Rick Riordan’s beloved young adult fantasy series, Percy Jackson, is getting another shot at the live-action treatment seven years after the last film was released — but this time, as a Disney Plus series.
Riordan announced the project on Twitter, adding a note of reassurance to fans who were left livid over 20th Century Fox’s original film adaptations in 2010 and 2013: it wouldn’t end up like last time. Both Riordan and fans of the books, which follow demigod Percy Jackson as he travels around the country trying to find Zeus’ lightning bolt, haven’t hidden their distaste of the two live-action movies.
In a lengthy blog post published in November 2018, Riordan reiterated that once he “saw the final script and saw what they were doing on the set, I realized I had to step away for my own peace of mind.” The author published emails he sent to producers asking them not to make Percy Jackson older (he’s 17 in the films compared to 12 in the books), and he also expressed concerns over the script’s terrible writing and use of vulgar language.
Despite those problems, both Percy Jackson movies did adequately at the box office. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief generated $226.5 million worldwide, with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters pulling in just under $200 million worldwide. Those aren’t Marvel, DC, or Harry Potter numbers, but it was clear the interest from fans of the books was there, even if they weren’t happy with the final product. In his announcement video about the new project, Riordan seemed confident that what occurred with the former films wouldn’t happen with the new Disney Plus series.
“I realized I had to step away for my own peace of mind”
“We can’t say much more at this stage but we are very excited about the idea of a live-action series of the highest quality, following the storyline of the original Percy Jackson five-book series, starting with The Lightning Thief in season one,” Riordan tweeted in a follow-up statement. “Rest assured that Becky & I will be involved in person in every aspect of the show.”
Like other authors (most notably Alan Moore), Riordan quickly realized he didn’t have control over the adaption that 20th Century Fox wanted to make. When Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, Riordan remarked that he wasn’t opposed to the idea of a new team taking a stab at adapting the books. He noted on his blog that he “would be happy to consult and advise if they want me.” Ironically, two of the issues Riordan had with the original films are easy fixes for Disney. The streaming service is targeted at a younger audience, so portraying Percy as a 12-year-old and not using vulgar language is an easy win.
Percy Jackson is also another example of Disney leaning on its big tentpole IP franchises to produce Disney Plus originals. Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Monsters Inc., High School Musical, National Treasure, and The Mighty Ducks are just some of the other big movies and franchises Disney is pulling from to make original series. Now, that catalog of IP is bigger than ever because of the Fox acquisition. Percy Jackson is available to Disney now, and although it might not work as a full-fledged live-action movie remake, a series helps build a subscriber base and satiate viewers.