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RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN

Creating A Sci-Fi Look
"The underground lab was supposed to be an experimental world the kids' parents created to study the secrets of life on Earth,” Bomba says. "They wanted to discover what was needed to re-grow plant life since their own planet was barren. When one hears the word ‘laboratory,' one thinks of Bunsen burners and beakers. I wanted it to be much more organic. Since these are aliens and using alien methods, I created these huge pulsating pods to serve as their Petri dishes. The idea was that they were using four elements—water, air, earth and fire—to recreate the basics of new life. These are all contained in a balloon-type mechanism that resembles a breathing, glowing plant pod.”

A more familiar, yet no less bizarre, set presented a huge design challenge for the film's technicians: the colorful and vibrant UFO convention, set in Las Vegas but actually filmed in Pomona, California. In his quest for authenticity, director (and UFO enthusiast) Fickman populated the booths with real UFO celebrities as well as many business people who actually sell their wares at conventions worldwide.

"We did a lot of research on past UFO conventions,” Fickman says. "They are truly fantastic and so visual, one part ComicCon, one part science fair, one part space camp. I thought it would be entertaining to have, among all these people dressed as extraterrestrials, two little blond kids who are really aliens walking among them unnoticed.”

The production design team, including art director John R. Jensen, set decorator Patrick Cassidy as well as costume designer Genevieve Tyrrell, used inspiration from real UFO conventions and added otherworldly touches of their own. With so many people dressed as lobster men, E.T.s and storm troopers, who would notice a Siphon in their midst? "We made sure there were so many things to see and so many people milling about in strange costumes that the actors would be able to blend in,” Bomba says.

Fickman also invited some of the elite members of the real-life UFO hierarchy to attend, including Bill Birnes (publisher of UFO Magazine and host of the popular television series "UFO Hunters”) and his wife, Nancy; Dr. Roger Leir (alien implant specialist and lecturer); Giorgio Tsoukalos (editor of Legendary Times Magazine and a paleo-SETI researcher); and Whitley Strieber (author of "Communion,” "Wolfen” and "The Hunger,” as well as one of the most famous alleged alien abductees).

"Andy convinced my wife, Anne, and me to participate in his film while we all met for lunch,” Strieber says. "As it turned out, Andy knew a lot about UFOs and thought it would be funny if Anne and I were manning a booth at the film's UFO convention. We really enjoyed ourselves.”

Through a special association with Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the movie company set up shop among real-life gamblers and merrymakers for two weeks on the Las Vegas Strip. The film's design team embellished the interior of the casino with set pieces and video screens, but the majority of what is on screen is pure Vegas. Other familiar Las Vegas haunts were used, such as downtown Las Vegas and the neon cascade known as the Las Vegas Strip (on which Johnson and Gugino filmed late night cab rides).

Back in Saugus, California, production designer Bomba created the majority of the Witch Mountain secret underground government facility, a lair that would eventually house not only the alien teenagers, but their captured spaceship as well.

"We did a ton of research on what Witch Mountain should look like,” Fickman says. "We had the opportunity to actually visit the Cheyenne Mountain NORAD facility, which is one of our country's most guarded locations. We also designed our facility to have the mystery and aura of Area 51, the Nevada base that is the source of so much UFO lor

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