In a market increasingly occupied by retro brands and comeback toys, one property in particular has broken the mould.
Rather than going for years without any new products or TV shows, then coming back, Saban’s Power Rangers has had a mostly constant presence in its 20-year history in the UK. And it’s never dipped out of master toy licensee Bandai’s portfolio. This means sales have been consistently strong as opposed to those with peaks and troughs.
Power Rangers has actually been around for 35 years in Japan and made its UK debut in 1993 on GMTV, with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers pulling in more than four million viewers at its peak. The base story – five everyday high school kids that can transform into powerful beings to protect Earth – has been around ever since. It was sold a few times along the way, but original owner Saban re-acquired the brand in 2010 and launched Power Rangers Samurai.
Within toys, it’s been a top ten boys action brand since 1993 and the number one in 1994, 1995, 2003 and 2004. Bandai picked up Toy of the Year for the brand in ‘94 and Boys Toy of the Year in ‘95. Power Rangers is currently the number six boys action brand (NPD March) and Bandai says it is continuing to climb the charts.
So what’s made it such a consistent seller? The good versus evil theme? Giant robot swords? The impossibly bright spandex suits?
“There are very few brands like Power Rangers,” Bandai’s senior product manager Andrew Welch tells ToyNews. “It’s one of Bandai’s best known toy ranges globally and the dynamic live-action TV series resonates strongly with kids.
“Its core ingredients are characters fighting against mutants. It appeals to both sexes, has a broad age range and the show can be enjoyed by all the family.
“Every year there is a new themed Power Rangers series and Bandai complement this with a fresh toy range of figures, vehicles and role-play for fans to enjoy.”
One of the most popular Power Rangers toys is the Morpher, which allows the TV characters to transform into Rangers.
The brand new variant – the Deluxe Gosei Morpher – launches at the end of July (see ‘Sales Force’ over the page for more information or ‘Mighty Morpher’ for a brief history). This leads the entire Megaforce range for autumn/winter 2013, based on the new show of the same name, which airs this summer.
“We see Power Rangers as a child’s first action figure, with the brand’s core age being between three and six,” adds Welch. “Of course, we have fans buying product older than this – consumers are buying into brands they are familiar with.
“We always offer a good mix of figures, vehicles and role-play toys across all price points. We also refresh product assortments regularly to offer further collectability.
“Whilst there are brands re-introduced, Power Rangers has stayed in the toy market for over 20 years.
“We will work hard with licence owner Saban for Power Rangers to remain a key boys action brand for more years to come.”
We blast to the past and round up the top-selling Morpher toys in Power Rangers’ history.
1995-96 This Morpher is from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV?series:
2004 Wind Morpher from the Power Rangers Ninja Storm TV show:
2006 Delta Morpher from Power Rangers SPD:
2013 Power Rangers Megaforce Deluxe Gosei Morpher (see below for a full description):
The Morpher is one of the top-selling Power Rangers toys. It has evolved substantially over the years, and this Deluxe Gosei Morpher is Bandai’s most expensive and advanced yet. It’s due to launch at the end of July and will lead the rest of the Megaforce range due this autumn/winter.
In the upcoming Megaforce TV series, it allows the high school teens to morph into Power Rangers, as well as summon their weapons and Zord vehicles.
The Deluxe Gosei Morpher contains over 180 sounds, which can be unlocked by scanning in cards that come with different Megaforce toys (see ‘Playing its cards right’).
“At Bandai, we pride ourselves on developing good quality toys for the consumer,” says Welch.
“Previous morphers have been a mid-price point for us. But with the morpher in Megaforce being even more integral within the Power Rangers series, and so iconic, we have every confidence in this item when we launch it for autumn/winter.”
An eye for the West
With Power Rangers, Bandai Japan is two years ahead of the UK series, and the US is six months ahead. This means Power Rangers toy designs are specially tweaked for children in the UK.
“From a product development point of view, our US R&D team reviews Bandai Japan’s product line and develops the range more for the US and European market, as we currently don’t have the high-end collector market for the range,” says Bandai’s senior product manager Andrew Welch.
“Working to maintain good quality product whilst offering value is a continual challenge for us – and the toy industry.”
Power Rangers is well known for its bright, dynamic colour scheme, with the spandex-wearing rangers transforming into multi-coloured robots. But what’s the science behind this and how is it translated into toys?
“The Power Ranger outfits have always been very bright and iconic,” says Welch. “The Rangers’ team outfit colours change every series. Only the Red, Blue and Yellow Rangers are always present, with other colours like Green, Pink, Black added in to make the complete five Ranger line-up.
“The high school teens’ clothes often include accent colours from the particular Power Ranger they are. In every Power Rangers series there is a sixth member who joins the group to save the Earth, normally halfway through the series.
“We have always included the sixth Ranger within our figure and vehicle assortments, as this is a figure that receives a lot of consumer demand as soon as he is seen in a show.”
Playing its cards right
The Deluxe Gosei Morpher includes ten cards: five based on the Power Rangers Megaforce series and five based on previous series. It can scan the barcodes to unlock a unique phrase from each card.
There is also a unique barcode at the top of each card which can be read by a free downloadable Power Rangers Card Scanner App. When a consumer points their smartphone at the card, it will unlock a clip from the show.
Every Bandai Megaforce toy will include at least one unique card to use with the Morpher. Mid price-point items will come with at least two, while higher-priced toys can include more.
“We recognise that apps are becoming more of an interest and appeal to children in a growing tech climate,” explains Welch.
“Whilst children may not have their own smartphone or tablet device, more than likely a parent or older sibling will. Across our brands, we are developing more added value content with apps, rather than standalone app-based product.”
Other Power Rangers toys in the line-up include Mini Figures, 10cm Action Figures and 16cm Battle Morphin’ Figures, as well as Zord Vehicles that connect together to build Megazords. Each 10cm figure includes accessories and one Power Ranger card.
“We have always received very positive comments from retailers for our figure quality, with regard to figure articulation and detail,” comments Welch.
“And we have always sold Zord Vehicles, Cycles and Megazords so kids can emulate the Megazord combinations in the show, plus create their own. Again, this element in the range drives further product collectability.”
Power Rangers celebrated its 20th birthday at the 2013 London?Toy Fair, with over 100 people attending.
Bandai’s senior product manager Andrew Welch says: “We had a good mix of retailers, toy/licensing trade and licensees join us to celebrate.”