Revisiting Power Rangers is a project which compares the video of the original airings of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with that of the reversioned ones currently airing on ABC Kids. For the most part, we leave it to the fan to make their own (educated) decisions on whether the changes are improvements or not.
Dan Evans, the producer in charge of Disney's "reversioning" of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has been kind enough to answer a series of questions for GrnRngr.com.
Some people might be surprised to hear that you worked for Fox Kids in the late '90s. What was your role at the time?
I was just starting as a Manager of Development. So I was taking meetings to find new shows and overseeing current programming. Nothing too exciting, really.
Fast forward a decade - how is it that you became involved with the task of "reversioning" Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?
Oddly enough most of the people I worked with at Fox are now Execs at Disney/Jetix/XD. They knew I liked the Rangers and asked me if I would be interested. I also had worked with Studiopolis on a bunch of Digimon stuff and we had a good working relationship.
How familiar were you with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series and the 32 episodes you helped reversion?
I had watched the show when it first aired. In fact I have watched pretty much all of the US Rangers series to some degree since they started. In fact, I used to watch the ORIGINAL first Ranger series when they used to show the Japanese language versions on a local Los Angeles station when I was a weeeeee tot. But getting back to your question I hadn't seen them since they first came on. So it was all vague memories.
What kind of guidelines were you given for the reversioning?
Well the comic book style formatting was already decided. I think one of the reasons they went ahead and gave me the show was because I have a huge comic knowledge. I am no Mark Waid but I can hold my own. Beyond that, the network formatting dictated that all the episodes come in at 22 minutes, I believe. Sooooo since most of the episodes were in fact less than 22 (a lot less in some instances, arrrrgh) I had to find ways to bring them to time in bright colorful ways. This lead to the "bumpers" and "Danceoff" Segments.
Walk me through the process of reversioning an episode. What steps are involved? How long did an episode usually take?
Hmm. Lessee...Well before I did anything I watched all 32 episodes. Looked for patterns and recurring beats. Tried to think of themes and such to do with the episodes and bumpers. Then I looked at a lot of comics layouts. I tended to focus on the art of David Aja, JH Williams and Tony Harris because they do such awesome stuff with the layout of the page so that it becomes a seperate art object that still tells a clear story.
Anyway, with each new episode I would go thru and watch with a notepad. I would pause whenever I could find good moments where my Graphics guys could do their magic to enhance a beat. Most of the poses were affected. Sometimes a particular emotional story beat would get something done. Then I throw that into a format script. The script would have the time code of the scene, the primary object to be affected and the type or style of effect that I wanted.
I would also call out the hated Text effects. I don't think people realize that Power Rangers is still considered an uncomfortable action show. The kicking and hitting, especially in the non-costumed bits, is Standards & Practices bait. Nowadays you kinda need to know what each network considers ok for air then you just work within that framework. But when you are putting a show on from 17 years ago, THAT LEAD TO CURRENT STANDARDS, you are kind of in a bind. So I decided to use the text effects to cover any bits that could be a note.
Instead of having to cut a heavy kick to the midsection, I could leave the scene and just throw a POW! on the impact frame. Other times I would just put them in to try and enhance the comedy of a comedic scene. Plus once they were built we could re-use them whenever we had an effects lite episode. But I didn't like to use them on the Ranger scenes since I am still scarred by the effect the Batman TV series had on taking superhero stuff seriously.
Anyway, after that I sit with an editor pulling the shots that are given to the Graphics guys to go to town on. From there, the shots are reviewed, tweaked if necessary, then put back into the show and then sent to music sweetening. We never changed the music but, in some cases, we had to rebuild the audio and, of course, color correct all the picture.
Wow that felt like a long answer.
How many episodes had you completed prior to the first episode, Day of the Dumpster, actually airing on television?
If I remember correctly, I was just starting on the Green Ranger Saga when the show finally hit the air. So, 15? No probably 13. I think we JUST started on GRS because I took extra time to change everything for that.
How big was the group that worked on the reversioning? Did certain individuals get assigned certain episodes or were certain tasks more specialized?
Hahahaha, Me, 2 graphics guys Davey and Paul , my editor, Terry Marlin and our music sweetening editor Ernie Sheesley. There was also a network exec, exec producer extraordinaire Jamie Simone and our Standards and Practices person.
Were you surprised at how widely the length of each episode varied? Did this create any particular problems?
Yeah I forgot that they would do the shows to whatever length. But some of the episodes are shockingly short. I think they started running PSAs or more Network Promos when the show caught on. Whatever the case there are a couple that are almost 3 minutes short. So we had to do things like that Danceoff, which I think I came up with out of a fever dream...
There are some notable shifts in the style of the added effects over the episodes - the addition of Japanese writing, the change of the banners when the Zords are summoned. Were these changes a result of in-house discussion, comments from higher-ups, or the fans? Was there a change in the actual reversioning process or even the technology used?
That was pretty much all me and planned. We were kinda feeling our way on what we could do at first and how much the network wanted. So you notice that we start with just a couple of shots and some spotlight bumpers. Once we had the hang of it all I decided to redo everything for what is one of the most memorable Ranger arcs. I decided to give the new look a manga style to freshen up the style and shake the graphics guys out of repetitive sizzle art. So you got Katakana effects, skewed frames, speed lines and anything else we could think of. The fans didn't really have much input since we were way ahead of them. the Network pretty much left us to our own devices. So we had fun with the whole thing.
The finishing maneuver of the Dragonzord in Fighting Mode, essentially the Monster of the Week being run through by the drill staff, was an expected choice for censoring by Standards & Practices in 2010. Were there any moments you had to fight for, to prevent from being censored?
No. I have been doing kids TV for about 15 years and have worked for most of the majors outlets so I have a pretty good idea of what I can get away with. Plus I cheated with the Text effects. hahaha
Disney's initial order for 32 episodes was, unfortunately, not extended. How early on did you know that it would be 32-and-out or was it always a foregone conclusion?
As far as I know it was always going to be 32. I think if there had been a huge upsurge in the ratings or, I don't know, maybe a run on the toys, someone would have dug up more episodes.
The 32 episodes chosen were the first 32 episodes in original production number order. This resulted in the final reversioned episode being "A Star is Born." Whose decision was it to choose these episodes? Was there any discussion in picking and choosing a "good representation" of the first season, possibly including more integral episodes while disregarding others?
Nope. I think they just wanted to get it out there and see what happened. By the time I was brought in all the episodes were picked.
The "final episode montage", as it is being called, was a good way to wrap up the 32-episode span. Whose decision was this and what was the thinking behind it?
Wow, it is nice to not get yelled at for something I added to the show. One day, and this is pretty much the creative process, I think I was watching some DirecTV ad or something. I saw that montage image thing but it seemed kinda random. I knew we had built a huge library of effects so I stormed into the graphics bay waving around my coffee and started blathering about the thing we need for the last effects shot. I think everyone thought I had lost my mind. But I wanted to showcase all we did and all the show is and that was the best way to do it. Davey did a fantastic job putting this all together but I think he had dreams of Power Rangers for days after.
Also I had 90 seconds of time I had to fill, hahahahahahahah
Were you prepared for the backlash from the online Power Rangers fandom?
I have worked on Transformers and Digimon so I am used to rabid fandom. I couldn't USUALLY take it personally since I knew I was trying to make something that was good and still respected the original. Obviously a number of people disagree and that is their right. In fact I was happy to get some kinda response as long as it wasn't just people being rude.
What was your reaction to the news that the Power Rangers franchise had been sold, and to Haim Saban of all people?
Haim is a genius. We should all be as smart as he is.
Looking back on the reversioning, is there any moment you are particularly proud of? Any that you wish you could change?
I wish we could go back and redo the first 13 to match the cool stuff we did in the 19. And I wish we had the budget to get the original cast to do voice overs for some of the bumpers.
What's next for you?
Oddly I too am now at Nickelodeon. Maybe they will let me play with the new Rangers! Wow I can almost hear the fanrage amping up over that last sentence. Hahahahahahah