The History of the Ranger Retrocenter
Power Rangers began airing on American television in August, 1993. The show slowly started gaining child fans, and by the end of the year, an international hit was looming. In 1994, the show was sold around the world, and its popularity skyrocketed. To many, Power Rangers was nothing more than a passing fad. There is an element of truth in the statement- it was indeed a fad, but it also much more than that. It was a phenomenon.
In the years that followed, interest died down as the lure of the new turned to the unexcitingly familiar. However, the show still remained moderately successful. No other children’s show, toy line or franchise has ever, to this very day, been able to maintain the level of success enjoyed by Power Rangers in the last fifteen years.
The Internet Age
Power Rangers benefited from the electronic revolution of the nineties, the boom in the Internet allowed for indulgences never before permitted. The Power Rangers “net scene” during this period was incredible, due in part to the relative ease involved in creating a website. Software such as Microsoft Word enabled people with no technical understanding to make their own fan-sites, and new services such as Geocities and FortuneCity allowed them to host these sites for free.
However, most of the content was nothing more than regurgitated pictures and information stolen from other, more professional or comprehensive net sources. The oldest PR website we have been ever able to track was nothing more than a list of all the monsters featured in Season One of MMPR. Undoubtedly the most appreciated site at the time was a fairly large (for the time) website created by an MIT student named Manual Perez, called The Morphin Grid. This website featured an incredible amount of information on MMPR, PRZ and the second feature film, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. The website was also unique in that it offered interactive content, such as Web Rangers, an online game, and a fandom-wide survey that was even acknowledged in a PRZ blooper reel.
1996 was the year that everything changed. With a new rebranding of the show, excitement was at an all-time high. Information on the new season was provided by two sites: Matt Pitt’s Power Rangers Zeo page, and Ray Calderon’s Power Rangers Zeo Homepage. Both sites were incredibly similar, as they were both based on the same information. Ray Calderon’s site, however, evolved over time to present an incredible amount of accurate information and clean, new scans from OhRanger sentai sources. The following year, this site rebranded itself as Power Rangers Central, and incorporated MMPR and the new PRT season. This site quickly set the level that all other PR sites were measured by, and until its closure in 2004, was the best PR site ever made.
The First Steps
I created my first webpage in 1996. It was my first step into writing and publication, and was my first introduction to HTML. While I never attempted to gain a full working knowledge of all HTML code, I picked up enough to get along. I imitated the work of many others, and spent days upon days saving all the pictures and pages I could to hard disk. I would use Jasc Paint Shop Pro to edit and manipulate images, changing them, improving them, experimenting with what was possible. I would use text editors to disassemble the HTML code of other popular, successful websites, learning the techniques utilized to accomplish such excellent results. I was never an innovator, preferring much more to watch and learn through imitation and reverse-engineering.
Eventually, I decided I wanted to try to compete. I launched a site in late 1996 named “The Unofficial Scottish Power Rangers Zeo Homepage”. Yes, it really WAS that long a title. Even at that young a stage, I knew the basics of what was NEEDED to make a good site. I needed something different, some sort of hook, something that made it unique. Throwing “Scottish” into the title was my idea of making it sound different. In retrospect, it actually seems a little bit odd. As Amit Bhuamik once asked, “What exactly MAKES it Scottish? Don’t ask me!”.
This site offered something else that the legions of other copycat sites did not. While many others simply robbed the pictures and content from Ray Calderon’s site, I preferred to present as much as possible from other sources. As PRZ was launching in the UK, I had plenty. I invested in books, magazines, trading cards and stickers. I had two scanners, and used them both. Content was the big thing, and I knew I had to get my own.
Eventually, my interest in PR began to wane. With PRT fast approaching, the PRZ scene quickly started to die. I disagreed with so many of the new PR decisions of the time, such as the new designs and Rangers. Not only this, but access to new material in the UK was scarce. The USPRZH was left to shut down, but it wasn’t the end for it. When PRT started rolling out merchandise in the UK, I used the opportunity to integrate the new material into the website, and re-launched it as “The Power Chamber”. The site covered PRZ and PRT… as much as I could stand, that is. Eventually, I grew tired with the show, as well as having to import American recordings of the show thanks to it being taken off the air in the UK. The site died, and I looked into other things. In 1998, I experimented with the concept of a new site named “Back to Action”, so much so that I actually made a 3D text banner advertising the new site and placed it on the site of the old “Power Chamber”. The idea of “Back to Action” was to be a comprehensive site focusing purely on MMPR season one, a season that I had much preferred over the new material being produced. Ultimately, the site never made it off the ground, but the underlying IDEA of the site managed to survive. And so, I began my most ambitious PR project to date.
I had hit upon an idea of focusing purely on the seasons of PR that I actually enjoyed, and as such, came up with the concept of “the station”, a website featuring PRZ, PRT and PRiS. In theory, the website would have been quite easy to get off the ground, thanks to the work that I’d put in to the PRZ and PRT sites. The Station featured an episode guide, a screenplay-esque “play-by-play” section featuring pictures and text guides to episodes, sound files, video clips, as well as other things such as links to other websites, and a “Website of the Month” award. The abortive project spent an incredible THREE YEARS in development, without ever uploading a single file. It was my intention from my original mission statement for “the station” that if the site was not 100% complete, then NONE of it would be put online at all. I never finished it. By the time that PRLR was in mid-swing in 2000, other websites such as Starpoints and PRC were providing a much better service, and everything I had worked on simply wouldn’t cut it. After I decided to close the entire operation, I thought that would be my last foray into PR’s online community.
The New Generation
By the time that 2001 rolled around, a new type of site popped up. The work of Derik and Funaro, “el Funaroverse” provided the fandom with interesting news and commentary, and proved itself to be entertaining, reliable and popular. The interest in the site sparked something in me, and I decided to try making something just for me. I had been hoarding odd and interesting little tidbits, such as rare pictures and such, and decided to upload them to web space, just as a backup. I made an interface to make it easy to browse, and in honor of my inspiration, named it el Warnerverse. I thought it was funny, anyway.
The Warnerverse was never anything more than an unknown backup of some random files, but it was enough to spark my interest in the old days. While browsing el Warnerverse looking for an old archive of some random file, I began to think to myself… “if only there was some sort of repository for old PR information, pictures, files…. even entire websites”. It seemed like such a simple idea. If I was looking for a copy of an old site, or a picture, or a video or music clip, surely other people must be? I decided to postulate the idea of a new type of website for the PR fandom, one that embraced OLD information rather than new. A website that could mirror and sponge the other resources of the time, one that would be there years after all the others had died, like mine had. I didnt have the time to invest in writing all new content and sections on the latest weapons and Rangers- so this new concept, a sort of evolution of The Warnerverse, seemed perfect. In January 2004, www.ranger-retrocenter.com was registered.
The Present Day
The main draw of the site in the initial stages was a 95% complete backup of Amit Bhuamik’s Power Rangers Online Archive. A lot of people were very interested in being able to visit the once-popular site, apart from one- Amit himself. Unfortunately, thanks to his involvement with the show, he was no longer able to associate himself with any fan-based projects, and he requested that the PROA be struck for good. Even though the site was still accessible thanks to the Wayback Machine, it was removed. I decided to source content that was more relevant than an out-of-date copy of a five-year-old website, and adjusted target slightly. The Retrocenter was edited to include the material originally written for the abortive Station project.
Returning to the original premise of The Warnerverse, I decided to offer up for public consumption, my libraries of resources I had came across. I decided to open up a Coppermine Gallery of the screenshots and images I had made when sourcing images for the Retrocenter. This went live later in 2004 as www.viewing-globe.com, and is now the best resource for high-resolution PR images in the world, having amassed over a million views.
The design of the Retrocenter has changed each year. The database is constantly growing and evolving, and new sections are always being added. The Retrocenter can be a fun place to work, and it’s something that will go on forever. That’s one of the benefits- nothing’s ever truly finished. With over 500 pages so far, there’s still a long way to go.