Hindsight is 20/20. That’s why I do Hindsight Reviews. What you thought at first may not be what you think weeks or months later.
After two and a half years of the the 2nd Saban Era of Power Rangers, many fans are now fondly looking back at the Disney Era of the franchise. That’s amazing considering the way fans felt while we were actually in the Disney Era.
There’s no doubt without Saban, there would be no Power Rangers. And Saban did a lot of great stuff with Power Rangers during its time.
But what Disney did was that they kept the franchise moving forward. The eyes of the Power Rangers looking straight ahead, growing and evolving with the times. And the striking differences between Disney and nuSaban are becoming more evident.
Maybe the biggest accomplishment during the Disney Era was in casting. They were able to cast capable, talented and experienced young actors from outside of the United States, tapping people from Canada to the UK and of course down under in Australia and the Disney PR homebase of New Zealand.
We’re not talking award winning acting here and pre-DinoThunder seasons definitely had their fair share of great performances. But overall, Disney’s casting, especially when compared to Saban II’s casting, was solid, many times excellent. They were able to get talented actors while also being diverse without the need for racial quotas (*cough*Megaforce*cough*).
Perhaps with plenty of experience from its more popular and mainstream Disney Channel shows, Disney knew they didn’t need to talk down to their audience. Power Rangers was still meant for kids, but it wasn’t any less childish than any other popular Disney-produced show of the time. In fact, Power Rangers may have even been more accessible, managing to be appealing to kids and pre-teens with stories that weren’t too trite for the increasingly sophisticated audience.
Indeed, RPM was an attempt to raise the target audience for the franchise to fit in with the rebranded Disney XD. But for whatever reason, Disney had given up on it and pretty much burned it off on ABC Kids (where available) and for the much more interested international audience. But even before RPM, Disney actually tried to be original. Whether those attempts worked or not doesn’t matter when thinking about the lack of attempt we’re seeing now.
During the Disney Era, there seemed to be more of an effort in actually adapting the Sentai footage for the American Power Rangers. Whether patterned and adapting the original Sentai storyline or creating a brand new premise, Disney made great effort in taking Japanese footage and actually making it Power Rangers. It wasn’t just a copy and paste job. There were more original American scenes. And even the countless so-called Kalishplosions, but really Koichisplosions (named after directors Bruce Kalish and Koichi Sakamoto) showed that extra little bit effort that made the seasons uniquely Power Rangers. So much so Koichi Sakamoto infused his Power Rangers-style into Sentai and Kamen Rider episodes and series he’s been in charge of.
The Disney seasons themselves were mixed bags, but were overall worthy efforts. Ninja Storm was a solid first effort that kept things light, yet engaging. DinoThunder is still one of the best seasons ever. SPD may have gone off the rails in its last third, but it started off great and had a solid cast. Mystic Force may well be one of the more underrated seasons that featured several big event arcs and good twists. I will defend Operation Overdrive any day (and that may be a whole other post by itself). It was ambitious and had a great premise. It was by no means perfect, but definitely not as bad as many make it seem. Jungle Fury was perfectly fine. And RPM, well, I’ve already said my peace.
Maybe the only thing Disney did wrong was its treatment of the franchise in terms of broadcast and promotion. But one could argue it was a matter of circumstance and the rapidly changing television landscape.
The demise of the Jetix block on ABC Family and its move to the less widely available Toon Disney was certainly the start. Without its plum Saturday morning slot and weekday rerun blocks on ABC Family, Power Rangers lost its biggest chance at visibility.
Meanwhile, the Saturday morning cartoon and children’s blocks on the broadcast networks were in its last days, their popularity waning especially with the growth of On Demand and online video.
Finding a good home for Power Rangers wasn’t going to be easy. And the newly rebranded Disney XD network would’ve been a great opportunity to use Power Rangers as a pillar of its line-up. Indeed, RPM was apparently supposed to be that pillar, but it ended up not being the case.
Nickelodeon actually is a very good home for the franchise as it has a much more diverse programming line-up than Disney Channel and is a much more recognizable brand than one of Disney’s newer cable channels.
As we know now, Nickelodeon has its own fair share of scheduling problems. But that doesn’t take away the fact that if only Disney had put just as much effort in promotion and visibility as they did creatively in the show, using the company’s vast resources in stores and theme parks Power Rangers wouldn’t have needed to be on the verge of cancellation every year.
So for all the knocks fans once hurled at Disney, looking back, it wasn’t such a bad time. The Disney Era of Power Rangers was creatively strong and had some great talent both in front of and behind the camera. If only Saban would continue the great strides instead of take those steps back.