See more photos in “Power Morphicon: Celebrating 17 Years of the Power Rangers.”
We had no idea what to expect when we first arrived at Power Morphicon Saturday afternoon. There wasn't a huge crowd of people hanging around outside the venue, no visible sign from the street that there was any kind of event happening at the Pasadena Convention Center, let alone that it was Power Rangers convention. For a minute or two, we thought that maybe we had shown up at the wrong location, or on the wrong date. We hadn't.
The event was contained to a small portion of the Convention Center and consisted of one exhibit area roughly comparable in size to a larger panel room at Comic-Con or Anime Expo, two meeting rooms that were used for the day's panels and a lobby where people could sit and unwind. It was physically small, even the hotel-based conventions we've attended, like Anime LA and Pacific Media Expo, seemed to use more space, but it was filled with people of all ages dressed in Power Rangers t-shirts and, oftentimes, full cosplay. This wasn't a group of voyeurs curious about a seventeen-year-old TV show, this was a hardcore fan gathering.
Neither Shannon nor I were really into the Power Rangers. We saw the first of the many series that are part of the franchise, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, when it originally aired. We knew the frighteningly infectious theme song and the major characters from its first few years on TV. We knew that it was based on a Japanese show. That's about it. Unlike the anime and comic book conventions we usually attend, we didn't have our own favorite titles, characters, writers or voice actors to seek out while we were at the event. We came to the con as blank slates.
It may sound strange considering the size of the con, but we were instantly overwhelmed. There were cosplayers that we weren't used to seeing everywhere, mountains of collectible items and actors that we recognized from other projects. When voice actor Wendee Lee walked by us, we didn't think of Scorpina from Power Rangers, but, rather Haruhi Suzumiya and dozens of other anime characters.
There were actors here from a variety of Power Rangers series at the convention, including Barbara Goodson (Rita Repulsa), Erin Cahill (Pink Ranger in Power Rangers Time Force) and Selwyn Ward (Red Ranger in Power Rangers Turbo, Blue Ranger in Power Rangers in Space). The stars of the series sat on panels and signed autographs, which is typical for a convention, but it didn't seem like it was necessarily work for them to meet with fans. Goodson joined a panel of villains, where fans cheered wildly as they belted out old catchphrases. Cahill and other women from various Power Rangers series reminisced about their involvement with the franchise, at one point speaking emotionally about working with children's charities. Ward led the Turbo-era Power Rangers in a rendition of their morphing sequence to roars of applause. As we walked around the exhibit area during the autograph sessions and watched fans chat and take photos with the stars, it appeared as though those involved with the program were just as enthusiastic about Power Rangers as those who watched it.
Power Rangers is an unusual phenomenon. It started out as an adaptation of the Japanese series Super Sentai, but became its own entity with its own following that extended beyond the U.S. It was a blatantly low-budget children's show that stuck with people well after they became adults. With seventeen years under its belt and an eighteenth season in the works, its influence isn't limited to one generation, as is often the case with shows geared towards such a young audience.
During the course of the day, we met some amazing Power Rangers fans. A sizable group of British cosplayers, known as UKR, had traveled to Los Angeles specifically for the event. A few of the members mentioned that this was their first time traveling to the U.S.
Then there was David Ramos, an L.A.-area local who was in the process of getting a large and detailed Power Rangers tattoo on his leg. He was collecting autographs at the convention that would be added to the piece. Ramos has been a fan of the show since he was a child and told us that Power Rangers was more than just morphing and battling monsters. He explained a plotline in Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy to illustrate how the show did touch on subjects that were more mature than one might expect for a program of this nature. After chatting with him, we felt an urge to check out the series we haven't seen.
During a panel focusing on the Turbo and Space eras of Power Rangers, a fan asked what the series might be like if someone like Michael Bay helmed it. The general sentiment amongst the cast members seemed to be that Power Rangers did well just as it was.
Their comments made complete sense to us. Think about it. Hollywood churns out intended blockbusters multiple times a year, all with special effects intended to blow your mind and big-name casts designed to get maximum press attention. Oftentimes, though, the movies tank. This isn't to say that they don't bring in the numbers on opening weekend, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Rather, they simply don't resonate with the public to the point where you'll have people flying from across the Atlantic to attend a convention or getting characters permanently etched into their skin. Power Rangers, though, accomplished this with relatively primitive effects and casts that are heavy on newcomers and people established in the semi-anonymous world of voiceover work.
We went to the con knowing relatively little about the Power Rangers and, though we're still far from experts in this area, we have a newfound appreciation for the franchise. It's the sign of a good convention when the event piques the interest of those who aren't part of the fandom. Power Morphicon did just that.