Following their highly anticipated Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief panel at New York Comic Con, Percy Jackson crew members spoke with members of the press during roundtables at the Javits Center in New York City. Agents of Fandom editor-in-chief, TJ Zwarych, was among the reporters in attendance who heard from costume designer Tish Monaghan and production designer Dan Hennah.
Both play a significant role in the overall look and feel of the series, which sees the young Demigod Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) embark on a near-impossible quest with his friends (Leah Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri) after he’s framed for the theft of Zeus’ Master Bolt. One of the locations the trio visits on their journey is the Lotus Hotel and Casino, an unsuspecting but perilous venue from the book that has become a fan favorite. Hennah spoke about the process of bringing one of author Rick Riordan‘s beloved creations to life.
‘Percy Jackson’ Production Designer on Building the Lotus Hotel and Casino
“The first thing was finding a location that worked,” Hennah told reporters. “We looked at a lot of casinos, but we couldn’t find anything that really worked for our story.”
Eventually, they found the perfect location to bring the Lotus Hotel and Casino to life: a vacant, undeveloped mall. After finding the right location, they needed to make it true to the way it’s described in the corresponding book. Hennah spoke about the Percy Jackson crew staying true to one of the casino’s most important features — that, no matter what time of day it is at the hotel, it always looks like it’s the middle of the day.
“We worked a lot with big LED screens to create daylight scenes and different things that would work in that world. We used a lot of pink,” he said.
“Every part of that place was different, [and] played a different part. But they were all pretty much created just for our world. [It] also had…to have a sort of timeless feel to it,” he said, noting that Monaghan created various eras of clothing for those scenes.
‘Percy Jackson’s’ Aesthetic Is a Blend of Ancient Greek and Modern
While the production design team worked hard to be true to author Rick Riordan’s vision, the show’s costume designer aimed to make the wardrobe appropriate for Percy and his world. “I wasn’t so much worried about making it visually different from what came in the past,” Monaghan said. “I didn’t look at anybody else’s interpretation of what might have been, could have been, should have been.”
She started by looking at images of Grecian armor and figuring out how she could adapt it and make 200 pieces that were adjustable depending on the character. Hennah added that he didn’t reference Ancient Greece much in his production design but for different reasons.
“They go into the underworld, which is a world of a god created thousands of years ago, but with a really modern, real feel to parts of it and an ancient feel to other parts. Mount Olympus is a very ancient Greek world, but it was pre-Ancient Greece. This was where the gods came from. And then you’ve got things like modern-day New York and the Empire State Building. I don’t think we actually worked with ancient Greece as such. It was more a whimsical fantasy version.”
Monaghan added that, while she added Grecian touches to the wardrobes of characters like Zeus (the late Lance Reddick) and Medusa (Jessica Parker Kennedy), she toed the line to make their aesthetics appropriate for Percy Jackson’s modern-day setting. “[Medusa] has a little bit of a Grecian element to her, but we have to make it appropriate for the times and not seem out of place when a character is in a setting that is in the contemporary world.”
‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Production on Utilizing the Volume in New Series
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians production crew utilized the Volume, the revolutionary soundstage that features a massive LED screen on which digitally created locations can be shown. The series is not the first to feature this relatively new technology, as it has also been a mainstay in recent Marvel Studios and Star Wars projects. Hennah revealed the advantages of the Percy Jackson crew using the Volume.
“It gave us an opportunity to see our world in real-time,” he said, “which is the biggest advantage you can possibly have, rather than shooting on a blue screen stage with a few set elements and a world that we don’t know what it is. The world was there.”
Hennah also revealed that, while he had seen the Volume before, Percy Jackson and the Olympians gave him his first opportunity to work with it. The experience allowed him to see the benefits and limitations of the technology:
“It has some parameter issues… It doesn’t like bright light. It doesn’t like pure black. Other than that, everything’s up for grabs. What we found was that your foreground action and set pieces work best with the middle ground. So you need either a set of windows or some trees, or you want to break that wall up just in the middle ground. And then the wall is the background, and then you’ve got this great parallax going on. It’s a pretty amazing thing.”
He ended by comparing the Volume to more traditional forms of staging. “Really, it’s closer to location shooting than a theatrical, on-set studio shoot.”
‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Debuts on Disney+ This December
Longtime fans who have waited years to see Riordan’s fantastical, deity-filled world realized on screen don’t have to wait much longer. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief debuts with a two-episode premiere on December 20, 2023, on Disney+.
In addition to Scobell, Jeffries, Simhadri, Reddick, and Kennedy, the series’ star-studded cast also includes Lin-Manuel Miranda, Megan Mullally, Timothy Omundson, Adam Copeland, Jay Duplass, Toby Stephens, Glynn Turman, and Jason Mantzoukas.
Which sets, creature designs, and costumes are you most excited to see from Percy Jackson and the Olympians? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on the Agents of Fandom socials to join the conversation!