Book vs. Movie: Witch Mountain

WARNING!! Beyond this place, there be SPOILERS!!!

It’s been over 30 years between the publication of Alexander Key‘s novel Escape to Witch Mountain and the release of the new Disney film Race to Witch Mountain.  Along the way, there have been two film versions of Escape and a film of Return to Witch Mountain, its sequel.  Rather than stack up all of the film versions against the book, this comparison will focus on the book and Race to Witch Mountain.


In the book, Tony and Tia are orphans who don’t know where they come from or who their family is, or how they’ve gained their telepathic powers.  While on an outing, someone provides them with a clue to their origins; at the same time, a man claiming to be their uncle shows up at the orphanage to take them overseas. They sense something is wrong, and run away from the orphanage before he returns.  They enlist the aid of a priest to help them find their true family, who are somewhere in the mountains, before they are re-captured.

Tony and Tia are in search of their identities and people of their own kind.  Though they have some  vague memories of their past, they must endure the pain of recovering other repressed memories to complete the puzzle, all while trying to stay a step ahead of their would-be captors.

Their counterparts in Race, however, not only know who they are, they are on a mission to save their home from destruction and the Earth from invasion.  Sara and Seth’s spacecraft crash lands in the desert near Las Vegas.  They hire cabbie Jack Bruno to drive them to an old shack to recover their parents’ research data.  Suddenly, a Terminator-like assassin appears and tries to kill them.  Meantime, a director of a covert government operation steals their spacecraft and attempts to capture the kids.  It’s up to Jack to help them elude their pursuers, recover their spacecraft and return home.

Race is called a “re-imagining” of Escape, but the concepts of Seth and Sara as aliens and why they come to Earth are taken from details and devices found in the latter chapters of the book.  Those points are changed around to create an action driven film with car chases, explosions and cool visual effects.  The action in Escape is not as over-the-top but still thrilling, and still has the reader rooting for Tony and Tia.

Like Tony and Tia, Seth and Sara use their extraordinary abilities rather conservatively:  Their powers get them out of jams, but not every jam.  Seth doesn’t have Tony’s ability to move objects:  That’s Sara’s department, which she does telepathically.  Seth can change his molecular structure to move through objects and to form protective shielding.  All things considered, Seth and Sara play things pretty low key; it’s Tony and Tia who call attention to themselves after breaking out of jail with the help of a dancing broom and two brown bears.

The biggest diversion between the book and movie is the protagonist’s point of view.  Escape is told through Tony and Tia’s eyes, moreso Tony’s, as they struggle to reconnect with their past and find their people.  Jack Bruno’s point of view drives Race, a formula used in many action movies where a jaded man champions a simple yet noble cause – to help and protect Seth and Sara – against incredible foes and great odds – an alien assassin and a determined government official.

Race to Witch Mountain is a re-imagined version of Escape to Witch Mountain, and there are significant differences between the two.  The characters’ needs are different, but the heart of the stories is the same:  Two kids who enlist the help of a man to help them reach a place called Witch Mountain.


The book Escape to Witch Mountain and its sequel Return from Witch Mountain are available at CCLS libraries and through PINES.  Ask your librarian from assistance.

The film versions of both books have been re-released on DVD, available at a video retailer or rental store.

Race to Witch Mountain is currently in theaters.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

2006 Recommended Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Locus magazine has published its 2006 list of recommended reading chosen by the publications editors and reviewers . The list includes SF and Fantasy novels, YA titles, nonfiction titles, and short stories.


Published in: on February 15, 2007 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment