On June 30, 1995, movie theaters got a whole lot more morphenomenal with the release of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie." It was the first time the teenagers with attitude got to kick monster butt on the silver screen, with updated costumes and a major new villain — the monarch of muck himself, Ivan Ooze.
While not exactly a critical darling, the film’s still beloved among the Ranger fandom and the young at heart. As the movie’s been revisited over the years, more and more behind-the-scenes details have been revealed that may take even those who’ve seen the film countless times by surprise. Was Gabrielle Fitzpatrick always going to play Dulcea? What lines were really ad-libbed? And what was the deal with Mordant, anyway? Awaken the Ninjetti power within you and don’t touch that ooze, as we explore the secrets of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" that even Zordon might not know about.
Dulcea’s complicated casting
When Ivan Ooze wrecks the time warp that keeps Zordon from aging during the villain’s Command Center raid, Ooze’s actions also cause the Power Rangers to lose their powers. Eager to save their mentor, the Rangers make an interstellar trek to Phaedos, where an old friend of Zordon’s, Dulcea, sends them on a quest for a power that can restore their Ranger abilities and Zordon’s life.
As the Ranger faithful can tell you, bringing Dulcea to life is Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, who was the first choice for the character. However, as Fitzpatrick related in an interview with No Pink Spandex, Mariska Hargitay, aka Detective Olivia Benson of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," became the new Dulcea when Fitzpatrick needed time off to treat an ovarian cyst. Yet upon recovery, Fitzpatrick resumed her Dulcea duties. As screenwriter Arne Olsen explained to Flickering Myth, Hargitay’s more subdued take on the character didn’t quite have the dynamic energy the filmmakers were looking for. Hargitay posited on "Late Night With Seth Meyers," however, that she may have been let go for joining her loved ones back home for the holiday season, rather than staying in Australia to continue shooting.
The movie is two scripts in one
It’s rare for a screenplay to be written by a single person in Hollywood. Generally scripts tend to change hands often, going through revision after revision before being finalized. A version of this happened with the script for "Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie." Rather than a single script that was polished repeatedly, however, the movie is actually a blend of two different scripts: one by John Kamps and another by Arne Olsen. As the latter screenwriter explained in an interview with Farrand on Film, the scripts were combined not long after being sent in, after which Olsen was asked to finesse the result alongside the film’s director, Bryan Spicer. Perhaps fittingly, the script continued to "morph" even in both the shooting and post-production stage, with Olsen and a number of uncredited writers making alterations where necessary.
Though many of Kamps’ lines were altered or removed from the movie, the major element that was kept was his villain, Ivan Ooze, which is why Kamps receives a story credit along with Olsen. Meanwhile, the Ninjetti, Dulcea, the Rangers going off-world, and an ambush on Zordon are from Olsen’s script, as are the film’s central themes of togetherness and finding inner strength by exploring the unknown. Further additions from Olsen included making Ooze even funnier than Kamps’ already humorous version and giving the character more things to do — all at the Power Rangers’ expense, of course.
The film was shot in many Australian hot spots
The vast majority of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" episodes were filmed in California, the same state where their fictional home city, Angel Grove, is located. As director Bryan Spicer explains in the film’s Blu-ray featurette "The Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen," however, he was instructed to set the Rangers’ cinematic adventures anywhere but the United States. Thus he settled on Australia, a place with just the kind of variety to make each locale the Rangers visit in the film distinct.
The vast majority of the movie was filmed in the famed city of Sydney, a place that even had an abandoned construction site and warehouse Spicer could use to film key scenes without interruption. For Phaedos, Dulcea’s planet, the city’s Chinese Garden of Friendship was used, but the cast and crew also filmed in other parts of New South Wales, including Bombo Quarry in Kiama, to really make the planet feel distinct from the Angel Grove scenes.
The story behind Mordant
While Ivan Ooze is unique to the film, a number of familiar villains appear in "Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie" — namely Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd and Goldar. However, rather than be accompanied by fellow Moon Palace regulars like Finster, Squatt, and Baboo, the three have a surprising unknown flanking them: an alien pig-man named Mordant. Though not a major presence in the movie, Mordant does join Goldar in siding against Rita and Zedd when Ooze usurps them, and of course finds himself in hot water when Zedd and Rita break free. No reason is given, however, as to why Mordant is there at all.
The answer — or at least, what would have been the answer, had it stayed in — lies in a line from Goldar that didn’t make the final cut. As can be seen on the Internet Movie Script Database, Goldar would have explained to Rita, "Mordant’s my second cousin three times removed on my mother’s side." He then cheekily adds, "He’s just visiting for the summer" — a clever, metatextual way of acknowledging that Mordant is a character specific to the movie, which was released when it was summertime in the U.S. Mordant also is more active in the older script, accompanying the Tengu Warriors to Phaedos and later losing in hand-to-hand combat on Earth to a surprising opponent: Fred Kelman, the child who befriends the Power Rangers in the film.
One of the movie’s funniest lines was ad-libbed
While the script for "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" changed many times throughout production, the actors mainly stuck to their given lines. Even Ivan Ooze counting "The Brady Bunch" reunion among the "terrifying" things that passed him by during his imprisonment wasn’t ad-libbed, contrary to what’s stated on the Internet Movie Database: as Paul Freeman himself explained to Entertainment Tonight, he wasn’t even familiar with "The Brady Bunch" until he saw them mentioned in the script.
One line, however, was ad-libbed, and it’s a fan favorite. When Dulcea awakens the Ninjetti animal powers within the Rangers, Adam the Black Ranger expresses his disappointment over the animal within his heart in a single sentence: "I’m a frog." As Adam’s actor, Johnny Yong Bosch, told fans at Kawaii Kon 2010 (via YouTube), the improvised line stemmed from Bosch’s days catching frogs in his youth — an activity that taught him that they weren’t "quick as lightning," as one script version claimed (via IMSDb). To stay on the safe side, director Spicer filmed both the line Bosch came up with and the one in the screenplay, with Bosch’s line winning out. It’s become so popular, that Bosch has even reenacted the line at cons, usually to raucous laughter.
As the Power Rangers’ costumes are a major part of their appeal, it was important to get them right for the big screen. Rather than use the suits from the show, however, Spicer instead sought to give them a visual upgrade by armoring the Rangers up, as he explained in "The Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen." Though made with movement in mind, their weight could often be an issue when it came to pulling off the Rangers’ acrobatics and martial arts, as actor Jason David Frank (Tommy the White Ranger) admitted to Flickering Myth.
Another complication involved the Rangers’ iconic helmets. Unlike the show, no Japanese footage was used to make the movie. Spicer saw this as an opportunity to rework the helmets to show more of the actors’ faces, hoping it’d create more expressive performances and show audiences that it was indeed the American actors in the suits. Thus various elements of the helmet were removed or altered — something art department electrician Paul Matthews stated in a press release titled "The Original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie Fact File."
Spicer was quick to reverse that decision, though, when he and the film’s crew (not to mention higher-ups at Fox) realized just how low-budget the suits looked with the Rangers’ faces exposed. The silver mouth plates and permanently tinted eye pieces returned to the helmets, and all the Rangers’ costume footage was reshot with stunt doubles, while the Rangers’ official actors handled the out-of-costume and Ninjetti uniform scenes, thus cutting down on reshoot time.
The cast pulled double duty
As Steve Cardenas, aka Rocky the Red Ranger, told Flickering Myth, the "Power Rangers" movie and television series were never meant to be shot concurrently. Yet the decision to stick with Fitzpatrick as Dulcea meant everything that had been filmed with Hargitay in the role had to be done again in reshoots. Furthermore, while the crew did figure out how to speed up the retakes of scenes where the helmets didn’t look right, it still took a while. As a result, making the movie went on longer than expected, overlapping with the series’ production schedule.
Cleverly, however, two three-part episodes were made during the film’s shooting that actually worked the cast and crew’s Australian surroundings into their plots. The first, as Paul Matthews explained in "The Original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Movie Fact File," was the famous "The Wedding," which features Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa tying the knot while the Rangers go on a trip to Australia. The second was "Return of the Green Ranger," in which the mighty morphin’ heroes are magically transported to Angel Grove circa the U.S. Revolutionary War — whose inhabitants, though meant to have British accents, instead sound quite Australian.
The battle over tone
It’s true that "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" retains many of the show’s tonal elements, including wisecracking Rangers and villains, occasional cartoony sound effects, and of course, Bulk and Skull shenanigans. Yet there’s also a more dire and even somber feel to the film as well, particularly when it comes to Zordon, whom the Rangers find on the brink of death after Ooze’s impromptu Command Center visit. Though the series could be dramatic, it was rare for the "Mighty Morphin" seasons of "Power Rangers" to deal with such personal stakes.
As it turns out, the tonal change may have had to do with 20th Century Fox’s involvement in making the movie. As Jason Narvy, who plays Skull, explained in the "Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen" featurette, "Saban had to worry about the image of it. They wanted the show to continue. So there was this tug of war about the demographic. Is it gonna be like ‘Batman’ — dark, higher demographic, much more violent — or is it gonna continue to be sort of like Mighty Mouse meets Superman, innocent and fun?" The result is a hybrid that retains the show’s kid-friendliness, but pushes the story in an emotional direction that wouldn’t become common until later "Power Rangers" iterations. One of those later Rangers seasons, "Power Rangers in Space," would again place Zordon’s life in peril, but with a decidedly different outcome for the character than the movie’s more triumphant resolution.
Creating Ivan Ooze
Ivan Ooze is an undeniable standout of the movie, bounce between menace, charisma, and fun with ease. To best capture the character’s various facets, Paul Freeman (best known as infamous "Indiana Jones" villain Belloq) was cast in the role. As Freeman related in "The Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen," Bryan Spicer was more than accommodating in letting the actor mold the character. "He gave me the freedom to experiment with Ivan as much as I wanted," the actor explained. "There was never a moment when he said, ‘Oh, I don’t think that’s the right way’ or something like that. He was always enjoying what I did, which encouraged to me to go even further."
Interestingly, Freeman also stated that one of the earlier incarnations of the film’s script had him shaping his body into various human and even animal forms, as he revealed to Entertainment Tonight. Ooze does morph his appearance into a normal human once in the movie itself, namely the security guard who approaches the Rangers at the construction site where Ooze’s egg is found. His other transformations, such as when he becomes a clown version of himself and part of the Hornitor robot, are significantly less conventional, however. The least human of his forms, of course, is when he turns into pure, goopy ooze.
The Oozemen were originally rats
While Ivan Ooze is certainly formidable on his own in a fight, he does make a few underlings to help him out. First there are the Oozemen, who battle the Rangers at the construction site where Lord Zedd frees their creator. Then there are the birdlike Tengu Warriors — renamed the Tenga Warriors on the show — who are sent to figuratively ruffle the Rangers’ feathers on Phaedos. None of them are particularly successful, however, and Ooze even destroys the Tengus personally when their attempts to eliminate the teen warriors are foiled by Dulcea.
It’s enough to make any supervillain shout "Rats!" in frustration. While Ooze doesn’t quite do that, he certainly would have had good reason to if he’d stuck with his foot soldiers from the film’s earlier draft (via IMSDb) — human-sized rat warriors. The oversized rodents were originally going to be the Rangers’ construction site sparring partners, but as stunt coordinator Jeff Pruit explained in "The Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen," the rat suits limited the stunt performers substantially in vision and mobility. Plus, as Cardenas noted to Flickering Myth, they didn’t look all that menacing, either. Thus the rat warriors were instead repurposed for "Return of the Green Ranger," while the Oozemen replaced them in the film. The Tengus, conversely, were always separate from Ooze’s construction site minions, and would’ve even received a power upgrade and a Queen from Ooze before script rewrites.
Paul Freeman’s ankle incident
Ivan Ooze’s elaborate makeup and prosthetics posed certain complications for Paul Freeman, making simple tasks like sitting and eating a challenge. As Freeman further noted in "The Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen," the prosthetics and glue of the costume would even cause skin flare-ups for the actor, meaning he could only be filmed for brief periods.
None of these prevented Freeman from having a ball playing the character, and it shows on the screen. However, he noted to Entertainment Tonight that an unexpected mishap occurred when a polystyrene step broke beneath one of Ooze’s high-heel boots, leaving Freeman with a twisted ankle. Given how time-consuming the full get-up was to remove completely (not to mention apply, which would normally take over four hours), Freeman was taken to the hospital with all his facial prosthetics still on, as he elaborated in "The Mighty Leap," giving the medical personnel treating him quite a sight. Freeman was even wheeled outside to another clinic at one point so his ankle could be X-Rayed, leaving a few onlookers stunned.
The Wizard of Oz parallels
What do the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz" and the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" movie have in common? Quite a bit, in fact. Zordon — a wizard himself — usually appears as a floating head in a tube, for instance, while Oz presents himself as a giant holographic head before his true appearance is uncovered. Furthermore, as screenwriter Arne Olsen, a big "Wizard of Oz" fan, noted to "Farrand on Film," the Tengu Warriors are reminiscent of the flying monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz." And who can forget about the most famous "flying monkey" of the "Power Rangers" universe, Goldar? They even both have wicked witches, with Rita Repulsa filling the role in "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie."
While some of these similarities were already baked into the "Power Rangers" franchise before the movie was made, "The Wizard of Oz" had a very specific impact on the film’s story. As Bryan Spicer clarified in "The Mighty Leap to the Silver Screen," the idea of a group of characters journeying to an unknown place with the same goal is the aspect of "The Wizard of Oz" he sought to replicate in the "Power Rangers" film. Thus Dulcea can also be seen as the wizard of the movie, especially since she possesses special abilities like being able to turn into an owl. Phaedos, meanwhile, can be viewed as the film’s Oz — its greenery certainly brings Oz’s Emerald City to mind.
Ivan Ooze was Jason David Frank’s favorite villain
As Tommy Oliver, Jason David Frank appeared in more "Power Ranger" episodes than any other actor to have played a Ranger on live action television. This also means that his iconic character faced the most amount of villains. From Rita and Zedd’s monsters to the minions of later foes like the Machine Empire, Divatox and Mesogog, Tommy — and by extension, Jason David Frank — encountered all kinds of Ranger enemies.
So naturally, it’d make sense that Frank would have his favorites. However, rather than pick a nemesis from the show, Frank stated in 2021’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Full March GalaxyCon Q&A (via YouTube) that Ivan Ooze was likely his number one Ranger foe. Frank was also a fan of the man behind the ooze, Paul Freeman, and was able to express his admiration personally to the actor with his fellow "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" castmates during the Entertainment Tonight virtual cast reunion. It just goes to show that just as people around the world considered Frank one of their personal heroes, so did Frank have heroes of his own.