Percy Jackson Is Disney’s Best Chance Yet at Their Own Hogwarts

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not in a great place. In addition to recent controversies over editing out gay scenes in the most recent Fantastic Beasts film, creator JK Rowling has consistently alienated fans. This has led to many re-examining the books and pointing out inappropriate content, such as fatphobia. Because of these issues, many fans are looking for alternatives to Harry Potter that are more inclusive or, at least, not actively trans-, fat- or homophobic.

Many fans, however, grew up with two major book series that similarly followed a set of three protagonists (two male, one female) through their confederated home to fight a malevolent force long thought dead. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan offers up similar structures to the Harry Potter series. Its possession by Disney also puts it in a unique franchisability position, as the House of Mouse no doubt would be thrilled to have an answer to the cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter. A successful adaptation of the Percy Jackson series is Disney’s best shot yet at finally having an answer to Harry Potter.

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For starters, the Disney+ series has already shown that it is willing to grow and become more than the books. The recent casting of a Black girl, Leah Jeffries, as the white, blonde Annabeth Chase is clearly a step forward for the series, which was originally woefully short on people of color. This, when compared to Harry Potter’s problematic Cho Chang character alone, shows a far more inclusive world from the outset. This places Disney’s newest series in a position to successfully overtake the Harry Potter series on inclusivity, as well as making the author, affectionately known to fans as “Uncle Rick,” capable of critical examination of his work and views.

What’s more, the series could well serve as the Harry Potter of a new generation because of its longevity. The Percy Jackson series, as previously mentioned, follows the Golden Trio of Percy, Annabeth and Grover through their years at Camp Half-Blood, culminating with Percy as a 16-year-old. That, however, isn’t where the series stops. A sequel series has the characters growing up and taking newer characters under their wings. The Magnus Chase series deals with Norse gods, but Magnus is closely related to Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson. Even The Kane Chronicles has featured crossovers with Percy Jackson characters. The ability to make something into a franchise, to some extent, depends upon the number of stories that can be told, and Percy Jackson extends well beyond its initial source material. This is unlike Harry Potter, which is primarily based upon the seven-book series with a few post-hoc tie-ins. Regardless, middle schoolers can grow up with Percy Jackson and carry it well into adulthood.

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This isn’t to say that there isn’t a plethora of branding opportunities in the initial series, though. The cabin system in Percy Jackson works very similarly to the Hogwarts House system, but with more options and greater specificity available. Though it lacks the simplicity of the four-house Hogwarts system, it nonetheless allows Disney a sorting ceremony of sorts, with gods claiming their children and those children then having related magical abilities. These magical abilities are based upon a clearly defined system that has rules and requirements generally as old as Greek mythology itself, with a few twists thrown in for action and clarity.

All in all, though Harry Potter has a massive lead, the franchise is faltering. As Disney looks for ways to trounce the competition, they could do far worse than giving Percy Jackson the franchise go-ahead. Though the primary motivation is for profit, Pottermores could finally find a way to be immersed in a magical world where prejudice is punished. A more positive model for the young generation is necessary, and Disney+’s Percy Jackson has great potential to be just that.

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