“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” brought to life in a live adaptation … again.

Disney's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Sava Jeffries as Annabeth, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. Courtesy of Disney.

Whether you are a long-time die-hard fan of Rick Riordan’s best-selling book series or completely oblivious to the fandom, you probably have heard of the arrival of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” on Disney+. The new live adaption series is subsequent to a decade-plus of movies in 2010 and 2013 based on the novels that left a bad taste with fans and the author. However, this time Disney+ is trying its hand at the beloved book series with author Rick Riordan close in stride. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” started streaming Dec. 19 and is still in the midst of Percy’s quest with five episodes out and three more remaining in the eight-episode crusade. 

First published with “The Lightning Thief,” in 2005 the five-book series has successfully brought to life Greek mythology through adrenaline-rushed monster chases and moving moments of friendship to children’s literature. 

The first season of the Disney+ adaptation has stayed relatively loyal to the 377-page novel, “The Lightning Thief,” while leaving room to deviate occasionally from the source material. However, the main storyline remains the same: 12-year-old Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) learns that he is a demigod, the son of a human woman and a Greek god. With the help of a satyr, Grover Underwood (Aryan Simhadri), and the daughter of Athena, Annabeth Chase (Leah Sava Jeffries), Percy undertakes a cross-country quest to recover Zeus’ stolen master bolt. Faithful to the books, he must face mythological enemies along the way and come to terms with a father he has never known. 

 Co-President of the English Club at UNLV Summer McLean was one of the many long-time fans of the book series excited about the arrival of the live adaptation. 

“I’m one of the rare few that actually enjoyed the movies of Percy Jackson. I thought there were little nuggets of great things about the movies, and I was really disappointed when they stopped making them. So when I heard that Rick Riordan himself was gonna do the show and everything, I was like ‘Yes! It’s gonna have high-quality production, and it’s gonna finally be put together like it should be.’”

 Translating a book series with a huge fanbase to a different medium like television or the big screen is a delicate dance. But co-creator and co-showrunner Jonathan Steinberg tells The Hollywood Reporter how having the author, Rick Riordan, involved in the series helped bring the books to life.

“‘It wouldn’t really be possible any other way. Not only is the story so personal to Rick and [wife and producing partner] Becky and their sons and their family, but the relationship between Rick and the fans is really specific. [The show is] a testament to how personal the story that he created is and how deeply it affects these people that they connect to him directly. We felt really fortunate to be able to build this thing with the guidance of the people who had the only standing, really, to make determinations about what belongs in and what belongs out. What is Percy Jackson and what is not Percy Jackson.’”

Riordan explains his level of involvement to The Hollywood Reporter, “‘I was involved in every writers room, I read every draft of every script, we gave notes on everything. So we were very intimately involved with every single episode. My big revelation was that this is very much a team sport. Writing for television is very different than me sitting alone in my office and just making up a novel, where the only person who would read it is probably Becky, so she could give me feedback. With a TV show, you’re all pitching in. It’s not the vision of any one person. It’s a collaborative vision.’”

Although the show strays from the source at times, McLean still found the adaptation able to replicate the lighthearted essence of the books. 

“When the show started, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, there were a couple of things that were like ‘Okay this is different’ or ‘This is not quite what I imagined.’ But as the show progressed, by the time they reached Montauk, him and his mother, I was like ‘This is gonna be a good show.’ 

McLean said, “I really enjoyed the casting for a lot of the characters, particularly Sally and the stepfather, Gary. I loved the scene of them going back and forth about taking the car. I think their personalities and the casting perfectly fit the mood of Gary. I enjoyed that they are keeping the lighthearted style of Percy Jackson. This isn’t gonna be a dark YA, like ‘Oh Gary is an abusive a***ole or that sort of thing, they’re making it more like ‘Oh he’s just a pig,’ just one of those dad situations. It’s just lighthearted and I really enjoy that. It keeps Percy Jackson in the realm of stuff a kid can handle, stuff a teenager can relate to.” 

Co-writers and co-showrunners Dan Shotz and Jonathan Steinberg have exclusively written shows aimed at adults before “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Steinberg tells The Hollywood Reporter, “We desperately wanted for this show to be for everybody. And that meant all the way down to my 7-year-old son — the hope was that it would be a little too scary for him, but not all the way.’” 

McLean comes from the generation of fans that grew up reading the books and thinks the show’s loyalty to the little details will enthrall fans and newer generations alike. 

“They’re really good at taking those details. So things like in the first episode, Sally had a bag of blue candy, that was a great call back. The ballpoint pen is actually a ballpoint pen. And in the second episode, the very beginning of the episode, Annabeth goes ‘You drool in your sleep.’” 

McLean continues, “I find that a lot of book adaptations when they turn to television and movies, because this generation is so immersed in dark or sexual, that’s what they go for. It kinda reflects what we watch today, but it takes away from the original book. So there is something wholesome about certain adaptations that you can enjoy as an adult and it doesn’t change what it was … So you turn to Percy Jackson, and I wanted it to be that feel good ‘dam’ humor, the little lines and the banter. I don’t think it’s particularly childish, I think it is just something in us that is a comfort, a feel-good thing. I think it is something that caters to both younger generations, kids and teenagers just getting into the books or just wanting to see the show for the first time, and it gives to the people who originally read the book as well.”

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” season 1 has two episodes left out of a total of eight, following the typical length of hit Disney+ original TV shows such as Ashoka, The Mandalorian and Loki. 

Optimistic viewers like McLean, think the show will continue to be a success. 

“I have high hopes for it. Because they only have six episodes out right now, I think they have made it into a love project. You can tell it has been crafted by the author, by the fans, you can tell the actors enjoy the books as well, which is really awesome to see that. So although they have changed certain aspects of the characters, [the show is] still connected and still want to do a good portrayal of [the books]. As long as they’re hitting those niche little details they’re gonna do just fine. I’m really excited to keep watching.”

The show boasts stellar reviews from critics including a “Certified Fresh” 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes, making the Disney+ streaming series a quick hit adaptation following its premiere. While the Percy Jackson series season 2 has yet to be officially renewed by Disney+, the show’s early success indicates that a continuation of the second book of the series is likely.

The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is available to stream on Disney+, and the first episode is also available to stream on Hulu through the end of January. With two episodes left, new episodes come out on Disney+ every Wednesday at midnight.


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