Every ’90s kid fondly remembers Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Looking back, it’s remarkable to think how popular the series became. Power Rangers, which lifted much of its footage from the Japanese show Super Sentai, then added scenes with American actors, was quite different from anything else on TV at the time. From the familiarly silly episode structure — wherein every monster eventually grows huge, and has to face off against the unified Megazord — to the equally familiar shriek of Rita Repulsa, there are few TV shows that get millennials feeling more nostalgic. And that nostalgia is exactly what Saban is counting on when it releases its big budget Power Rangers film on March 24th. This film will bring all of the original characters to the big screen in a new form, but with the same color palette that made them famous.
Of course, every kid had their favorite Ranger, and if the movie hits it big, then the debate will grow even louder. While the most famous Power Ranger of all is probably Tommy Oliver, especially when he was the Green Ranger, others look back fondly on Kimberly, the original Pink Ranger, though there are fan bases for every character. However, the true underdog of the group is certainly Billy Cranston, the Blue Ranger. As the designated “nerd” of the original team, Billy is easily the smartest of them all, and there are many occasions throughout the series where Billy’s knowledge and talent for invention saves the day.
There’s more to Billy than meets the eye. As we ramp up for the release of Power Rangers, it’s time to examine 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Blue Ranger.
15. He Was Named After Bryan Cranston
No, seriously. This isn’t a joke. Were you wondering why Bryan Cranston, the now-famous actor who gained worldwide acclaim for his iconic performance as Walter White in Breaking Bad, decided to play Zordon in this film? Well, believe it or not, Bryan Cranston has something of a history with the Power Rangers, strange as that might sound. And yes, Billy Cranston is named after him.
Back in 1993, years before Walter White would scare the life out of us — and even before he’d make everyone laugh with his role on Malcolm in the Middle — a younger Bryan Cranston was just getting his foot in the acting door. After spending some years doing advertisements and soap operas, Cranston started doing voice work for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He was paid $50 an hour to voice such monsters as Snizzard and Twin Man. He probably had a lot of fun doing it, given the show’s over-the-top tone, and his work on the series was honored by giving the Blue Ranger his last name.
14. Billy is a Child Prodigy
Just ask the X-Men‘s resident intellectual extraordinaire, Beast; blue is one of the most common colors in the world, and if the blue guy wants to stand out, he’s gotta be the one working the computers. (Well, except for Donatello of the Teenage Mutant Turtles, who is decidedly purple-themed, but still.) And everyone knows that in movies and TV shows, particularly exaggerated ones like Power Rangers, the visual shorthand to demonstrate that one character is “the smart one” is to give them a pair of glasses.
Billy Cranston is the brains of the team. While that’s no surprise, what is less known is just how much the Power Rangers team depends on him. In fact, some of their signature devices were actually created by him, and he shows an incredible aptitude for working with advanced alien technology.
For example, take those wrist communicators that the Power Rangers use, the ones that resemble watches. Yeah, Billy invented those. He made them himself. Not only do those wristwatches transmit audio messages between the team, they also allow the Rangers to teleport themselves to the Command Center, instead of needing Alpha to do it for them. Seriously, teleportation/communication watches? Considering that the Power Rangers are supposed to be teenagers, that’s some pretty remarkable technology. Billy isn’t just a smart kid, he’s a high IQ child prodigy.
13. He Created a Flying Car
As if making teleporting wrist communicators wasn’t groundbreaking enough, Billy isn’t content to stop there. Next, he decides that gravity is no obstacle, and he goes to work building a flying car.
To do this, he takes an ordinary old Volkswagon Beetle, upgrades it to be capable of speeds up to 3,000 miles per hour, and gives it flight capabilities. This turned that regular Beetle into R.A.D.B.U.G., the magnificent flying car. The acronym R.A.D.B.U.G. stands for Remote Activated Drivingzord for Basic Ultra Geomorphology, which is certainly a mouthful, but at least “RadBug” is a nice catchy name. Billy originally designs the RadBug when the Rangers’ teleportation systems go down. In a later comic book inspired by the series, it is revealed that the RadBug eventually undergoes a process that Billy certainly never intended for it, when it is horribly mutated by Lord Zedd into a monster that the Power Rangers have to showdown against. Poor Radbug.
12. He Went From Being a Nerdy Mouse Potato to a Black Belt in Karate
The Power Rangers were always “five teenagers with attitude,” and even before they became superheroes, all of the Angel Grove kids tended to hang out at the gym, showing off their crazy athletic skills to each other. Well… all except one of them.
In the first episode of the series, Billy is first introduced as every bit the stereotypical nerd. Clumsy, socially awkward, and with a clichéd habit of wearing suspenders, Billy arrives at the gym to take karate lessons from future Red Ranger Jason Lee Scott, and has a really hard time with it. However, while pre-Ranger Billy doesn’t have the considerable physical ability of his teammates, his brain is the skill that makes Zordon select him.
However, as the series progresses, Billy begins training to become a better fighter. With the help of his teammates, as well as Trini’s Uncle Howard, Billy eventually graduates to a red belt level in karate. Not content to stop there, the later series Power Rangers Zeo shows that Billy eventually makes it all the way to a black belt.
11. He’s Afraid of Fish
Everybody’s afraid of something, and for Billy Cranston, his biggest terror is what lies under the water’s surface.
The episode “Something Fishy” reveals that Billy suffers from “ichthyophobia,” a fear of fish, due to a traumatic incident in his youth wherein he attempted to create a whirlpool, and his finger was bitten by a fish. (Hey, phobias can start for the strangest reasons.) In any case, he admits this fear to his teammates when they want to bring him out scuba diving, and unfortunately, Rita Repulsa is listening in. Dastardly as ever, Rita decides that the next monster she sends down will be an aquatic-themed one.
The results in the monster known as the Goo Fish, a figure from Billy’s worst nightmares. At first, Billy cowers in fear before the monstrous aquatic creature, and his fear is further enhanced by a magic spell from Rita. However, when the lives of his teammates are on the line and Billy must act, he finally overcomes his fear. After that, he never has a problem with fish again.
10. Besides the Triceratops Zord, He Also Gets a Wolf “Ninjazord”
Everybody knows the Triceratops. It’s Billy’s iconic symbol, other than the color blue. But the Triceratops Zord isn’t the only Zord that he’s wielded in his time as a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.
In season three, the Power Rangers’ second set of Zords, the Thunderzords, are destroyed in battle. Needing new weaponry, the Rangers must travel out to the mythical Temple of Power. There, they find a powerful being named Ninjor, the creator of the first Power Coins. Ninjor gives the Rangers each a new coin, and thus, a new Zord: the Ninjazords. The Red Ranger gets an Ape Ninjazord, the Yellow Ranger gets a Bear, the Black Ranger gets a Frog, the Pink Ranger gets a Crane, the White Ranger gets a Falcon, and the Blue Rangers gets, arguably, the coolest of all: a brand new, shimmering blue Wolf Ninjazord.
9. Billy Retired to Become the Team’s Mentor and Technical Advisor
The series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was followed up by a TV miniseries named Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers, which depicts the villainous Master Vile using a device called the Orb of Doom to reverse the ages of everyone on the planet, including the Power Rangers. This leaves the team as mere children, incapable of morphing, but with knowledge of what has occurred. Billy is able to build a Regenerator, powered by the Ninja Power coins, and restores himself to his proper age. However, the Power Coins are then destroyed by Rita and Lord Zedd, and the young Power Rangers are then forced to travel through time to assemble the pieces of the magical Zeo Crystal. Once the crystal is assembled, thanks to Billy’s ingenuity, the world is brought back to normal.
However, this would be the end of Billy’s time as the Blue Ranger. From that point on, Billy only remained on the team as an advisor, tech guy, and mentor, putting his mental powers to use for the cause of good. His Ranger days were done… or were they?
8. It Was Suspected That He Might be the Gold Ranger
During the course of Power Rangers Zeo, a mysterious figure arises to save the team from an emergency: the Gold Ranger. No one knows who the Gold Ranger is, but they quickly learn that he’s on their side. At first, the show deliberately misled viewers into thinking that the Gold Ranger may be Billy Cranston, having become a Ranger again at last, but this was simply a trick. The Gold Ranger turned out to be the alien prince Trey of Triforia.
This wouldn’t be Billy’s last “almost-Gold” experience, however. Later on, when Trey is injured in battle, the Gold Ranger finds himself split into three separate entities. In order to heal, he must temporarily transfer his powers to another noble warrior, and he selects Billy. However, because of the excess negative energy that Billy absorbed when the Power Rangers’ command center was destroyed in a previous episode, this transfer doesn’t go through. Instead, the Gold Ranger passes his powers on to Jason Lee Scott, the original leader of the team.
7. He Left the Earth Behind to Seek Out the Fountain of Youth
Billy might have been the big hero during that whole “world gets de-aged” thing, but unfortunately, the regenerator he so brilliantly created —and used on himself, before it was destroyed — would turn out to have disastrous unintended consequences.
Much later, Billy began suffering long-term side-effects: his body started going through a process of accelerated aging. Knowing that he doesn’t have long before he’ll reach the end of his life, Billy has one option left: he must leave the Earth and fly off to the water planet Aquitar. (Good thing he’s not afraid of fish anymore, eh?) Anyway, he flies out there, finds a new home amidst the bubbly-voiced Aquitians, and locates the so-called “Eternal Falls,” which is the Power Rangers version of the Fountain of Youth. He also finds the love of an Aquitian named Cestria.
Though Billy is successfully cured of his accelerated aging problem, his new relationship with Cestria compels him to stay on Aquitar, leaving the Earth behind for a new, strange life, full of new alien phenomenon to study. For all intents and purposes, this marks the end of Billy’s story. It’s a happy end, without any major character deaths. But, many years later, there would be one more final battle for him to fight.
6. …But He Did Come Back, Years Later
Billy, and all of the original “Legendary” Power Rangers, made their highly-anticipated return in the series Power Rangers: Super Megaforce. As the picture above demonstrates, this was no small gathering. If one was to imagine almost every Power Ranger to date gathering in one place, like an exclusive “Power Rangers Only” version of Comic Con, it’d be about the right idea. This was a celebration of the show’s 20th anniversary, and certainly a massive one.
In this grand climax, Billy and all of his Mighty Morphin friends, as well as the Mega Rangers, return to save the Earth from a massive alien Armada. This team is led by Tommy Oliver, the legendary Green Ranger. Together, they battle against hundreds upon hundreds of opponents, and finally succeed in vanquishing the Armada once and for all. It’s not clear what happened to Billy after we last saw him, how things went with Cestria, how many kids they have together, or any of those details, but that’s okay. We’ll let fan-fiction tell those stories.
5. He Was the Last Original Power Ranger to Leave the Show
When Billy did leave the show, he was the last of the original cast to do so. His fellow originals like Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, Jason David Frank, Walter Jones, and Amy Jo Johnson had all left their Mighty Morphin days behind by that time, and though Austin St. John had come back as Jason — just in time to receive those special Gold powers — it was only after an extended absence. Of course, Jason David Frank’s Tommy Oliver came back numerous times, but David Yost’s departure, after being there since the first moments of the first episode, marked the end of an era. From then on, the Power Rangers were truly in new territory.
Needless to say, though there have been many, many teams of Power Rangers over the years, each series using footage from a different Super Sentai season, the fans have always loved the original team the best. For many, seeing these characters recreated in this year’s big release will, hopefully, feel like coming home.
4. David Yost Quit the Show Due to Homophobia On Set
In 2010, the original Blue Ranger actor, David Yost, came out as gay. Since then, he has spoken at length about the struggles he faced as a homosexual actor in the 1990s, as well as the harsh homophobia he encountered on the set of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In later interviews, Yost has described how he desperately hid his sexuality for the sake of his career, but that gossip still surrounded him on the set, pushing him to the point of feeling suicidal.
Yost has said that it was this homophobia that finally drove him off the show — a few episodes earlier than he was scheduled to depart — stating that the constant homophobic insults and slurs by the producers, directors, and so on had gotten bad enough where he just had to walk out. In order to give the Billy character a send-off, the show’s directors used stock footage of his character.
3. There Have Been Female Blue Rangers
Though blue was once defined as the stereotypical “boy” color, it has since grown to be considered a fairly gender neutral color, particularly as society increasingly does away with the whole silly nonsense of assigning specific colors to genders. Either way, it’s cool to note that amidst the many teams of Power Rangers that have existed, there have been a couple times that the Blue Ranger was female.
The first Blue Ranger, pictured above, was Tori Hanson. Referred to as the “Blue Wind Ranger,” Tori first appeared in the series Power Rangers: Ninja Storm. She’s shown to have a natural love for the water (because it’s blue, get it?). As a Power Ranger, she can move across the water as if it was solid ground, and even use water as an offensive weapon. Later on, Tori’s mantle as the female Blue Ranger was followed up on by Madison Rocca, the Blue Mystic Ranger, who appeared in Power Rangers Mystic Force.
2. He’ll be Played by RJ Cyler In The New Movie
Since the upcoming Power Rangers movie is a full-on reimagining of the original Mighty Morphin series, one of the more fun aspects will be seeing how all of the classic characters are recreated, and in what ways. The role of Billy Cranston will be taken on by actor RJ Cyler, a 21-year-old newcomer who has only appeared in a few movies, and whose most well-known performance to date is his starring role in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
While it’s hard to say exactly how Billy’s personality will be adapted until the movie is released, the production notes suggest a Billy who is right in line with the one that everyone remembers from their childhood:
Billy, the Blue Ranger (RJ CYLER) has always been challenged in his abilities to communicate and interact socially. Whip-smart and sweet, he is the most pure-hearted of the group. Billy has never really had any friends, so finding teenagers that he is comfortable with is a big deal, and soon he begins connecting with people in a way he’s never been able to do before.
1. Then There’s That Whole Viral, Dancing Blue Ranger in Cowboy Boots Thing…
To close this out, all we can say is that there’s no telling when something is going to become an online meme.
Last year, videos began surfing of the Blue Ranger dancing in cowboy boots. These videos are actually an actor named Jet Wavy, who apparently got a free Power Rangers costume from his friend. The concept is pretty simple, but these dancing Blue Ranger videos have become a viral sensation. The actual Blue Ranger himself, David Yost, has shared them, but he’s not the only one; they’ve also been shared by Snoop Dogg, amongst countless other celebrities. While we wouldn’t expect to see any tribute to these videos in the feature film, you never know. None of us expected the Juggernaut to say, well… well, you know the line we’re talking about. But in X-Men: The Last Stand, it happened. Maybe if the Power Rangers movie spawns a sequel, we’ll see the cowboy boots pop up.
What other fun and/or interesting facts do you know about the Blue Ranger? Let us know in the comments!