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Escape to Witch Mountain is a science fiction novel written by Alexander H. Key in 1968. It was adapted into a film of the same name by Walt Disney Productions in 1975, directed by John Hough. A remake directed by Peter Rader was released in 1995. Race to Witch Mountain, a new telling directed by Andy Fickman, opened theatrically March 13, 2009.
The novel written by Alexander Key is about two orphaned siblings, Tony and Tia, who have paranormal abilities. Tony possesses the ability of telekinesis, which he can access most readily through playing music, particularly his harmonica. Tia's powers include the ability to unlock any door by touch and communicate with animals. Both siblings can communicate via telepathy audible only to each other; but Tia cannot speak normally and is regarded as strange because of this. It is later revealed that Tia is not unusual in this respect, but Tony is; few of their kind have the ability to speak out loud. After their foster guardian, Mrs. Malone, dies, they are placed by social services in a juvenile detention home under grim, unwholesome conditions, where Tia befriends a black cat, Winkie.
Both have suppressed memories of their past, but discover a clue in an old road map hidden along with a cache of money in Tia's "star box", a leather purse-like box with a double-star design on it. In a chance encounter with a nun who is an art teacher, the nun reveals that she once received a letter on stationery with an identical design. The writer, a Blue Ridge Mountains resident with "a name like Caroway, or Garroway, or Hideaway" sought information on students who had "unusual aptitudes". When a man claiming to be the brother of their deceased father shows up at the detention center to take custody of them, they instinctively know he is not their uncle and has ulterior motives. Unfortunately, when they attempt to reach the nun they find that she has died.
With the assistance of an inner-city Roman Catholic priest, Father O'Day, the pair run away, following the map's route leading towards the Blue Ridge Mountains. As their memories begin to return, they realize that they are actually of extraterrestrial origin, their people having come to Earth because their own planet was dying. Through a series of hardships, Tony and Tia find their way to their own people. When their would-be captor, Lucas Deranian (who O'Day earlier in the novel had likened to the devil), attempts to interrogate Father O'Day, the priest speaks to the effect that God is capable of creating many worlds and many peoples; that there are "mysteries far beyond [Deranian's] narrow dreaming".
As with most of Alexander Key's stories, the embattled protagonists find that most of the people they meet are untrustworthy, greedy, and hateful — making the decency of the few all the more poignant. O'Day puts himself in danger in order to help Tony and Tia, but he does so willingly, because their battle presents O'Day with an opportunity to fight the agents of evil, which is what he knows is his purpose in life, and will deliver meaning to his life.
The novel was illustrated by Leon B. Wisdom, Jr. and originally published in 1968 by The Westminster Press in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1975, Walt Disney Productions released a film based on the novel, also called Escape to Witch Mountain. In this film, Tony and Tia were played by Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards, Lucas Deranian by Donald Pleasence, and the children's Uncle Bené (whom they believe to have drowned in a long-ago accident) by Denver Pyle. The film replaces the inner-city priest Father O'Day with Jason O'Day (played by Eddie Albert), a widower traveling in an RV who helps Tony and Tia escape their pursuers. Both Tia and Tony are able to speak out loud in the film, but Tony is not capable of Tia's seemingly telepathic speech. A new major character in the film who is not in the novel is millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland), Deranian's employer, who wants to obtain the children's powers. The film was one of Disney's most successful live-action films.
The film was followed by two sequels, the theatrically released Return from Witch Mountain (1978) and the 60-minute television film Beyond Witch Mountain (1982). Director Hough returned for Return, as did Eisenmann, Richards, and Pyle; but new villains Letha Wedge (Bette Davis) and Dr. Victor Gannon (Christopher Lee) took the place of Bolt and Deranian. The characters of Bolt, Deranian, and O'Day returned in Beyond Witch Mountain; but director Hough did not return, and no actor returned to their roles, except for Albert. Beyond was intended as a television pilot, but the proposed series did not occur. It also featured Bryan Drier.
Eisenmann and Richards again played siblings in the otherwise unrelated Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.
This 1995 made-for-television movie is very loosely based on the Alexander Key novel.
Race to Witch Mountain takes place 30 years after the events of the original 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain. The film is directed by Andy Fickman and stars Dwayne Johnson, Ciarán Hinds, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, and Carla Gugino. Original co-stars Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann also play small roles. Filming began in Los Angeles, California in March 2008. Race to Witch Mountain was released on March 13, 2009. In the new film, the children's names are Sara and Seth. They crash their spacecraft and look for an experiment their parents left on Earth for research to help their own dying planet. Sara can move things with her mind and read minds. Seth can go through solid objects and resist high-level impacts, such as getting hit by a van, by changing his molecular structure.