8 Things I Learned at Power Morphicon 2014

Liz Ohanesian
Rita Replusa cosplay at Power Morphicon

It’s been more than 20 years since Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit television sets across the United States and became an after-school sensation. Back then, kids cheered for Jason, Zack, Billy, Trini and Kimberly. Right now, the elementary school crowd is following the adventures of Troy, Noah, Emma, Gia, Jake and Orion on Nickeldeon. The characters changed over the years – as did the costumes and sets – but a lot of things remain the same. There is still the repurposed footage from Japanese Super Sentai series. There is still an air of campiness to it. More importantly, though, there are those wholesome teenage characters who learn about friendship and working for some greater good.

Every couple years, Power Rangers fans descend upon Pasadena, California for Power Morphicon, a biannual convention that brings together the multiple generations of cast members under one roof. I last attended Power Morphicon in 2010 and it’s grown a lot since then. The crowd was big enough to sustain a few long lines, mostly for the official Saban event and a panel with the original Rangers, and create a few cases of gridlock in the exhibit hall. A renewed interest in the series, thanks to 20th anniversary celebrations and a recent movie announcement, is certainly underfoot. The event is exciting enough to even capture the attention of those of us who casually watched the show way back when…and informative enough to teach the non-hardcore a thing or two about the franchise. Here are a few things I learned at Power Morphicon 2014.

1. For Collectors, 2015 Is the Year of the White Ranger.

Liz Ohanesian
White Ranger collectibles from Bandai

Bandai has a line for older toy collectors, i.e. people willing to shell out big bucks to nerd out over a character they loved back in 1995. In 2015, those collectibles will be centered around the White Ranger.

If you watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back in its original 1990s heyday, you might recall the White Ranger. In fact, you might be a super huge White Ranger fan. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to check out some of Bandai’s offerings for next year.

The toy company revealed its White Ranger collectibles at San Diego Comic-Con, so the hardcore who were in attendance probably already know what’s in store. For those who missed out, the items were on display in the exhibit hall at Power Morphicon. They include the $99 “Saba legacy sword.” It’s a talking sword, with a tiger who will say lines from the TV show upon pressing a button. There’s also a fancy belt buckle and coin set which our Bandai contact, Gregory Mitchell, says can be used for “high-end cosplay.” It’s $59 and based on the morpher that the White Ranger had in the 1995 movie. Also in the works are the Tigerzord, which is a souped up version of a toy that came out in the 1990s. “It’s more posable and more detailed than the original version, says Mitchell. There’s also a Titanus figure in the works that will be on the market for $200.

2. The Dino Charge Is Coming.

Liz Ohanesian
Dino Charge toys from Bandai to be released in 2015

On Saturday afternoon, the schedule noted a “special event” from Saban, which, naturally, encouraged a long line of fans to pack into the panel hall. The main event was a Q&A with the stars of Super Megaforce, the current Power Rangers series which returns for another season on Nickelodeon next week.

At the end of the session there was a noteworthy announcement, although it wasn’t about the movie. Instead, we saw a trailer for the next Power Rangers series, Dino Charge. The basic premise is that dinosaurs were supposed to protect some great, universal power, but they died. Now the Power Rangers have to save the world from the bad guys who are trying to get a hold of that power. This time around the Rangers wear bodysuits with a design that looks like dinosaur teeth and scales. Plus, they ride motorcycles that look like dinosaurs. Fans got an introduction to the new cast: James Davies (Black Ranger), Michael Taber (Green Ranger), Brennan Mejia (Red Ranger), Camille Hyde (Pink Ranger) and Yoshi Sudarso (Blue Ranger).

Over at the Bandai booth, Dino Charge toys were on display. They’re set for a Spring 2015 release, but Gregory Mitchell from Bandai said that we might see them as early as January. There are the 5″ scale action figures of this series’ Rangers – Red, Blue, Green, Black and Pink – plus two villains. One is named Vivix and has green hair and wears a paisley (or “amoeba,” as Mitchell says) body suit. The other is Fury, who Mitchell describes as “a bounty hunter with a mysterious past that will be revealed throughout the show. ” This character has a lion-like look. The new toy line will also feature Dinozords and dino chargers, the latter functioning like the Ranger Key pieces in the Megaforce toy series. The dino chargers will work with a few different pieces in the collection, like the Dino Charge Power Morpher, a yellow gun, and the Dino Sword. There’s also a Mighty Dino Charge Megazord, which is made up of three different Dinozords that combine to form a giant robot.

3. Power Rangers Super Megaforce Have the Best Costumes Ever.

Liz Ohanesian
Super Megaforce cosplayers.

Super Megaforce is the most recent series in the Power Rangers franchise. In it, the heroes have to defeat an “alien armada” invasion. There are multiple styles of costumes in this arc (and more than one Super Sentai show serving as source material), but the fighting outfits that stand out are the ones made for the high seas. There’s a pirate theme going on here, with our high school heroes seen jumping off a big boat in buccaneer finery. The Super Megaforce costumes are quite a bit different from other Power Rangers ensembles – from the skull and crossswords on the shirts to the swashbuckling boots, everything about these form-fitting outfits screams “Yar, matey!” They look like Adam and the Ants in outer space. I love it. I would wear them, and not as a costume either.

4. There Are a Lot of Power Rangers Episodes.

Right now, there’s a massive marathon of The Simpsons airing on FXX. The “Every. Simpsons. Ever.” campaign has earned a lot of buzz for the fact that the network will spend 12 days playing 552 episodes of the series. That’s a feat. However, there are more Power Rangers episodes. Shout! Factory recently released a DVD set of the first 20 seasons, totaling 767 episodes. The difference, of course, is that Power Rangers “seasons” aren’t traditional for television. They are packaged, more or less, as distinct series with different titles, different characters and different missions.

The box set is massive. There are 98 DVDs, six of which feature bonus material, housed in a Power Ranger helmet. Brian Ward, the director of Blu-Ray and DVD production for Shout! Factory, told me that he spent two years working on Power Rangers project, during which time he did watch all 20 seasons. I have to wonder, though, how long would it take for someone to get through this beast of a collection when watching it isn’t work? Can you marathon Power Rangers, or do you spend years gradually working through the episodes?

5. Sometimes People Get Clever with Their Costumes.

Liz Ohanesian
What a cool costume!

Early in the afternoon, a Twitter pal sent me the directive, “you need to find the guy dressed as the command center.” The tweet threw me for a loop. How do you dress as a command center? Certainly, if someone did that, I would have seen him right when I walked inside the building. It’s not a huge convention, but a command center is a huge costume, the sort that might leave one stranded in a lobby all day.

I went into a panel and the message slipped my mind until the end of the day. I was interviewing someone on the show floor, when I saw a dude with a command center balanced on his shoulders. After the interview, I went to find him. He was gone, but turned up again unexpectedly around another corner in the building.

Neil Consuelo was cosplaying Zordon, who helps out the Rangers during the Mighty Morphin era. He painted his face blue and made a clear, plastic mask that gives the illusion that he’s a head in a tube. The command center that is settled around his shoulders is crafted from a mix of cardboard, styrofoam, PVC pipes, LEDs (he uses 99 Cent Store flashlights) and rhinestones. It only took a few days to make.

6. Super Sentai Will Hit the U.S. Soon.

Liz Ohanesian
From a Dinosaur Sentai Zyuranger panel at Power Morphicon.

Power Rangers uses footage from Super Sentai, a Japanese show that has gone through many incarnations in many years. Fans of the U.S. version of the show aren’t oblivious to its Japanese roots. There were a number of fans here who turned up to meet some of the people involved with Super Sentai this weekend as well. Sometime soon, these fans will get to check out the Power Rangers source material in an all new Shout! Factory collection.

Shout! Factory made the initial announcement at San Diego Comic-Con, but were on hand at Power Morphicon to answer fan questions. First up is Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, the series that spawned Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Brian Ward from Shout! Factory said that they’re just getting started on the project and are working with both Saban and Toei on the release. The DVDs will be subtitled, not dubbed.

When I talked to Ward, he mentioned that Super Sentai is quite different from Power Rangers. “The character that people know as Rita Repulsa, she has a back story, a legitimate story that involves her son and her vengeance on the earth,” he said. “It’s really interesting to get the opportunity to show people that.”

7. It’s Not Just Power Rangers at Power Morphicon.

The convention is definitely Power Rangers-centric. The cosplayers here don’t stray too far from the many characters that inhabit this TV universe. Still, there’s more to check out here.

On Saturday, I hit up an Invader Zim panel. This might seem odd, but there are connections. Richard Horvitz, who voiced Zim, was also the voice of Alpha 5 in several Power Rangers series. Wally Wingert, Almighty Tallest Red, did some Power Rangers work too. Rikki Simons, who was also at the convention, is just cool. Everyone loves Gir.

Over the weekend, the folks from Fujiyama Ichiban put on a few performances. This is a stunt show, and a movie, that revolves around the story of a student in Los Angeles who becomes the masked and armored hero Fujiyama Ichiban when he has to fight evil. It’s a really fun show that would certainly appeal to Power Rangers fans. (Also, if you’re into stuff like Kaiju Big Battle, you should look up this group.) The creator of Fujiyama Ichiban, Michi Yamato, worked on Masked Rider, which was the Saban version of Kamen Rider Black RX.

8. There’s Still a Lot of Love for the Classic Power Rangers.

Liz Ohanesian
Austin St. John signs at Power Morphicon.

The biggest crowd I saw this weekend was in a back corner of the exhibit hall, where fans were waiting to get a minute or two of time with Austin St. John, the original Red Ranger. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Power Morphicon, it’s that Red Rangers are overwhelmingly popular. Here, in this corner booth was the first one, the actor who played Jason Lee Scott, the first in a long string of heroes.

St. John was a huge draw, but other Mighty Morphin-era Power Rangers spent their weekend signing autographs and chatting with fans too. On Sunday, I met Karan Ashley, who played Aisha Campbell, the second Yellow Ranger. Ashley was just out of high school and had only a couple commercials to her credit when she landed a gig that would change the course of her life. She spent two seasons on the show and was part of the 1995 film. Over the course of the years, she has remained part of the Power Rangers community. This year alone, she’s hitting up 17 events because of her gig on the show.

“When we were on the show, obviously, little kids were standing in line waiting to get our autograph,” says Ashley. “It went from little kids to being teenagers to now, it’s adults that were those little kids and they’re bringing their kids and their kids know just as much about the show as they knew about it.” Right before we spoke, Ashley posed for a photo a baby wearing a Power Rangers onesie. There’s another generation getting ready to set foot into this fandom.

Previously by Liz Ohanesian

“The 18 Coolest Exclusives to Snag at San Diego Comic-Con 2014”

“20 Best Cosplays We Saw at Anime Expo 2014”

“14 Episodes of Highlander You Need to Watch”

“7 Lessons Learned From Watching Star Wars with Someone Who Never Saw It”

“9 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cartoon Network Studios”

“7 Reasons Why Marvel Superhero Movies Are Really Boring”

“10 Surprising Facts About Titmouse Animation Studio”

“The 8 Goth-Rockingest Episodes of The Venture Bros.”