TV Discussion

Power Rangers: Ninja Storm – Throwback 20

© 2003 Buena Vista Television.

Ten years into production, after becoming a global phenomenon, selling millions in toys and receiving two feature films, the Power Rangers franchise was coming to a close.

Disney purchased Power Rangers in 2002, as part of their buy out of the Fox Kids franchise. Power Rangers: Wild Force was still airing, and the executives at Disney decided that that season would be the last, and that once it finished airing Power Rangers would be relegated to history. The final Power Rangers: Wild Force episodes were even named ‘The End of the Power Rangers’ because of this expectation.

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According to behind the scenes stories that have come out over the years, someone working at Disney who liked Power Rangers saw that the company had acquired the show and was planning on scrapping it. Taking a look at the numbers, they presented Disney with a way of producing the show for a fraction of the cost of previous seasons. Cost cutting measures, along with the amount that the show made each year on merchandising and toys, could potentially land Disney with a goldmine. As such, it was decided that Power Rangers would get one more chance, and another season would be made – Power Rangers: Ninja Storm.

Based upon the Super Sentai season Ninpu Sentai Hurricaneger, the show shifted the focus away from animals to ninjas, and became much more action focused. The season also featured a pretty unique team build; one that wouldn’t really get emulated again in any other subsequent season. Instead of the usual five members this season would start with just three. Skateboarder Shane (Pua Magasiva), surfer Tori (Sally Martin), and dirt biker Dustin (Glenn McMillan), who would be the Red, Blue, and Yellow Rangers respectively.

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At the start of the season the three teens would be students at the hidden Wind Ninja Academy. Three of the worst students. They’re constantly late, are always off pursuing their hobbies rather than training, and can’t really work well as a team. However, when Lothor (Grant McFarland), an evil ninja that was banished and went to space to recruit an army of monsters (just go with it), arrives to take revenge against the Wind Ninja school he captures every student but Shane, Tori, and Dustin. With no other choice, their Sensei, who has been transformed into a talking guinea pig (again, just go with it), grants the three of them the ability to transform into Power Rangers.

© 2003 Buena Vista Television.

Much like with previous season of the show the team would fight a new monster each week that Lothor would dispatch to try and destroy them. However, the new series very quickly did things a little differently, by introducing a pair of evil Power Rangers just a few episodes in.

These two, the Crimson Thunder Ranger (Adam Touminen), and the Navy Thunder Ranger (Jorgito Vargas Jr.) would eventually join the team, giving them a second Red and Blue Ranger, though darker in tone. Later on in the season the team’s tech support Cameron (Jason Chan) would become the Green Samuarai Ranger, bringing the total up to six. This type of team, starting with just the three, and ending up with duplicate colours, and three different types of Rangers (Wind, Thunder, and Samurai) makes this one of the most eclectic and unique teams around.

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The Rangers got the chance to stand out by being different from normal, but the villain of the show, Lothor, also managed to become a firm fan favourite of the franchise. There have been some great Power Rangers villains over the years, with those that are more human in appearance often taking the top spot over people inside thick monster suit.

Despite having most of his face covered by a weird luchador type mask, Lothor managed to be one of the more memorable thanks to the way that Grant McFarland played him. Lothor was genuinely quite funny in pretty much every episode he was in, with McFarland delivering his lines in ways that made the audience forgive the goofiness and camp. McFarland knew he was playing a ridiculous role in a ridiculous show, and very much leant into it. His performance is arch, over the top, and often silly, and it’s an absolute joy to watch.

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A lot of the success for Power Rangers: Ninja Storm can be laid with the crew. With most of the people who’d been making Power Rangers in recent years having been let go when Disney took over, several seasoned members of the crew were brought back. Doug Sloan, who’d worked on the franchise from its launch until Power Rangers: Turbo, was brought back as Executive Producer, along with Ann Austen who’d worked on several seasons of the show. A number of writers would also make a return, including Jackie Marchand, who’d written a number of fan favourite episodes, including the majority of Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue and Power Rangers: Time Force. These returning crew brought with them an understanding of the franchise, as well as a passion for the series that helped to boost Power Rangers: Ninja Storm.

The series ended up being a huge success for Disney, thanks in large part to the more complex storytelling, the new look of the show (the production having moved to New Zealand), the interesting action that incorporated ninja themes, and some cool new merchandise. Disney nearly threw the franchise away, but with just one more year to prove there was life still left in it, Power Rangers: Ninja Storm showed that it could be a hit, and it secured the franchise for years to come, with the show not having been off air since.

Power Rangers: Ninja Storm aired it’s first episode on 15th February 2003.

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