Disney's first PG-rated movie.
The "green grid" sequence that appears under the opening titles was the longest computer graphics sequence ever to appear in a film.
Neither Roddy McDowall nor Slim Pickens are credited for their voice work in the film in either the opening or closing sequences.
V.I.N.CENT. was originally supposed to have more elaborate electronic eyes, based on electronic stock ticker-type billboards, which would have given him a greater range of facial expressions. The electro-mechanical eyes didn't work properly, and the effect was abandoned at the beginning of principal photography.
To film the special effects, Disney originally wanted to rent the Dykstraflex camera system, the first computer-controlled camera, created for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), from Industrial Light & Magic. The price and rental terms were unacceptable, so Disney created its own version. The result was Disney's A.C.E.S. (Automated Camera Effects System), which was radically superior to the Dykstraflex system, the Mattescan system, which enabled the camera to move on a matte painting, and a computer-controlled modeling stand.
According to press at the time, the film's score was the world's first digitally recorded soundtrack.
This was regarded as the last big special effect production to be made under the "old studio system." All of the elaborate special effects were created within the Disney studio and not farmed out to outside special effects companies.
The laser pistols originally had light up tips that would activate when the actors pressed the trigger, giving the animators cues as to when someone was actually firing the guns. The actors would unconsciously press the triggers when they were not supposed to, often inadvertently shooting cast members.
The visual effect of the black hole itself was created by forming a whirlpool in a round Plexiglas water tank, and adding different colors of paint.
This film and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) were the last two Hollywood films to include an overture, once a common feature of "major" studio releases. This film's overture is usually cut from television broadcasts, though it's included in showings on Turner Classic Movies and the DVD release.
The film contains over 550 visual effects shots, including over 150 matte paintings.
Dr. Reinhardt's ship was originally called the Centaurus. It was renamed Cygnus after the constellation where the first known black hole was discovered in 1964.
Gary Nelson was not satisfied with the way the model shop made "BOB", saying that the robot did not look battered enough. He went to the clay model they were using for reference and hit it several times with a baseball bat. They built a new robot based on that model.
A fixture in Disney's special effects department for more than 40 years, Eustace Lycett (then head of the Photographic Effects Department) retired after completing the composite work on this film.
Almost all of the dialog in the film was re-recorded by the cast during post-production looping (ADR) - with the exception of only a couple of lines.
The helmets of robot sentinels had a very limited vision, making it difficult to direct and coordinate the actors, particularly when they were firing the lasers.
The spaceship Cygnus was actually a 12-foot-long 3.6 meter) model weighing 175 pounds (79.3 kg).
Disney regarded the quality of the special effects to be so crucial that it called Peter Ellenshaw out of a 10-year retirement to work on the film.
The film was originally supposed to take place in a completely weightless environment. The technical difficulties prompted a re-write of the script so that when the Palomino ties up the Cygnus gravity returned.
Like many other science-fiction films released after Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), which had generated a fortune in licensed merchandise, this film had a lot of tie-in merchandise. It didn't sell well. Vintage toys from the film are highly sought-after, and often sell for huge amounts of money.
John Barry composed the Overture.
Alan Dean Foster, who wrote the novelization of the film, was so appalled by the bad science in the script that he provided a list of changes to the producers which he felt would improve the story. Upset by this, the Disney brass actually called a meeting to decide what to do.
The film takes place in 2130.
Yvette Mimieux was given a short and curly hairstyle to make the scenes where she appeared weightless seem more convincing, since longer hair would have flowed about in zero-gravity.
Robert Forster was slightly hurt on the head during the storm in the greenhouse.
Harlan Ellison was briefly brought on as a scientific consultant on the film. He was fired on his first day, before lunch was over, because he pitched an animated porno movie starring Disney characters. Roy Edward Disney was sitting at the next table, heard everything, and had Ellison fired on the spot. Ellison insists he was simply joking, but others who were there say he was talking about it sincerely.
Hanging on Dr. Reinhardt's cabin (though blurred) is a portrait of admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Although it is curious having the portrait of a British admiral on an American spaceship, Nelson was known in his time to be a revolutionary -and often reckless- tactician. Posibly the reason Reinhardt wanted it in his cabin.
"The Black Hole" was the first film produced by the Disney studios to be given a PG rating. At the time the film was being made, it was actually considered to be primarily for adults.
Some leftover sentry robot costumes were later used in Steven Lisberger's test reel for TRON (1982).
The poster of the movie can be seen in Sam Flynn's bedroom in the opening scene of TRON: Legacy (2010).
Jennifer O'Neill was originally cast as Dr. Kate McCrae.
Considered for the role of Reinhardt were Harry Andrews, Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Curt Jurgens, Patrick Troughton, Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Anton Diffring, Hardy Kruger, Max Von Sydow and Jeremy Kemp.
Whitman produced a comic book adaptation of the film, which was published in two parts as the first two issues of an ongoing comics series. The third and fourth issue, retitled "Beyond The Black Hole", continued the adventures of the characters past the events of the film, but was cancelled before the storyline was resolved. The first three issues (the two-part movie adaptation and the first "Beyond" story) were packaged and sold in a bagged set and are now relatively common on eBay. The fourth issue, however, is very difficult to find and highly collectable, especially in good condition.
Disney promoted this movie on its Sunday evening program, Disneyland: Major Effects (1979), in an episode called Major Effects (1979), which aired December 16, 1979. This lighthearted semi-documentary featured Joseph Bottoms as the title character, Major Effects.
Any sharp-eared viewers who also watched Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) might recognize the sound of the spaceships' doors opening and closing - this borrowed sound effect has not, as of this writing, been officially confirmed, however.
Tom McLoughlin also coordinated for the mimes who play the sentinels and the humanoids. His wife doubled Yvette Mimieux for stunts.
Gary Nelson hated the original script, titled "Space Probe-One", but he agreed to direct the film after seeing the concept renderings, which he thought were "magnificent".
The robot "Maximilian" is named so for the actor Maximilian Schell who plays its master Dr. Hans Reinhardt. Its common to see the robot's name misspelled as Maximillian with two "LL". Preproduction scripts originally had the name as Maximillian, but when Maximilian Schell was added to the cast the robot name was changed to match.
Top billed Maximilian Schell turns up 26 minutes in.
In addition to his uncredited work on "The Black Hole", Roddy McDowall provided the voice for Chuck the robot in an episode of "Mork & Mindy" called "Dr. Morkenstein", which aired October 14, 1979.
John Hough was originally set to direct, but dropped out to direct Brass Target (1978) instead.
Trailer narrated by Percy Rodrigues.
At one point towards the end of the movie Winter Kills (1979) (which starred Jeff Bridges of TRON (1982) fame), at the information center, John Cerruti (Anthony Perkins) refers to "black holes". Perkins starred as Dr. Alex Durant in this movie which premiered in cinemas later that very same year of 1979.
The use of Slim Pickens for the voice of Bob is similar to the country hick voice used by one of the androids in the second rate Star Wars clone from the year before, [link:tt0079946].
The trailer showed Anthony Perkins's death scene.
Dr. Reinhardt's dying words, "more light," were supposedly Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's final words as well.
Reinhardt's robot was already called Maximilian before Maximilian Schell was chosen for the role of Reinhardt. Reinhardt would end the film merged with the robot, thus being ironically trapped in "Maximilian's Shell".
When the film was broadcast on ITV in the UK in the late 1980s during the daytime. There is a scene removed: after it cuts from Reinhart on the mountain-top in Hell, the removed sequence is of an angel is flying through the arches, the to the Palamino crew heading to an unidentified planet having apparently survived.