90’s television

It’s Morphin’ Time

If you saw my tweets recently, you could’ve made a good guess that this blog post was coming. Yesterday I saw the much anticipated Power Rangers movie. If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, you probably watched or at least knew about the Power Rangers. They were all the rage back then.

Power Rangers (TV) was a TV series created by Haim Saban about teenage superheros that defended Earth against monsters and creatures who tried to threaten their town and their planet. The rangers were recruited by the leader Zordon. Becoming a ranger gave each teen special powers that allowed them to fight those that threatened Earth. Sometimes that wasn’t even enough to defeat the beasts. When that happened, the rangers utilized vehicles called Zords that were based off of prehistoric animals to help them win battles. The Zords could also come together to create a giant Megazord when necessary. The original TV series used battle footage from a similar Japanese TV series called Super Sentai. The only difference was that the American series used American actors for parts of the show when the Rangers weren’t in battle and voiced over the other parts in English using the American actors.

The movie which was released last weekend was based off the original TV series but set in modern time. It was written by John Gatins and directed by Dean Israelite. It stars relative newcomers Dacre Montgomery as Jason (Red Ranger), Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger), Becky G as Trini (Yellow Ranger), and Ludi Lin as Zack (Black Ranger).

Power Rangers (Film) tells the story of the formation of the rangers and ends in one giant battle with villain and former ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and her minion Goldar. Rita, who was banished to the bottom of the sea from a meteor strike ordered by Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Red Ranger, comes back to life when her body is discovered while simultaneously the group of teenagers discover the power coins (the Rangers’ power source) in the mountains of their hometown Angel Grove. Zordon of course returns as well once the Rangers discover his underground spaceship/base. He is still the commander/go-to guy of the Power Rangers. (Fun Fact: Bryan Cranston, who plays Zordon, actually did voice overs for the original series and the Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston, was named for him.) Zordon’s assistant, the robot Alpha-5 (Bill Hader), returns as well.

The movie does something the TV show failed to do though. It goes deeper. The film really explores the rangers on an individual level. Each teenager has depth and a story to contribute to the overall concept of the film which is the whole Power Rangers/teenage superhero thing. That’s why I consider this new film to be based off the old series and not a remake of it. The Power Rangers concept in total is re-imagined in this new film.

I saw the Power Rangers preview trailer a few months ago without knowledge of the film at all. I never thought I’d be interested in seeing the Power Rangers again, but the trailer made the film look so good that I couldn’t help but want to see it, especially as a former fan. Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long. I was anticipating the release for the last month or so though.

(WARNING: Some spoilers in here.) My first impression of the film gave it this sort of Breakfast Club vibe with a few of the kids meeting/recognizing each other in Saturday detention that they all received for different reasons contributing to each characters’ story lines. As the film went on though, it lost that feeling and created this new age Power Rangers that was better than the original. It was as if the story of the Power Rangers grew up while at the same time so did its fans. I thought this new movie represented exactly where the Power Rangers needed to be in this day and age from the setting, to the characters, and to the characters’ stories, which provided brief moments relevant for those on the autism spectrum as well as for members of the LGBT community that didn’t overshadow the main story. It also provided just the right amount of nostalgia for fans of the original series with the brief incorporation of the Power Rangers theme song and the cameo appearance by Amy Jo Johnson (the former Pink Ranger/Kimberly) and Jason David Frank (the former Green Ranger/Tommy). It’s a movie that people of my generation who were fans can bring their kids to see and both can share in this new yet old experience together.

According to what I’ve read, there’s supposed to be 6 Power Ranger films so the story and story lines will obviously develop much further if the first movie is any indication. The end of Power Rangers also teases the next film in such a way that fills fans with anticipation. I know I’m already ready for the second installment in this new series. I might just have to satisfy my Power Rangers craving by seeing this movie again. It was that good and even better than I expected! If you were a Power Rangers fan and you haven’t seen this movie yet, go see it! I promise you’ll love it.

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DCOM’s

Until I reached the age of 8 years old, I was without the Disney Channel. I had Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but where I lived at the time did not have a TV provider with the Disney Channel on their cable package. It cost extra. Once in a while there would be a short period of time where they would offer a preview of the Disney Channel. In that little time I reveled in the world of Disney. Finally, when I was 8, my family moved, not only from a small apartment to a big house, but to a place where the TV provider’s cable package included Disney. I no longer had to depend on just Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network for my go-to television, which were fantastic in their own right. I could finally enjoy Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the rest of what Disney had to offer. What I didn’t know was just how serendipitous my timing was.

You see in the late 90’s something epic happened to the Disney Channel. It became so much more than animation in a big way. They started creating original programming. Along with all new original television series like The Famous Jett Jackson, Bug Juice, The Jersey, and So Weird, the Disney Channel produced movies known as DCOM’s (Disney Channel Original Movies). One of the very first to be released, Under Wraps, premiered about a month before I moved into my new home (at least it was the first one I saw). From that point on (especially in the early 00’s) DCOM’s became a thing.

When a preview for a new DCOM played on the Disney Channel I would anticipate sitting at my house on a Saturday night watching the new movie (they usually premiered on Saturday nights). After they first aired, Disney would replay them several times over the next week, month, few months, etc. I would end up watching my favorite ones numerous times. Some of the greatest and most classic DCOM’s in the opinions of me and my friends who also watched these films religiously were Brink!, Johnny Tsunami, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Halloweentown. In fact there’s always been a debate over whether Brink! or Johnny Tsunami was better (it’s a tough call but I’ll always go with Brink!). Also, out of those 4 movies, Johnny TsunamiZenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Halloweentown had sequels (Zenon and Halloweentown actually had three movies each). That’s how you know they were good.

Brink! tells the story of a group of in-line skaters from Southern California named the “Soul Skaters” (because they skate for fun) and a rival group of sponsored in-line skaters, “Team X-Bladz”, who always compete against each other. When head Soul Skater Andy “Brink” Brinker discovers his families financial struggles, he decides to sell out and join Team X-Bladz leading to plenty of turmoil between him and his friends. Eventually though, he realizes that his friendships and love of skating are more important than the money.

In Johnny Tsunami, teenage surfer, Johnny Kapahala and his family move from Hawaii to Vermont due to his father’s job and he must learn to adapt to a whole new culture. In his new town there are two schools, the private one which he attends where everyone skis and the rival public one where everyone snowboards. When Johnny figures out snowboarding is more his style, trouble ensues with his school and classmates, eventually leading to a competition over the mountain both groups use for skiing and snowboarding.

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is about teenager, Zenon Kar, who lives in a space station in the year 2049. When she gets in trouble with the space station’s commander, her family punishes her to live with her aunt on earth. After moving, she soon discovers that the space station is in danger, and it’s her job to save her friends and family on board.

In the ghoulishly themed Halloweentown, Marnie Cromwell never understood why her mother wouldn’t let her or her brother and sister celebrate Halloween. With a visit from her grandmother though (played by famed actress Debbie Reynolds), the truth unfolds as she learns she is a witch with special powers and her grandmother lives in a place called “Halloweentown”, where it’s Halloween 24/7. She secretly follows her grandmother home in the hopes that her grandmother can train her as a witch as she intended on her visit (Marnie’s mom put her foot down). Once they arrive though, they begin to become aware of the trouble threatening Halloweentown and what Marnie and her family must do to stop it and save the town.

These four DCOM’s are legendary to those like me who saw them when they came out. I had other favorites too like, Smart House, Alley Cats Strike, Phantom of the Megaplex, The Luck of The Irish, Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off, Cadet Kelly, Double Teamed, and more. Those four set the stage though. Even now, Disney Channel continues to release original movies. Slated for release this year are sequels to the recently popular Teen Beach Movie and Disney film Life-Size (released in 2000 starring Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan) as well as newcomer Descendants.

DCOM’s were a big part of my life growing up and I’m sure many others can say the same. With relatively recent favorites like High School Musical, The Cheetah Girls, and Camp Rock (and their sequels), old favorites, like the ones I already mentioned (and so many others), and future favorites that we’ve never heard of yet, DCOM’s have spanned and will continue to span generations for years to come (hopefully at least…as long as Disney keeps making them). I only wish Disney made the old ones available to watch on Netflix or something rather than during the wee hours of the morning on their channel (and I don’t have DVR either). Until then, all I can do is appreciate the nostalgia that sets in every so often reminding me just how good it was to watch classic Disney Channel Original Movies.