Flashback Fridays : Twins, Flying Campers and Mysterious Mountains–Oh My!

So here we are at flashback Friday again.

When I was a kid, I wanted to have psychic powers (doesn’t every kid?).  When I think back to what sparked that desire, though, one movie in particular comes to mind.

Do you remember Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)?

This science fiction live action Disney movie  featured twin orphans with strange powers.   They don’t remember where they’re from . . . they only know they’re different.  Tony can make things move with his mind.  Tia sees things and can talk to animals.  Both can talk to each other without speaking aloud.  On the run from a greedy millionaire who’d like nothing better than to exploit their powers for his own financial gain, the twins must follow clues and scraps of memory to find out the truth of who they are.  They enlist the reluctant help of a grumpy loner in his camper to make their escape.

It’s a movie that hasn’t aged particularly well.  (Though I still love the weird sound effect used whenever the twins used their powers).  But despite the corny special effects, it introduced this kid to a range of science fiction elements, and got me fired up about them.  Psychic powers,  aliens,  spaceships . . . I was sold.   After that movie I jumped at the chance to read or watch anything that hinted of psychic powers or aliens.

Twins aliens with special powers? It’s not such a surprise I was crazy about the Wonder Twins . . .

I discovered a few years later that the movie was based on a book by the same title.   Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key (c1968).  The movie is actually fairly faithful to the story in the book.  Key wrote a sequel to the book about a decade later:  Return From Witch Mountain (1978)  which follows the twins –now a few years older–when they go out into human society once more.  Tony falls into the clutches of an evil group of men who find a way to control his mind and make him use his powers to commit crimes.  It’s up to Tia to rescue him.  It seems the second book might have been a case of Disney creating  a sequel of the original movie, then hiring Key to write the book to go with it.

In 1982, Disney created made for  TV movie Beyond Witch Mountain  that was supposed to be the pilot for a TV series, but that series was never made.  Nearly the entire cast of characters were played by different actors, and several events in the plot contradict plot points in the original two movies.  To my surprise, when I did some digging, it turns out that Disney recreated the story of Escape to Witch Mountain in a 1995 made for TV remake.  This remake was much more loosely based on the original book, but the actual movie can be viewed here on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDRvOxNt8Lk.  I watched a little of it, but that was about all that I cared to see.

Disney also created one more movie–this one fairly recent:  Race To Witch Mountain (2009).  This movie is a modern re-imagining  of the original story, with a lot of slick action adventure and CGI graphics.  Several actors from the original movie appear in cameo roles.   It’d be tough for me to be completely fair  to this movie, and I’ve yet to actually watch it (with two little ones at home movies are particularly tough).  But I’d be viewing it through the lens of nostalgia, and that’s not always the best judge.  With all the digging I’ve done, I’m actually a little startled at how frequently Disney has brought this particular story back to life.  Only time will tell if there are any further incarnations.

Before closing,  I do need to mention the author  Alexander Key again.  Before working on this post, I only knew that key had written the Witch Mountain books, and had a vague idea he might have written one or two others.  Turns out, Key was an author of about two dozen books, with almost a dozen of them being science fiction stories for children.   You can find a list of his titles here.  Most of the stories appear to feature  aliens, kids and concerns about the environment/animals.  Often the kids are the aliens in question.  I’d love to hear from anyone out there who has read other books by Key!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on May 10, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m so glad you wrote about this! I adored both the movie and the book as a child. [Tony and Tia weren’t actually twins in the first movie/book, by the way, but were in the 1995 remake. I am pretty sure, at least about the movie, because my three year old adores the original movie, and I’ve watched it about 5 times this year 😉 Tony was older. But I haven’t checked the book.]

    I also LOVE The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s about a boy from another planet who lands on earth (via a forgotten “door” through space), and the way that people react to him. I wish that more of Key’s books were still available.

    • Huh, I had it in my head that they were twins, but that could’ve just been the alliterative names. I would love to get ahold of some of Alexander Key’s books. (I’m sure I will at some future date)

  2. Escape to Witch Mountain was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid! mid to late 80’s, my sister and I must have begged our parents at least twice a month to rent it from the video store. they must have been so sick of seeing that movie!

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