Today’s Word is “Herculean”

Ah, good times . . . I found this name tag in one of my jackets today, a relic of our visit to Disney+ at Walt Disney Studios in Glendale in December, 2019. At that time, we were just beginning the process of agitating and campaigning for a new Percy Jackson adaptation. As you can tell, nobody there was quite sure who I was, but they were pretty sure my name was Betsy.

Now here we are, twenty months later, and . . . nope, we’re still not quite there yet. Still making progress? Yes, I think so, but the journey has been worthy of inclusion in Hercules’ Twelve Labors. If I were King Eurystheus, I would definitely tell Hercules: “Go, and get me a proper adaptation of Percy Jackson!” Then I would laugh diabolically, knowing that I would never see that poor schmuck of a hero again.

I am not Hercules. But Becky and I are still trying, still hopeful — even if some days feel more Herculean than others. We have a fabulous writers’ room. We have amazing show runners who know exactly what this show needs to be and how to make it. We have an excellent group of producers who have decades of experience in TV. We are close, I think, to locking in a great director, though that deal is not quite finalized. And of course, we have the author of the source material fully on board . . . oh, wait, that’s me! We have a clear plan, a solid approach, and we are ready to get going. However, we are still waiting for the green light, without which we do not have a budget to get going. The conditions for that green light are a moving target, and there are still many layers and levels of approval we have to get through.

Keep us in your thoughts this coming week, as we have an important meeting with top execs at Disney Studios (a tier of folks we’ve actually never talked to directly before). We will need to make our best case — one more time, with feeling! — for what this adaptation should be, why it is important, and why it is a win for all those involved.

Why is it taking so long? you are asking. Yeah, believe me, I feel that. I’ve put all my plans on “pause” for the last two years so I could devote myself entirely to wrestling with this project. Part of the issue is that Disney is a massive corporation with many moving parts. The company’s expansion is great in some ways. For instance, when they bought Fox, that opened up the possibility that we could do Percy again through Disney, since Disney now owns the rights. On the downside, this means that the company is still in the process of changing and restructuring. There are a lot of people either shifting jobs or new to the company, and the various divisions don’t always know what the other divisions are doing. (That is simply my subjective impression, as an outside observer.)  To give you an idea what we’re up against: Last spring, after doing months of song and dance about how popular Percy Jackson was and how many copies it had sold for Disney Publishing, etc., etc., we scored a lunch with some big execs from the TV side of Disney.

One of them, a lovely person, asked, “So who publishes Percy Jackson?”

Me, not sure whether to laugh or cry: “. . . Disney?”

Disney exec, deer-in-the-headlights look. “Oh.”

By the way, literally none of the executives we met with back in 2019 or 2020 are still in the same jobs today. So we have to keep meeting new folks, and explaining who we are, who Percy Jackson is, and why my name possibly isn’t Betsy.

Another issue: this is going to be an expensive show. Using kid actors makes production costs skyrocket. Special effects of good quality don’t come cheap. And the story is a road trip, which calls for ever-changing sets. All of that equals $$$. It’s completely understandable that the executives would want to understand clearly what they are making and why it is worth the investment. That is what we will be trying to explain, again, next week.

I wish I could give you more definite news, but that’s what I’ve got this week, demigods. The best thing I can tell you is that we are still giving it our all! I will, of course, keep you posted when I know more. Send positive thoughts our way!


Rick Riordan