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The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

The Student News Site of Piscataway High School

The Chieftain

‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ on Disney Plus: After Two Failed Adaptations, the Third Time’s the Charm

The fix to book adaptations: Just have the author involved! 
Percy Jackson Disney+ Promotional Poster

I remember reading the Percy Jackson series when I was young and being introduced to the world of Greek Mythology. Now, as a mythology-obsessed high schooler, when I found that the first book of the series, The Lightning Thief, was going to be turned into a live action series, I got incredibly excited, but also nervous for how my favorite childhood series was going to be adapted. As I’m writing this, the last episode of the Disney Plus series Percy Jackson and the Olympians was dropped, and my doubts were completely gone. For both Percy Jackson readers and new watchers, this show was a comedic adventure and a worthy adaptation of the original book.

The three friends embark on their quest (©Disney/David Bukach)

It was announced by the author, Rick Riordan, in May of 2020 that an eight-episode Percy Jackson series was going to be made. Fans had many mixed opinions, due to the Percy Jackson film adaptations of 2010 and 2013 that….were just a disgrace to book readers. However, what gave fans hope was that Riordian was one of the series’ many directors and was heavily involved with the creative process, while in the first movies he was only a consultant and refused any involvement with the second film. This completely changed the series, and perhaps the future of book adaptations. Having Riordan as a director made a large impact, not only on the accuracy of the adaptation, but also on the humor and details that make Percy Jackson…Percy Jackson.  As of now, the series has a “Certified Fresh” 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and 81% for audience scoring. Compared to the movies, which had 49% and 42% on the same website, this is a large step forward for book adaptations.

The first book, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, tells the story of 12-year old Percy Jackson discovering that he is the son of Poseidon, God of the sea, and embarking on a quest to find and return Zeus’s Master [Lightning] Bolt. Due to his struggle with ADHD, Percy never felt like he belonged anywhere until he was introduced to “Camp Half-Blood”, a camp for demigods like him, by his only friend Grover Underwood, a friendly satyr. However, on the way, he was attacked by the Minotaur and his mother was stolen by Hades, the God of the Underworld. Percy embarks on the quest alongside his best friends, Grover Underwood and Annabeth Chase, to regain Zeus’s trust, save his mom, and find the true culprit, while avoiding the wrath of the Greek Gods and various mythological monsters.

Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson (©Disney/David Bukach)

I was quite hesitant about the casting at first, however, I was quickly proven wrong. Walker Scobell , who is also known for his performance in The Adam Project and the internet viral “Krafty Kid”  was the perfect actor to play Percy. Percy Jackson is an incredibly complex character that fans love, and Walker fits the role perfectly. He was sassy and immature, yet also selfless and heroic-just like 7th grade Percy Jackson.

Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase (©Disney/David Bukach)

Alongside Percy, there is Annabeth Chase being portrayed by Leah Sava Jeffries. Leah was incredible for the role—she started the series as cold, sarcastic, and self-centered, yet underwent character development to become the Annabeth we know and love. The dynamic between Leah and Walker is clear; they have such a close bond that makes the relationship between Percy and Annabeth in the show even closer.

Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood

Third-wheeling with them is Aryan Simhadri, who is also seen in Spin and Cheaper by the Dozen, as Grover Underwood. The satyr we love was given such an amazing actor to portray him. He was not only a comedic tag-along but was also shown to be incredibly intelligent (even tricking the God of War!) and a crucial part of the team. All combined, offscreen the trio are best friends.  Sometimes after a long day of school, I open up YouTube and watch compilations of the cast just being themselves—funny and relatable.

“I never had an actual friend group that I had been super connected to….” Says Scobell in an interview with Teen Vogue. “…until I found acting and I started Percy Jackson.”

When the actors were faced with racist backlash, Rick Riordan wrote on his blog, “You refuse to believe me, the guy who wrote the books and created these characters, when I say that these actors are perfect for the roles because of the talent they bring and the way they used their auditions to expand, improve and electrify the lines they were given.”

Personally, I was blown away with the set design. I looked exactly as I imagined it while reading the books-especially the portrayal of the Underworld. I remember sitting on the couch with my family, looking at the sandy dunes in awe. It was incredible how accurate it was, alongside Camp Half-blood. It was clear that a ton of thought from readers of the transferred to the creative set design.

While there weren’t many changes, the ones that were made benefitted the story being told from a film perspective. This was present in the portrayal of Percy’s stepdad, Gabe. In the books, Gabe was portrayed as abusive towards both Percy and his mother, eventually leading his mother to feel unsafe in her own home. “When you’re reading a story, you can read past the parts that could be upsetting if you’ve stopped to give them more thought.”, says series co-creator and showrunner Jon Steinberg. “You don’t really get to do that with the show. It’s all in your face and it’s all presented in a much louder way.” In the show, Gabe is portrayed as a jerk and someone who doesn’t care for Percy or his mother. However, it is used in a comedic way rather than abusive. Rebecca Riordan, who was also an executive producer, stated that “Because that is in the written word and it’s in your imagination, you can temper it,” Riordan explains. “When you see it visually, it is triggering and difficult to watch. That is why we came at Gabe in a different way, because this isn’t supposed to be a horror show.”

The series circled around the theme of family—feelings of abandonment or separation that are both present in modern-day relationships and the family of the Greek Gods. The Greek Gods were notorious for not being the best parents in the world to their Demi-God children (to put it lightly). Percy, Annabeth, and Luke all experience the effect of having a broken relationship with their Godly parents, leading them to make very different decisions that affect their positions in the story. The show put a lot of focus on this conflict, as Percy strives to put an end to the Gods’ infinite familial trauma.

Overall, many Percy Jackson fans are extremely satisfied with the series. It received over 10 million hours streamed, according to Disney+. The show was just renewed for a second season, which will cover book 2 of the series, The Sea of Monsters.  This show is a prime example of how important it is for adaptations to have a connected cast and including the author as a director. Maybe this is the solution for live-action literature adaptations, leading to more childhood stories on screen.

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About the Contributors
Sophia Lojko
Sophia Lojko, Chieftain Reporter
Hi! I’m Sophia and I am currently a freshman at PHS! This is my first year writing for the Chieftain and I love sharing my opinions with the world through my pieces! I also like creative writing, painting, reading, and drawing! <3

Nyasa Bryson
Nyasa Bryson, Journalism Student Reporter
Hi! I’m currently a junior at PHS and this is my first year officially writing for chieftain as a reporter (my freshman year I fell in love with the class and wrote as a student). You’ll see a lot of current events and just things that generally interest me: ranging from strike coverages to new fashion lines to music to AHS (Coven>>). Thanks for checking us out!

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