This would have made sense, as the Rangers all have dinosaur powers, and pilot dinosaur-shaped vehicles named Zords.
Plus, dinosaurs were all the rage with kids all over the world in 1993, thanks to mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park.
Ultimately the producers decided not to go with that title – nor was that the only small detail they changed their mind about.
Zordon was initially named Zoltar, and the Zords were going to be known simply as Droids.
3. Three Power Rangers movies have been made, and another is in the works now
The success of the series resulted in the release of 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
This set the cast of the TV show against Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hot Fuzz) as all-new villain Ivan Ooze.
Critics hated it, but the film was a box office hit, making over $66 million off the back of a $15 million budget.
A sequel followed in 1997’s Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie; this proved far less successful, making under $10 million (and all but the most fanatical fans agree it’s pretty terrible).
The franchise didn’t return to the big screen until 2017, with the release of Power Rangers, a more grounded and gritty reboot which was only a modest critical and commercial success.
Another reboot movie is already in development, with the perhaps surprising choice of Jonathan Entwistle (TV’s The End of the F***ing World) set to direct.
2. Jason David Frank hosted a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers karate video
Even though he wasn’t one of the original cast members, Jason David Frank quickly became the star of the show.
Frank joined Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as Green Ranger Tommy midway through the first season, initially as a bad guy.
Tommy was soon brought over to the good side, and eventually became the super-powered White Ranger, the de facto leader of the group.
Such was Frank’s popularity that he was also the host and instructor on a short series of instructional martial arts videos, entitled Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Karate Club.
These instructional videos can be found in their entirety on Youtube, and they emphasise the importance of adult supervision and only using the moves for self-defence.
Frank remained a series regular until the end of Power Rangers Turbo in 1997, and has reprised the role of Tommy in Wild Force, Super Megaforce and Ninja Steel, as well as being a full-time cast member of Power Rangers Dino Thunder.
Frank has also continued to pursue martial arts. He holds black belts in karate, judo and taekwondo, and has competed at an amateur and professional level in mixed martial arts.
1. The series was owned by Disney for nine years
You might not have known that, for almost a decade, the Power Rangers franchise was actually owned by Disney.
The House of Mouse snapped up the rights when they purchased Fox Kids, the first TV channel to air Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Disney owned the franchise from 2001 to 2010, producing every Power Rangers TV series from Time Force to RPM.
However, the company’s relationship with the brand didn’t prove as profitable as hoped, and after Power Rangers RPM ended, the rights were sold back to Saban Entertainment.
In the years since Disney has enjoyed far greater profits after purchasing Marvel, Lucasfilm and most recently 20th Century Fox. Meanwhile, Saban sold the Power Rangers franchise to toy company Hasbro in 2018 as part of a deal worth a reported $522 million.