To film the special effects, Disney originally wanted to rent the Dykstraflex camera system that was created for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) (the first computer-controlled camera) from Industrial Light & Magic. However, the price and rental terms were unacceptable so Disney created its own version instead. What resulted 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 (that was previously impossible); and a computer-controlled modeling stand.
It was popular around this time to release a 12-inch, 33 1/3 long-playing record containing a film's dialogue, sound effects, and score, with narration taking the listener from scene to scene. The record released of The Black Hole (1979) featured dialogue not present in the theatrical release of the film.
This film and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) (released the same year) 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, although it is included in showings on Turner Classic Movies and the DVD release.
The laser pistols originally had light up tips that would activate when the actors pressed the trigger, thus giving the animators cues as to when someone was actually firing the guns. This proved to be a problem however because the actors would unconsciously press the triggers when they were not supposed to often times inadvertently shooting cast members.
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 character of V.I.N.CENT. was originally to have more elaborate electronic eyes (based on electronic stock ticker-type billboards), which would have given him a greater range of facial expressions. Unfortunately, the electro-mechanical eyes simply didn't work properly and the effect was abandoned at the beginning of principal photography.
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.
Gary Nelson was not satisfied with the way the model shop made "BOB", stating that the robot did not look battered enough. He went to the clay model they were using for reference and proceeded to hit it several times with a baseball bat. They built a new robot based on this model.
As one of the many science-fiction productions from the late '70s made in the wake of the phenomenally successful "Star Wars" (which had generated a fortune in licensed merchandise, particularly with toys), "The Black Hole" was released with a great deal of its own tie-in merchandise. Unfortunately, like many of those other productions from which toys and other items were produced hoping to repeat the success of "Star Wars", the merchandise did not sell well. These days, however, vintage toys from "The Black Hole" are highly sought-after and often sell for huge amounts of money.
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.
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.
Disney promoted "The Black Hole" on its Sunday evening program, "Disney's Wonderful World", in an episode called "Major Effects", which aired December 16, 1979. This lighthearted semidocumentary featured Joseph Bottoms (who played Lt. Charlie Pizer in the film) as the title character, Major Effects.
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".