Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2.]

Surprise! Percy Jackson and the Olympians dropped its two-episode series premiere early.

The first two episodes released on Disney+ and Hulu on Tuesday, December 19 at 9/8c. It was originally set to premiere on Wednesday, December 20 on Disney+ and Hulu, with one episode coming out weekly exclusively on Disney+ after that. But Disney has officially changed the Percy Jackson release schedule, giving it a primetime slot. From here on out, new episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians Season 1 will come out on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Disney+ and Hulu. Here, we dive into one of the premiere’s most important moments: the Minotaur scene. But first, a recap.

The Percy Jackson series premiere gets its title, “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher,” directly from Chapter 1 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. In fact, all eight episode titles are also chapter titles from Rick Riordan‘s first novel in the series. Episode 2 is titled “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom,” the title of The Lightning Thief Chapter 6.

Much of the contents of Chapters 1-6 are covered in Episodes 1 and 2, though some of the plot has been rearranged for this medium. Naturally, a TV series can’t fit every single book detail into eight episodes clocking in at under one hour each. The series’ creators (which includes Riordan as a co-creator, executive producer, and writer — something the movies did not provide) have still captured the essence of this beloved spin on Greek mythology, delivering a prime example of how books should be adapted for the screen.

Episode 1 begins with Percy Jackson (the ridiculously charming and scrappy Walker Scobell) warning viewers against being a “half-blood,” aka a demigod, just like the intro of The Lightning Thief. Scobell narrates the opening scenes, which show the young Percy (Azriel Dalman) struggling to pay attention in school. He has ADHD and dyslexia, but will soon learn that the symptoms of those learning differences are actually signs he’s a demigod, the child of a human and a Greek god or goddess.

The intro also introduces us to his best friend, Grover Underwood (the instantly lovable Aryan Simhadri), whose playing cards featuring monsters from Greek mythology weren’t just for fun. They were training. Grover, as book fans know and new viewers learned in the premiere, is a satyr (half man, half goat) and Percy’s assigned protector. He was sent to protect Percy from the monsters on his playing cards, who would one day come looking for the half-blood as they do all children of this ilk.

Grover (Simhadri) is tasked with guarding Percy as the Minotaur approaches (Disney/David Bukach)

Percy’s mother, Sally Jackson (played with a fiery warmth by Virginia Kull), knew the day she would have to tell Percy the truth about his parentage was coming. When Percy was attacked by the Fury Alecto (a deliciously sinister Megan Mullally) at school, Sally’s timeline had to be moved up. She told him the truth about who he was, but without revealing the identity of his father, in a touching scene at their rental cabin in Montauk, New York.

Things took a dark turn when Grover arrived, prompting the trio to flee for Camp Half-Blood sooner than expected. As they sped through pouring rain, Sally and Grover filled Percy in on everything he’s been missing. When the Minotaur (half bull, half man) suddenly appeared after a bolt of lightning struck on the road behind them, he grasped the mortal danger they faced. The charging Minotaur made them to crash their car. Once they crawled out of the wreckage, Sally said her heartbreaking goodbye to her son after instructing Grover to get him to camp safely. “You are not broken, you are singular,” she told her only child through tears.

Sally distracted the Minotaur to give the boys some time, but right as she was plucked up by the Minotaur’s massive hands, she faded to gold dust and disappeared. Percy fought the Minotaur to avenge his mother, the first of many epic battles for this 12-year-old demigod.

Percy starts the fight by wielding his golden sword given to him earlier in the episode by his teacher, Mr. Bruner, aka the centaur Chiron (the regal Glynn Turman). Executive producers Jon Steinberg and Dan Shotz tell TV Insider that the sword’s design was a long topic of conversation with Riordan. It’s an iconic weapon in the book series called Riptide that starts as a pen then transforms into a golden blade, and Riordan wanted it to look just right.

Percy (Scobell) wields Riptide as he prepares to fight the Minotaur (Disney+)

“The pen version was one of the handful of things Rick actually had strong feelings about,” Steinberg says. “The sword itself was part of a bigger conversation about how do you make this feel like it’s both really fun and really grounded in a way that never feels like you’re in a comic book. No matter how fantastic anything is you’re seeing, it all feels like it lives in the real world.” Shotz says that Riordan wanted it to be “a pen that any kid could just have and that’s their connection to it. Any kid could have this, but this particular one is very special.”

They decided on making Riptide “a Bic ballpoint pen with a little silver blade on the clip,” Steinberg explains. As Shotz adds, “The style of that little clip piece is the same style as the Riptide,” referring to the shape of the blade.

Riptide vanished in the middle of the fight, leaving Percy to think on his feet. He’ll soon learn that his ADHD traits make him great in battle, as his typically busy mind can hyper-focus on the high-stakes task at hand. In his first show of might and skill, Percy climbed up the Minotaur and ended up on its shoulders, the monster thrashing the tween around to try and throw him off. Percy stayed on the monster’s shoulders even as he was slammed into a tree, ripped off its horn, and stabbed it in the head. The Minotaur crumbled to dust (notably, the dust a different color than we saw with Sally), and when Percy woke up after the fight, he found himself surrounded by demigods and Chiron, who delivered the episode’s final, thrilling line: “Welcome to camp, Percy Jackson. We’ve been expecting you.” (Stay tuned for the end credits each episode, as they feature beautiful original art and a unique “next time on…” sequence.)

Scobell was basically riding a mechanical bull while filming this fight scene on Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) StageCraft Volume. It’s effectively the new and improved green screen. With this technology, actors are surrounded by giant screens projecting any footage and images of the show’s choosing, allowing them to be fully immersed in their worlds instead of having to pretend. The Mandalorian uses the same technology, and ILM created new visual effects technology while filming Percy Jackson for Disney+.

The Minotaur searches for the half-blood (Disney+)

“There were so many different ways that we had to work that sequence, from the car portion of it with the head coming in to obviously how [Scobell] was riding [the Minotaur],” Shotz explains. “There was a giant, blue Minotaur head and body that was on a mechanism so that when he’s on top of it, he’s fully interacting and riding it. There was also a gentleman that was seven foot five on stilts who Walker had for eyeline, to look at, who we then turned into the Minotaur. It was in the rain. It was at night. It was extremely complicated work, and Walker will joke that the worst part of it was that sweater that we put him in, when it got really wet, it smelled. But everything else about it, he loved every minute.”

This scene was no easy thing to create, and it being the first full monster fight of a series that will be filled to the brim with them, sticking the landing was vital. The Volume allowed them to have one central filming location and for night shots to be projected onto the walls.

“These kids are limited. The hours they can work, they can’t really work late at night,” Shotz explains. “So to be able to shoot that entire sequence at night, the Volume was our saving grace to be able to shoot it the way we needed to.”

Water on the Volume, however, has not been allowed in the past. ILM VFX supervisor Jeff White and his team developed new techniques to make it rain on set without damaging the Volume. As a result, “I think we were one of the first shows to actually have rain in the Volume,” Shotz says, “because you can’t get the screens wet. So we had to come up with all of these precautions to make sure that the screens didn’t get wet to make this work. So it was ILM figuring out all these new things. The tech is so new.”

Episode 2 features the introduction of Annabeth Chase (Leah Sava Jeffries, who exudes pure confidence in every scene) and other demigods like Luke Castellan (Charlie Bushnell) and Clarisse La Rue (Dior Goodjohn), camp director Mr. D/Dionysus (Jason Mantzoukas, perfectly cast), plus the fan-favorite Capture the Flag scene. Stay tuned to TV Insider for an exclusive look at the sequence with Riordan.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Tuesdays, 9/8c, Disney+ and Hulu

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