Go Go Power Rangers—30 Years in Spandex

Published: Apr 12, 2023  |  

Multi-award winning journalist, author and screenplay writer

Red ranger

Bet this makes you feel old—it’s been 30 years since the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers made their TV debut. This anniversary for the superheroes in spandex is a time of celebration for many…but it appears not everyone got the memo.

A celebratory cast reunion event at California pop culture convention Wondercon fell flat when one of the actors broke with the rest to say what he really thought. Christopher Khayman Lee told the crowd: “The pay sucked, we got paid less than most of the crew, and the hours sucked too—we worked 16 hours a day.”

Lee, who played Andros in later episodes, added: “I didn’t want to do the show, had no interest, and told them at the audition they were wasting my time. I was being an asshole, but that’s kind of what the character was—so they hired me.” But Lee is not one of the actors from across various eras of the show hired to appear in the 30th anniversary special on Netflix.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once and Always, premieres April 19 on the streaming giant and sees an old enemy from the past causing so much mayhem that multiple rangers must return to action to save the day. Yes, once again, it’s morphin’ time!

Also not appearing in the nostalgic special is fan favorite Amy Jo Johnson, who played the original Pink Power Ranger in 138 episodes. But she denies reports that her non-appearance is due to the pay not being right. She recently tweeted: “Please stop saying I didn’t do reunion because of money. Simply not true. Maybe I just didn’t want to wear spandex in my 50s…none of ur beeswax.”

With or without some of its more memorable names, the 30th anniversary special is set to be a big nostalgia treat—especially for those who have watched from the very start.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted in 1993 as a hybrid action show mixing existing footage from a Japanese show, Super Sentai, with new material featuring American actors.

Entrepreneur Haim Saban dreamed it up after he saw the original Japanese superhero series on his hotel room TV during a business trip to Tokyo. He’s since become a multi-billionaire, largely thanks to the long-running show and its spin-off toys, movies and games.

The mash-up series Saban envisioned may have featured clunky dialogue and mismatched lip movements with badly dubbed Japanese footage, but it was all good, clean, cheesy fun—if a little violent—and each week, our karate expert heroes battled a different bizarre monster using teamwork to ultimately triumph. The enduring formula saw a team of youths morph into brightly costumed Power Rangers to use special powers of strength, agility and combat to save the day. Kids loved it.

It was a ratings hit right from the start and a merchandising moneyspinner too. The show’s toys, costumes and other merch generated $1 billion in revenue in 1995 alone, according to Fortune magazine. 

A mid-90s personal appearance by the Power Rangers actors at Universal Studios Hollywood drew 35,000 fans and caused an eight-mile traffic jam in Los Angeles. There was renewed interest in the franchise in 2012 and MMPR raked in $80 million in toy sales that year.

Three movies based on the series have been released so far, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1995), Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997) and, most recently, the reboot, Power Rangers (2017).

During the decades, the TV show has taken on different forms, with the rangers being space cadets, samurai, race car drivers and ninjas among other things. But while the show, which has been made in New Zealand since 2003, has bounced around various networks and platforms, it has never gone off our screens.

The next series, Power Rangers: Cosmic Fury, launches on Netflix this fall as the latest iteration of what has become one of the longest-running shows in television history.

Like Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sonic the Hedgehog, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers catapulted into the pop culture hall of fame and stayed there, with comic books, video games, and conventions all adding to the appeal.

Talking of conventions, the Wondercon 30th anniversary panel was saved when Brennan Mejia said how playing the Red Ranger had changed his life, as it had for so many others down the years.

The former acrobat revealed: “I was working at the San Diego Zoo dressed in a koala bear costume every day when I heard about the auditions for Power Rangers. I’d been a fan of the show growing up and even had Power Ranger birthday parties, so it was so cool when I got the role. And, like so many of us associated with the show, I feel blessed to be part of this thirty-year franchise.” 

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