The Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series by Rick Riordan are adored by fans worldwide. And, much like the tragically disappointing Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action adaptation, the 2010 adaptation of The Lightning Thief remains a massive sore spot for loyal readers. With the upcoming new Disney + series leaving many carefully optimistic about the treatment the beloved series will receive, Disney does not have a very high bar to surpass.
Decisions made in the production of the previous adaptation seemed to be directly at odds with the book’s morals, themes, humor, and messages. To succeed, fans have a long wish list of what elements of the books should be brought to the small screen and have waited long enough to see it to fruition.
Casting Age-Appropriate Actors
Disney has already made headlines with the slowly expanding cast of actors to round out the main characters; age-wise, they have so far stayed true to the book. The series is intended for middle-grade readers and is crucial to the characters’ humor, logic, and decision-making because they are so young.
Previously, aging up the cast without aging up the jokes and choices of the characters often made them feel incomplete and incompetent at sixteen, whereas a twelve-year-old’s mistakes would make far more sense. It also gives a new generation of fans a chance to grow up with the cast, as readers of the book series already have.
Making Timeless Humor
Very little of the Percy Jackson series’ humor relies on pop culture trivia, one-liners, and dated references. This undoubtedly helped readers of all ages find enjoyment in a children’s series when it was published and still today. Disney has its brand of slapstick, quips, and wit for its Marvel and Star Wars franchises, but it would serve Percy Jackson well to have humor that hits a little differently.
With a cast of twelve-year-olds, that does not mean potty jokes. The protagonist, Percy himself, is incredibly sarcastic and witty. He is also a kid who cracks himself up by making puns about the Hoover Dam’s “dam snack bar” and sells the ferryman of the Underworld on asking Hades for a raise so he can buy more snazzy suits.
Casting Every Relevant Character
With managing a large cast, especially of child actors, keeping a hold of every actor for every role is not easily done, but it can be. Harry Potter, for example, managed to recast no one of the massive cast of characters for all its films, even as it changed directors constantly. The 2010 adaptation and its 2013 sequel managed to keep its original cast but forgot integral characters it had to clumsily drop into the story.
Having a roadmap (conveniently provided by the books themselves) for the arcs of important side characters is crucial to making a well-balanced TV show for new fans and old fans tuning in to see their favorites debut on the small screen, like a certain fan. of Mythomagic.
Remembering the Gods are Neglectful Parents
A massive theme of the original series is the consequences the gods’ neglect of their children has on the story’s outcome and which of their children resent them to the point of joining the enemy. Every demigod character lives in a single-parent household, with a step-parent, or has no family left to speak of.
This series speaks to children of households beyond the picturesque mold that neither glorifies nor makes excuses for the lives they are left with as a result. The gods are imperfect, proud beings that let their hubris get the best of them, and the new TV series would do well to remember it.
Responsibly Directing ADHD and Dyslexia
In the lore of Percy Jackson, demigods tend to suffer ADHD due to their minds being hardwired for battle and life-saving decision-making, not sitting in a classroom. These kids are also often dyslexic because they’re meant to read Ancient Greek, not modern English. It’s a creative way to include disability that, though it’s never integral to the plot, helps empower the characters and readers who can relate.
Fumbling the writing or directing of how the series will integrate this important aspect of being a demigod would be a disservice to both the books and fans who want to see themselves on screen being powerful heroes who do not let their neurodivergence define them.
The Ares Fight
Completely missing from the 2010 adaptation, the Ares fight and his character are integral to the first book and Percy’s development. Ares, and his demigod children, serve as the bullies of the first book, the aggressive kids of the god of war. Ares himself leads by example, a god picking on a kid because he got nothing better to do and no shame.
The Ares fight, spoiler-free, represents that moment every bullied student dreams of, the strength and courage to stand up for themselves. It also shows Percy’s quick-thinking and ingenuity and is a fantastic set piece deserving of the Disney budget.
The series does not just pay homage to Ancient Greek mythology in terms of aesthetics. Each of the first five books centers on a cryptic prophecy that guides and misleads the heroes who will venture on a quest to solve whatever the big problem of the summer is. While demigods vie for the chance to receive a quest, these are no glorious ventures. They’re highly dangerous missions for children to win the approval of their absentee parents.
The quest of The Lightning Thief is no adventure to save the world; it’s to settle a petty fight between petty beings by retrieving the missing Master Bolt of Zeus, the king of the gods. The gods really only have children for meddling in each other’s business.
A Fantastical Camp Half-Blood
Some kids wanted to go to Hogwarts; others wanted to go to Camp Half-Blood; many got to have both. The camp sits on Long Island Sound in New York, hidden from mortal eyes by the Mist. There, the children of the gods, demigods (half-bloods), can find a haven from mythical monsters that want to hunt them down and from dangerous or neglectful households.
CHB in the 2010 movie felt like a standard summer camp, but CHB is not your typical summer camp. It has a lava rock climbing wall. Each of the cabins of the twelve Olympians reflects their strengths and vanity; there are dryads, nymphs, naiads, and pegasi. Make CHB the coolest place to be, and maybe a Disney Park could someday bring it to life.
Annabeth’s Brains and Brawn
Annabeth Chase is a daughter of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and battle strategy who defies many stereotypes within the context of Percy Jackson and middle-grade fiction. She’s a dynamic character beyond being just a love interest that complements and compensates for Percy’s impulsiveness and lacking understanding of the mythological world.
She is neither an unathletic bookworm nor a “dumb blonde,” or dumb jock, and suffers from hubris herself. Most importantly, she’s barely a love interest. Some of her first words to Percy is a highly unimpressed, “You drool when you sleep.”
‘Excellent, Multi-Season Pacing’
Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is just one piece of a sprawling, interconnected mythological universe, and it’s ten books long. The 2010 adaptation bumbled what plot points to rush through and which to exclude, and the 2013 sequel improved little. With the time it deserves to be appropriately adapted, Disney’s show should remember that this is a narrative told over ten books, with every page worth considering in the script.
Percy Jackson has already been botched and rushed twice; if Disney is looking for its next big series that can sustain multiple seasons and years’ worth of adoring attention, it can look no further than Percy Jackson and its breadth of deep, dynamic characters and a rich world of modernized mythology.
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