In 2017, Power Rangers fans were treated to a franchise first with a PG-13 film that upped the ante in spectacle and production value, but any '90s kid familiar with the series knows that the only true Power Rangers flick was the first one, the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
A troubled production from the start, MMPR was a rushed project meant to capitalize on the overwhelming popularity of the show. A divisive film which broke the continuity of the TV series and took place in an alternate timeline, it remains dear to many nostalgic fans of the children's series.
Greenlit in 1994, MMPR entered a chaotic production period with an underdeveloped story and almost no pre-production period to speak of. At a moment’s notice, the entire cast were relocated to Sydney, Australia, where filming commenced with a tight window to complete the shoot. Along the way, the movie set became the the thing of Hollywood nightmares.
More than two decades since hitting theaters, MMPR: The Movie remains a turning point for the long-standing franchise. While the movie and show have managed to transcend generations, there are still many behind-the-scenes secrets which continue to shed light on the characters that came to define many of our childhoods.
Take a trip down memory lane as we expose the 16 Shocking Things You Never Knew About Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
16 Rat Monsters?
By November 1994, the production crew behind MMPR: The Movie had hit a major snag in their schedule. Due to multiple setbacks, including some questionable casting decisions and issues with the Rangers’ costumes, over 70% of the movie's scenes were deemed unusable. Making matters worse, further issues arose when villains originally written to appear in the film were scrapped after the costumes appeared too cheap next to the Rangers.
The so-called “Rat Creatures” which were intended to be created by Ivan Ooze in the original script were replaced by the Oozemen, only to be used later in the show’s second season story arc “Return of the Green Ranger.”
According to one crew member who worked on the set, the wardrobe and prosthetics departments were able to create the new foes in only four days, showing just how uninformed and unprepared the staff was going into the project.
15 Why Major Roles Were Recast
The MMPR series was infamous for mistreating its cast even during its meteoric height as one of the most popular shows on television. From the hazardous working conditions to the strenuous schedule, you would expect the Rangers to at least be fairly compensated. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Because the show was a non-union production, there was little stopping Saban from doing as they pleased contractually which meant the cast did their jobs for little more than minimum wage.
When the opportunity for a movie came, the cast saw their chance to renegotiate their contracts, only the producers weren’t having it. Thanks to their unwillingness to work for $600 per week (the reported salary at the time),Walter Jones, Thuy Trang and Austin St. John (the original Black, Yellow and Red Rangers) were recast for the film. Austin would later reprise his role in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.
14 Nightmarish filming conditions for cast
For the informed MMPR fans who know a thing or two about the dark behind-the-scenes history of the series, it should come as no surprise that the working conditions for the film were equally unrelenting. During the shoot, the cast were asked to wear 40 pound suits for ten hours a day. The suits were so heavy that co-stars Amy Jo Johnson and Karan Ashley reported experiencing severe back pains.
The Rangers weren’t the only ones who had a problem with their suits. Peta-Maree Rixon’s new Alpha 5 outfit was such a hassle that the actress couldn’t breathe when wearing it. In order for the costume to work, air had to be manually fed into it with a fish tank air pump.
In addition to the cast, the crew also reported negative experiences of being overworked, possibly explaining why the movie ultimately felt like a disappointment.
13 The Director was replaced by a cameraman
In early 1994, Power Ranger fever had swept the world, leading Saban to expedite plans to make a major motion picture while the show was still hot. In a moment’s notice, the project was greenlit by 20th Century Fox with the intention to produce a high quality film which would exponentially top its source material in budget and scale.
With little story to go on, Fox tapped newcomer Steve Wang, an action movie director who had recently directed a film called Guyver: Dark Hero, which depicted morphing abilities similar to those seen on the show. By July, however, Wang was replaced by Bryan Spicer, a credited cameraman with experience in television. There was only one major problem: he had never seen the show.
As the story goes, Spicer spent several days fast forwarding through hundreds of episodes, catching up on the franchise he would take under his wing.
12 The Violent Tengu Warriors Deleted Scene
The bird-like Tengu Warriors were the product of Ivan Ooze - nine fierce fighters born from a puddle of purple goo. Written to be among the most frightening villains in the universe, they were intended to test the Rangers in a battle sequence that was ultimately deemed to mature for children. In the end, the battle was toned down for the movie, but the details of the deleted scene still live on in Power Rangers lore.
According to the script, the Tengus greatly overpowered and outmatched the Rangers during their fight. In a deadly show of strength, the scene depicted the torturous warriors biting and cutting into Adam’s hand, drawing blood by scratching Kimberly’s back and giving Tommy bloody cuts courtesy of some savage pecks from one of the villain’s beaks. Unsurprisingly, the scary depictions didn’t make it far before being rejected by both Fox and Saban.
11 Extras scam
As a way to end the movie with a bang, the Rangers’ final celebration at Angel Grove was meant to be one of the film’s largest set sequences with extras filling out the crowd in celebration of the victory over Ivan Ooze. Shooting along the Darling Harbour in Sydney, the open set quickly became an invitation for fans to meet the Power Rangers when the crew decided to spread the word through local newspapers and radio stations.
As a way to liven up the location, the Sydney media falsely touted the shoot as a public extravaganza that would include a meet & greet and free prize giveaways. The turnout was evident in the size of the party in the movie’s closing scene and because many of the roles had recently been recast, many of the actors were able to walk around without being recognized, making the shoot smoother than expected.
10 Rangers Without Visors
The start of MMPR's production was a tale of woes that saw the film crew making one hapless mistake after another. When Bryan Spicer first set out to make the film, he envisioned the Rangers undergoing a drastic costume change, one which involved the heroes taking off their visors to expose the faces underneath their masks.
Due to the crew having little to no pre-production time to work with, filming commenced immediately with the Rangers not wearing visors. According to Spicer, this would allow the cast to show emotion while in the midst of battle; however, the final results looked ridiculous and everyone quickly realized that the alteration was a terrible idea.
The Rangers were never intended to show emotion while in morphed mode. They're supposed to appear as fighting machines. Ultimately, the visors went back on and the scenes never saw the light of day.
9 The Unconscious Stuntman
If you’ve ever worked on a movie set, chances are you’ve been susceptible to on-set injuries on more than one occasion, especially if you’re an actor asked to do some of your own stunt work.
According to Karan Ashley, who played the Yellow Ranger, the entire cast of the movie had a trained background in either martial arts, gymnastics, or dance, which meant everyone could double as their own stuntmen in certain key scenes.
During a scene in which the Rangers battle the Tengu Warriors, actor Jason David Frank was asked to kick one of the stuntmen as he flew in on a stunt wire, forcing him to fly backward after he was hit. When the wire prevented the stuntman from flying back far enough, he told Frank to kick him harder. What followed was a kick so hard it knocked the helpless stuntman unconscious.
8 A Box Office Disappointment
In June 1995, MMPR: The Movie opened to middling reviews. Critics who were willing to look past the schlocky CGI, cringe-worthy performances, and bad catchphrases understood that the film was catering to a certain niche demographic, but others weren’t so kind.
Despite all the hoopla over how bad the film was, the bad word of mouth wasn’t the kind of negative publicity that would normally keep Power Rangers fans from storming the theaters, but with films like Pocahontas and Batman Forever soaking up all the young filmgoers’ attentions, MMPR: The Movie debuted at a disappointing fourth place at the box office.
The film would go on to gross $66.4 million internationally on a budget of $15 million, a sad draw considering the amount that must have gone into marketing the production.
7 A Very Purple Villain
As a children’s film primarily aimed to entice a young demographic, Paul Freeman’s performance as Power Rangers baddie Ivan Ooze was one of the few remaining things adults could cling onto going into the theater. A prolific screen and stage actor, Freeman made a name for himself in the '80s when he played French archaeologist and Nazi supporter Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
At once campy and menacing, the all-purple look of Ooze was hard to look past and was noticeably the film’s biggest standout costume. To prepare for the part, Freeman sat in a makeup chair for seven hours and drank black currant juice to dye his tongue purple. According to the actor, the preparation time was later reduced to just four hours, which is still plenty of time for him to think about Ooze's maniacal persona while he gets into character.
6 Dulcea, the Pink Ranger
Partway through the Power Rangers’ third season Catherine Sutherland would replace Amy Jo Johnson as the Mighty Morphin Pink Ranger introducing us to Kat Hillard and forever changing the show’s cannon. In time, she would go on to assume the identities of the Pink Zeo Ranger and Pink Turbo Ranger before finally passing on the torch in season five, but the Australian-born actress’ first encounter with the Rangers came a full year before she became a full-time member of the series.
When casting auditions began for the role of Dulcea, Sutherland tried out for the part and reportedly stood out to the the producers. Despite playing the role convincingly, the crew was concerned that she was too young. Everything worked out in the long run, however, as the producers liked her enough to bring her back for her defining role in the franchise.
5 Phaedos deleted scene
With the new Power Rangers movie came a new cast of characters, including Dulcea, the master warrior of Phaedos. In the original script, the character was reportedly much more fleshed-out. Her entire backstory was given, which included her explaining that she was a member of an ancient order called the Order of Meledan, a group which imprisoned Ivan Ooze.
As could be expected, some scenes had to be cut, but one scene which would have greatly improved the movie included a training sequence in which Dulcea taught the Rangers about their Ninjetti powers on her home planet of Phaedos.
The twelve minute scene depicted the heroes trying to tap into their respective spirit animal instincts. A moment from the deleted parts of the film can be seen in the DVD’s making-of special, showing Tommy jumping off a rock as he tries to fly like a falcon.
4 The Old Cast Versus the New
With the fresh new faces of Karan Ashley, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Steve Cardenas as the Yellow, Black. and Red Rangers came tension between the recently recruited heroes and the actors who had been there since the beginning. According to a 2010 interview in which Bosch talked about the movie, there were examples of the film’s producers favoring the senior Rangers over the new inductees.
According to Bosch, the original script called for the Black Ranger to have many more scenes which were later rewritten when David Yost complained that the Blue Ranger was being tossed aside for the newcomer. Reportedly, many scenes were similarly reconstructed when the producers realized how the senior actors felt about their screen time. Bosch admittedly was bummed by the newly revised script but has since said he holds no grudge for the sudden changes that were made to the story.
3 Delays and Conflicting Schedules
When filming first began on the set of the new film, the main cast had only three months to wrap production before shooting resumed on the final episodes of the show’s second season. With principal photography set to take place between October and December of 1994, everything went unexpectedly haywire when the crew was forced to re-shoot days worth of footage, essentially starting from scratch.
By the time Christmas rolled around, the cast and crew were still stuck in the movie’s shooting location of Sydney, leaving Saban no other option than to move some of the series’ production from Los Angeles to Australia. In the season two episodes “The Wedding” and “Return of the Green Ranger”, many of the local areas were re-used, with the cast working overtime to get the scenes shot when they weren’t working on the movie.
2 First Blood
At their peak, the Power Rangers were at the top of every child's wish list. Toy sales were at an all time high. Children were dressing as the Rangers for Halloween and parents were understandably upset with their kids' newly developed adoration for a show with a questionable amount of violence.
In a shocking first for the Rangers, the MMPR movie was the first example of the franchise ever showing blood on screen. In a scene in which Tommy fights a stone gargoyle which comes to life, two faint lines of blood can be seen shortly after the gargoyle's blades slash through Tommy's suit. The cuts are barely noticeable in the film thanks to some top-notch editing and choice camera angles.
In the end, the decision to keep the film PG was a smart decision as many parents were already furious about the constant fighting on the show.
1 A Famous Casting Replacement
When casting calls began for the role of the scantily clad warrior Dulcea, it was obvious what the crew had in mind. Australian-born Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, a professional model and television actress, was the perfect choice, only she was forced out of the production merely hours before set call when she was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst.
In a miraculous bit of casting magic, the crew was able to land Mariska Hargitay, now of Law and Order: SVU fame, to play the part. After filming multiple scenes as Dulcea, the crew worried that she didn’t fit the part. After throwing away all her footage, Fitzpatrick made a full recovery and was able to resume the role with Hargitay being left out of the film entirely.
Do you have any other Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!