This year marks the 20th anniversary of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” Originally a strange hybrid of newly-shot footage of American actors mixed with aged Japanese clips of giant robots fighting it out with rubbery monsters, the series quickly outgrew its humble beginnings to become a cultural phenomenon complete with toys, feature films, and at one point a touring stage show. Original cast members Walter Jones (Zack the Black Ranger) and David Yost (Billy the Blue Ranger), along with Season 3 addition Steve Cardenas (Rocky the Red Ranger), are in San Antonio this weekend for Alamo City Comic Con. I sat down with all three to talk a little about the history of the Power Rangers.
It’s been 20 years since the premiere of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” Does it feel like 20 years or does it feel like it was yesterday?
Steve Cardenas: Sometime it feels like it was so long ago, like it was another lifetime ago. Sometimes I feel like I remember everything like it was just a couple years ago.
Walter Jones: I would say it doesn’t seem like 20 years to me since the fans have always been very consistent. Over the past 20 years I still get recognized almost daily. So its never really gone away, in a way.
When the show started, there wasn’t really anything like it before: Japanese footage pieced together with footage shot in the U.S. Was it a difficult thing to get used to, or was it just another gig?
David Yost: In the beginning, for me, it was just another gig. I was just excited to be a working actor in Hollywood. We filmed almost an entire year before the show started airing, so we didn’t really have a concept of what it was really all going to be about until it got cut together and put on the air. And then it was like, “Wow.” It has all these amazing elements in it, with our Zords, and we’re fighting monsters, we’re superheroes…it just had a lot of really neat elements that a lot of kids could relate to.
WJ: It wasn’t something that we—we never saw the Japanese footage until later. Since we weren’t doing that part, we didn’t necessarily know what it was going to be until we saw it and were like, “Oh, that’s what that is!” When we did the pilot it was kind of…weird.
You all ended up doing more as the show went on and the Japanese footage ran out, more stunts, more fights.
DY: After the first season, we started filming the so-called “Japanese footage” in the States. But for the most part, we did all of our stunts out of costume all the time.
Was it weird having your own action figures?
WJ: It’s strange. We had the ones with the flip heads that actually “morphed.” I never thought it looked like me. But it was still cool.
SC: Mine was just a white face with brown hair. It could have been anybody. But I thought it was cool. When I first joined the show they told me, “OK, we need to take your picture.” I asked why and they said, “We’re going to make a doll with your face!”
Were you all martial artists before joining the show?
WJ: I was a martial artist. I was a peewee Michigan state champion. I studied martial arts as a child. I was a little rusty, but I still had a lot of my skills. As I worked on the show, they got better.
DY: I grew up as a competitive gymnast. So that helped me get the show.
SC: I’ve been doing martial arts—I’m from San Antonio, and I started martial arts actually at Crossroads Mall (now Wonderland of the Americas) at Professional Karate Institute. That’s where I started out. I started that when I was 12 years old, so I’ve been doing martial arts for 20-something years.
Steve, you grew up here. What’s it like coming back?
SC: It’s cool. I have family here, so I come back a lot. It’s always nice to come home.
So what are you all up to know?
SC: I own a martial arts studio called Force Balance Brazilian Jujitsu.
DY: I mostly work behind the scenes in television now on various productions.
WJ: I still act. TV, film, I do a lot of voice over work. I’m working on producing a show.