Home video distributor Shout Factory announced today that they have secured the rights to four of Saban Brands LLC’s (the reformed Saban Entertainment) live-action superhero series. You can guess easily that one of those shows is the Power Rangers franchise, but none of the shows announced have ever had a full-series release, even on VHS (although all of the shows announced had at least one VHS release). For fans of these shows this is big and long awaited news.
However, some of you may not remember or aren’t aware of some of these shows. In the interest of having an article to write, BW Media Spotlight is here to help you with our Saban Primer. Enjoy.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
Actually, the press release indicates they have the entire series, and while I’m more than willing to part with my 2nd generation “recorded from Fox Kids” videotapes for a high-quality DVD that takes up less space, even if they don’t include bonus features (please include bonus features–neither of us wants to listen to fans throw a fit), for all of the shows, it’s the original series that long-term fans have most asked for. It’s over 10 years old for Zordon’s sake.
One think to note is that they list the show as ending at 2009. To me this says they only have the rights to the Saban shows, ending at least with Time Force depending on how the rights go with Wild Force. This means that the Disney-produced shows (Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury, and RPM) are probably not on the list. Which means waiting on Disney to release those shows. Don’t hold your breath. Also unclear as to whether or not they will release the current Power Rangers Samurai when the series ends. I’m assuming that they won’t be releasing the two theatrical Ranger movies as those are already available on DVD through 20th Century Fox.
The only one of these series produced for syndication rather than Fox Kids, VR Troopers follows the adventures of Ryan Steele and his friends, fellow martial arts instructor JB and reporter Kaitlin, in their quest to stop Grimlord from taking over our reality. This appears to be targeted to an older audience than Power Rangers, and if you remember my Tokasatsu primer used footage from the “Metal Hero” franchise. The series ended on a cliffhanger because Japan stopped producing these kinds of shows and Saban ran out of footage.
Also know by their series names, Big Bad Beetleborgs and Beetleborgs Metallix, this seems to have been targeted in the other direction, towards a younger audience. The heroes are even 10-12 year old kids, given the powers of their favorite comic book superheroes by a ghost with magic powers (beyond what ghosts usually have in fiction). Unfortunately their new friend, Flabber, also releases the villains of the comic and his roommates, based on classic Western monsters, also like to torment our kids. This show was also canceled because they ran out of footage, in this case the Beetle Fighter series in Japan. I’m not looking as forward to this one, although I do have the two “movies” on VHS so we’ll see if I feel like doing a review of it or something at some point. It wasn’t bad, but outside of my armored heroes interest this show never seriously caught on with me.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation
I’m surprised they went for this one in light of the two shows they didn’t touch. Among Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans, this doesn’t play well. Saban’s take on the Heroes in the Half Shell was rather lacking. In this series, the Turtles find a lost fifth mutant turtle who grew up with a mystic who guarded a gateway to a prison for dragons. (Not the typical dragon, these were also bad costumes.) The lady Turtle is given the name “Venus” (guess there aren’t a lot of Renaissance-era female artists) and together they fought these dragons and a few other villains. (Except for Shredder, who is taken out by some spell Venus cast on him in the second or third episode. This is one of the problems fans have with the show.)
The only saving grace for the show is Scott McNeil as Bonesteel, a hunter who wants to take down the Turtles as the biggest prize ever. The Turtles also face a mob run by a yeti, a street gang who saw A Clockwork Orange one time too many (sadly, we only see them once), and a trio of vampires who almost (I stress almost) make the Twilight vampires look better in comparison. The only reason I can see them pushing this series is the fact that Nickelodeon bought the rights to the Turtles and are planning a new animated series. Unless I decide to do a video review I don’t really see me buying this one.
Missing from the list announced (and Shout Factory confirmed over Twitter that they didn’t license these shows) are the other two Saban series, Masked Rider and Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog. I know that American “Kamen Rider” fans are less than happy with the Saban series, and some day I do want to examine it to see how much of that hatred is justified, but Tir Na Nog is a different story. It’s a totally original production, and one of their better ones. Sure the CG was so poor (in comparison to their other shows) that I expected the wings to fly off the dragon on the show, but part of that was character models. The transformation effects were on par with other “morphing” sequences and setting it in a mystic land (inspired by Celtic lore) was inspired. I did ask Shout Factory about it over Twitter.
So we could end up getting these series and maybe some of their animated shows if we’re lucky. (If we’re REALLY lucky, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, since Shout Factory also distributes Transformers cartoons.) Only time will tell, I guess.