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"I've been dealing with alien probes my whole life"

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"I've been dealing with alien probes my whole life"

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To be onstage at the San Diego Convention Center was -- to say the least -- a somewhat surreal experience for Andy Fickman. Especially since -- not all that long ago -- Andy was a garden-variety geek himself.

"For the past 10 years, I've been coming to Comic-Con," Fickman told the 6,500 film fans assembled in Hall H. "Just last year, I paid a dealer here $300 for what I was told was a pristine copy of Roger Corman's 'Fantastic Four.' When I got back home, I called all of my friends and told them to come on over and watch this movie with me. Only to then find out that I'd been sold a copy of 'The Punisher' with Dolph Lundgren."

So clearly Andy is someone who's familiar with disappointment. Particularly when it comes to Comic-Con. Which was why Fickman then went out of his way to reassure all of the Tony-and-Tia fans who attended Disney's "Race to Witch Mountain" panel last month that his remake / reinvention of that 1975 film would be ... Well, entertaining to contemporary audiences as well as being respectful of its source material.

"The original 'Escape to Witch Mountain' was pretty adventurous for a Disney film," Andy remembered. "Very dark in a pre-Harry Potter sort of way. But as a UFO afficiando, I wondered: How would you update the 'Witch Mountain' mythology so that it would then play for today's audiences?"

Yeah, Fickman -- in X-Files parlance -- is a believer. But when you're born in Roswell, New Mexico, believing in UFOs sort of comes with the territory. "I've been dealing with alien probes my whole life," Andy joked.

Anyway ... When the Mouse gave Fickman (fresh on the heels of his success with "The Game Plan") his choice of follow-up projects, Andy pitched Disney on the idea of doing a new "Witch Mountain" movie. Only this time around, as a real UFO movie.

"What I meant by that was that I wanted to make a kick-ass thrill ride of a movie," Fickman continued. "A contemporary action-adventure that was heavily steeped in the world of UFOs. Which still had the humor and the heart of 'The Game Plan.' "

Photo by Nancy Stadler

Which (admittedly) seemed like a pretty tall order. But Andy crafted the screenplay for "Race to Witch Mountain" himself. Folding in all of the elements that he felt would be necessary for "a family film that will entertain everyone from 8 to 80."

Then to make sure that his proposed redo of "Witch Mountain" was respectful of both the original Alexander Key book as well as the first two Disney films, Fickman did kind of an unusual thing. He actually sent copies of his screenplay to Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, the two actors who played Tia & Tony in "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "Return from Witch Mountain." They both quickly gave their approval of his new vision for the franchise. And Andy -- in turn -- then offered Kim & Ike small but prominent roles in "Race to Witch Mountain."

And what exactly is Fickman's vision for this franchise? Andy actually drew inspiration from a number of places. Including "48 Hours" as well as the most recent Bourne & James Bond movies.

"Those two movies really raised the bar when it comes to action films," Fickman explained. "And Disney -- to their credit -- really let us push the envelope when it comes to a family film. There are some pretty intense chases & action sequences in this picture."

As for "Race to Witch Mountain" 's storyline ... Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays Jack Bruno, a cab driver working in Las Vegas. One night, Bruno picks up Tia (AnnaSophia Robb) and her brother Tony (Alexander Ludwig), two alien teens. Tia & Tony have journeyed to Earth because ... Well, this is where it gets kind of complicated.


Still here? Okay, then .... Tony & Tia's parents have invented a device that will clear up the pollution problem on their homeworld. The only problem is ... The powers-that-be on Tony & Tia's planet don't really want to fix the pollution problem. They'd prefer to just kill off everyone on Earth and then resettle on that relatively pollution-free world.

Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Tony & Tia's parents disagree with this idea. As a direct result, they're then branded as traitors and are scheduled for execution. In the meantime, their miraculous pollution-cleaning device winds up on Earth.

So -- in order to save their parents from death -- Tony & Tia must first journey to Earth and recover their parents' polluntion-cleaning device. Then they must return to their homeworld and convince the powers-that-be to call off their kill-all-of-the-humans-and-then-invade-this-planet plan.

And if that wasn't complicated enough ... To thwart these alien teens, the powers-that-be back on Tony & Tia's homeworld sent an assassin after them. This creature (Which is known as the Siphon)'s mission is to kill the teens as well as destroy any trace of this pollution-cleaning-up device.

Given that the Siphon was built by Stan Winston Studio and that this creature was created by the same very folks who brought us "Predator" and "Aliens" ... Well, you can understand why Fickman -- a self-professed geek would be excited about this new Disney film.

" ('Escape to Witch Mountain') is a movie that we all loved as kids. 'Race to Witch Mountain' has a whole new mythology that still pays tribute to the original. We've got Ike & Kim, we've got the Winnebago. I promise that our picture -- which is a kick-ass thrill ride -- won't disappoint the fans of "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "Return from Witch Mountain."

So what do you folks think? Does this new sci-fi action-adventure -- which rolls in theaters next March -- sound like something you might like to see? Or does Andy Fickman's reinvention of "Witch Mountain" sound like something you'd like to escape from rather than race to?

Your thoughts?

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  • I take issue with the line "we all loved this movie as kids"....

    He's really reaching there.

  • I remember those movies being fun. But then I was a kid then.

    Is he going to have any upside-down helicopters?

    I will not see see it without that. :)

    Really, I have a better idea for a movie.

    Try writing something, lets-say "original".

  • I'm put off by any movie with 'The Rock' in it.

    Ex-wrestlers in family movies always make me cringe.  I'm still recovering from 'Suburban Commando' staring Hulk Hogan.

  • I have to say, if the movie plays out the way Jim has described it, then this is the last thing I would have expected from the director of The Game Plan.  That being said, I have to agree with Atemylunch.  Lately it seems like the only original scripts Disney is producing are for Pixar movies.

  • I enjoyed the Game Plan, and it was great to watch with the kids, so I'm intrigued by this movie.

    Disney has had a lot of success lately with the "family adventure" genre with the National Treasures. Dwayne Johnson did a credible job in The Game Plan, so putting him in a family, comedy, action role might work well.

    This sounds different enough from the original Witch Mountains that it may keep from being just a revisioning of the original (I've learned to loathe that phrase), that it may be able to stand on its own.

    We'll know soon enough.

  • I was completely with it until you got to the "miraculous pollution-cleaning device." That just sounds stupid.

  • The lore, mystery and intrigue are gone.

  • The plot as explained here just plain sounds silly.  I am also not a fan of The Rock, but normal Disney procedure to wring every once out of a marginal actor.

  • Well well...what a bunch or morose mother blubbards we have here today.

  • Love you too, SuperGrover.

  • I can see why Disney has slowly stopped courting the online community in the past couple of years. It seems that the most vocal part of the community comes across as jaded, angry, and sometimes vastly out of touch with reality.  It's not an audience I would want my company associated with.

  • I think that Disney have been embracing the online community more over the last two years.  Epcot 25 Anniversary?  That was less than a year ago and a direct result of Disney listening in.

  • "  

    SuperGrover said:

    I can see why Disney has slowly stopped courting the online community in the past couple of years. It seems that the most vocal part of the community comes across as jaded, angry, and sometimes vastly out of touch with reality.  It's not an audience I would want my company associated with."

    Ahhh, so anyone who doesn't share YOUR opinion is jaded, angry and sometimes vastly out of touch with reality?  

    My, but aren't you just full of yourself?  I'm not a Disney fanboi, I just don't like The Rock, the idea presented here sounds silly to me, and ALL opinions are valid...I note your's consists of knock other people rather than commenting on the actual subject...

  • I'm going to have to agree with Original19 and lostincrowds here.  I don't remember these movies at all, the Rock is not a great actor, and the plot sounds terrible.  I'm not going to be rushing to see it.

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