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 two last 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".