Race to Witch Mountain: New Film vs. Old Film of the ‘70s

For many moviegoers in the 1970s, “Escape to Witch Mountain” and its sequel, “Return from Witch Mountain,” were popular science-fiction adventures that became warmly recalled touchstones of youth as those audiences grew from children to adults. The central duo of both films, alien children Tony and Tia, became icons of sorts, their adventures fondly recalled by scores of viewers who introduced the films to their own children by watching television, videotapes or DVDs.

Such was the popularity of these films that Gunn Films’ founder, producer Andrew Gunn, asked to attempt a new version of the “Witch Mountain” story once he made a deal to operate his company at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. He had found success with his remake of the studio’s “Freaky Friday” in 2003 and wanted a chance to create something new for “Witch Mountain.” But this re-imagined version would be a much more action-filled story, complete with breathtaking sequences and state-of-the-art special effects.

AIt is no accident we ended up with the title ‘Race to Witch Mountain,’“ says Gunn, “because once this film starts, it takes off like a shot. We wanted it to be a ride that, once you got on, you weren’t getting off until the end.”

For fans of the older “Witch Mountain” films, director Andy Fickman felt the need to create smaller roles that would connect them to the new adventures in “Race to Witch Mountain.”

The role of a car mechanic, played by famed comic actor Cheech Marin, was named Eddie as an homage to Eddie Albert, star of “Escape to Witch Mountain.” Two key actors to participate were the performers who had created the roles of the original alien children, Tony and Tia: Iake Eissinmann (who initially spelled his name Ike Eisenmann) and Kim Richards.

Fickman created two pivotal roles for the actors. Richards would play sympathetic waitress Tina at Ray’s Tavern in the small town of Stony Creek and Eissinmann would play the town’s lawman, Sheriff Antony. Stony Creek is the same town that Tia and Tony were trying to get to in the 1975 film “Escape to Witch Mountain.” Being back to shoot at Walt Disney Studios, where scenes of the original films were produced, proved to be an exciting adventure for both actors.

“The whole experience was a wonderful dream come true for me,” says Richards, who recently costarred in the film “Black Snake Moan.” “When I left work each day, I felt incredible. I would say to my family that I had another fantastic day on Witch Mountain!”

For Eissinmann, the sensation of being back on the Disney lot was overwhelming. Now a successful voiceover artist as well as the founder of his own digital animation production company, Mighty Mojo Studios in Florida, the actor says: “I would look around and see the space my original trailer was parked in, and where Kim and I attended school, and where Kim and I played together between takes. We shot most of our interior scenes and visual effects scenes from ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’ in some of the same buildings we were working in during this new film. It was such a great opportunity for us then as well as now.”