Follow TV Tropes


Film / Escape to Witch Mountain

Go To
Escape to Witch Mountain is a 1975 Disney film starring Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann, Ray Milland, and Donald Pleasence, directed by John Hough. It is the Film of the Book of the same name, about siblings Tony and Tia Malone (Eisenmann and Richards). We are introduced to them as they are admitted to an orphanage/school. They have no memory of where they came from before they were placed in foster care, and try to conceal the fact that they have Psychic Powers. When Tia sees an accident before it happens, it draws the attention of a wealthy businessman, Aristotle Bolt (Milland), who wants to exploit the siblings' powers. They try to remember where they came from, guided by Tia's "star case", a leather box on a strap with a curious double star design on the lid, which she has had as long as she can remember, and which contains a hidden map to a place called Witch Mountain.

Tony and Tia must escape from Mr. Bolt's compound and travel to Witch Mountain in an attempt to find out where they came from. Along the way they enlist the help of an old drifter (Eddie Albert) to conceal them as Mr. Bolt uses his influence to track them down.

In 1978, it was followed by Return from Witch Mountain, with Richards and Eisenmann reprising their roles. A third episode, ignoring the second and featuring none of the original cast, was titled Beyond Witch Mountain, made as a pilot for a TV series and shown as an episode of The Magical World of Disney in 1982. Two remakes were made, a first one in 1995 under the same title that starred Elisabeth Moss, Robert Vaughn, and Brad Dourif and a second in 2009 called Race to Witch Mountain and starring Dwayne Johnson.

Tropes seen in Escape To Witch Mountain:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: The owner of the orphanage in this movie is a kindly older lady while in the book, it was more of a home for orphaned juvenile delinquents run by a former police woman who took no guff from anyone.
  • Alien Among Us: What Tony and Tia turn out to be.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Uncle Bene reveals that Tony and Tia aren't the only children that were lost and there are others with the same cases and maps. Now that Jason knows what to look for, he offers to help find those children and bring them home. The last scene we see is of him smiling knowing that Tony and Tia are home safe. Happy and with a purpose—and the perfect cover as he's a widower traveling around the country in an RV—it's made clear he and Winkie are going to do just that.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The credits show the silhouettes of the children running while being chased by white outlines of barking dogs. Incidentally, the footage of the dogs is a Recycled Animation from Bambi. This is the era of Disney history that gave us Robin Hood (1973), after all.
  • Bald of Evil: Lucas Deranian and Aristotle Bolt, played respectively by Donald Pleasence and Ray Milland.
  • Beary Friendly: The kids use a bear to help them escape from Bolt's henchmen.
  • Big Bad: Aristotle Bolt.
  • Chekhov's Gun: During their escape, Thunderhead and the gate guard's cat allergies. Winkie the cat disables the guard by his very presence, and Tia calls on Thunderhead the horse to be their means of escape.
  • Company Cross References: Early on in the film, Tony, Tia and the rest of the kids at the orphanage go to a movie theater to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. note 
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Bolt.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tony and Tia so far are the only ones to have found their way home. Uncle Bene reveals to Jason that there are more children and they are all equipped with starcases and maps.
  • Cute Kitten: Winkie.
  • The Dragon: Lucas Deranian.
  • The Drifter: Jason O'Day in his RV, a lonely old man wandering around. He comes to the aid of Tony and Tia.
  • Deadpan Snarker: As impressed as the kids are by the luxury of Mr. Bolt's massive mansion, Tia can't hold back when Lucas says that he owns everything in sight.
    Tia: Well, I can see the sky.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Downplayed. Although Tia and Tony are first amazed at their new rooms (and Winkie's) at Mr. Bolt's mansion and excited at the prospect of riding horses, in the end of the first day they feel sad because having everything they always wanted (at least concerning material things) makes them feel empty. And they quickly realize that Mr. Bolt and Deranian just want to use them.
  • Dutch Angle: Used for Mr. Bolt and Deranian in the scene where Tony and Tia psychically spy on their conversation and learn Bolt's plan to imprison them.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Jason O'Day. Becomes a Cool Old Guy.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Tia, who can talk to animals, is very empathetic toward them.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Tony and Tia's escape from Mr. Bolt's mansion is filmed with a day-for-night filter.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: When Tony and Tia get their memories back, they realize they came from a dying planet that shut down all of its industries besides spaceship production. Their ship crashed in the ocean after reaching Earth while the others landed at Witch Mountain.
  • Illegal Guardian: Lucas Deranian, who forges papers to make himself out as the kids' uncle.
  • Improvised Weapon: During the car chase, Tony uses a bag of flour to blind one of the pursuing vehicles and cause it to (comically) crash. Uncle Bene is quite amused and impressed but reminds Tony that the others need to keep chasing them.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: It's actually supposed to be a Twist Ending that Tony and Tia are aliens, but it's been a long time since that was treated as any kind of secret. Consider their Flying Saucer is right on the cover of the DVD. Not to mention, all subsequent installments of the Witch Mountain franchise give that information away in the trailer.
  • Magic Music: Tony uses his harmonica to help him focus his telekinetic powers.
  • Map All Along: When Truck snatches Tia's case, Winkie knocks it off his hand. The fall makes the panel with two stars at the top of the case come partially loose, revealing a map underneath. Tia and Tony use it as a guide after they escape from Mr. Bolt's mansion ( The map marks the place where her people, an alien race, is living isolated from humans.).
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Tony and Tia save Lucas' life and he has them hunted like criminals.
  • Orphanage of Love: The orphanage the siblings stay at has a polite and caring owner, lots of kids happily playing around the place and comfortable-looking rooms. The only person with anything bad to say about the place is The Bully.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mr. Deranian is an Amoral Attorney who rarely does better then display some Pragmatic Villainy, but when a truck crashes into his car in his first scene, Deranian immediately races to see if his chauffeur is all right.
    • The first sign that Jason is more than a Grumpy Old Man is when he pets Winkie the cat and promises to give him some canned tuna.
  • Posthumous Character: Tony and Tia’s foster parents, the Malones, are often mentioned, but died shortly before the movie begins and only appear in a short flashback when Captain Malone finds the children adrift at sea.
  • Powder Gag: During the car chase, Tony launches a sack of flour into a pursuer, blinding them, running them off the road, and crashing (complete with a comical crash sound). When the smoke clears, we see the car comically perched up against a tree with its hood popped up, a piece of fender trim dangling off the side but otherwise undamaged, and the driver and its occupants covered in flour but otherwise unhurt.
  • Properly Paranoid: Tony and Tia's people are careful not to directly expose themselves to the public. The map gives the siblings just enough information to find them, but not enough for someone unscrupulous as there's no context. The Misty Valley Cooperative office in Stony Creek is clearly a front as there are no personal effects or indication of anyone manning the place nor frequent visitors. Instead, you are meant to dial a three-digit number listed in the office's phone book on the desk phone to establish contact. There's also a back door that leads directly to the rear of the building that comes in handy.
  • Psychic Powers: Tony can visualize far away places and see what is happening there. He and Tia both have telekinesis (although hers is mostly used for opening locks).
  • Quest for Identity: The entire film is driven by Tony and Tia's struggle to find out who they are and where they came from.
    • Jason too. He starts out as someone having pledged to never give his love to another person, and over the course of the movie discovers that his true self is a man that helps and safeguards children.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Uncle Bene. In the book, he died on board the ship after having been shot making his escape. Here, he survived without being shot.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Tia can communicate telepathically with animals. It's implied Uncle Bene has this ability as well, given his remark that sharks can be "very accommodating" if you know what to say to them (which was apparently how he avoided death by drowning).
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Downplayed during the riding lesson. The teacher can't refuse to teach Tia because he is paid to teach both siblings, but he clearly thinks that she is too delicate to handle a horse.
    Teacher: Now, Tony, I know I should be "ladies first". But I think that if you show Tia how easy it is... You know, a little filly the size your sister, sometimes they get easily scared.
    (She proves him dead wrong by making friends with the fierce Thunderhead, a horse that "never was tamed". And she rides him barebacked.)
  • Superhuman Trafficking: Tony and Tia are chased by Mr. Bolt, who wants to use their powers for his personal gain and a mob of people on a literal Witch Hunt. Not that they know what they'll do with the superpowered kids once they catch them.
  • Table Space: The unease of Tony and Tia at Bolt's mansion and Bolt's predatory attitude towards the children is demonstrated in a scene where they all have dinner at a long formal table, with Bolt and Deranian on the ends and the kids sitting together in the middle.
  • Talent Double: Tony's harmonica solos in the film were performed by session musician Tommy Morgan.
  • Telepathy: Only one way, as it happens. Tia, the more powerful sibling, can talk to Tony with her mind, but he can't, and has to answer her out loud.
  • Trust Password: When Tony calls the number in the phone book for the Misty Valley Cooperative from their front office, he specifically states he's calling about the "Castaway" family. The caller on the other end asks if he's looking for "Mr. Castaway".
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
  • Witch Hunt: Some of the posse of backwoods hunters think the children are witches.