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The Black Hole(1979)

As it is returning to Earth, the Palomino discovers a black hole with the apparently abandoned and long-lost USS Cygnus nearby, the same ship that McCrae's father was aboard when it vanished 20 years ago. (Cygnus X-1 is the first-known black hole, discovered in 1964, after which this scientific vessel is presumably named.) The Palomino decide to investigate and finds that there is a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus that allows it to defy the massive gravitational pull of the black hole. The Palomino briefly strays outside the field and is damaged by the intense gravity, forcing it to emergency dock with the Cygnus, which no longer appears abandoned.

The Black Hole(1979)


The cautious Palomino crew soon encounter Dr. Hans Reinhardt (one of Earth's most brilliant scientists, according to Durant). Reinhardt explains he has been alone on the Cygnus since it encountered a meteor field and was disabled. He ordered the human crew to return to Earth without him, but Kate's father chose to remain aboard and has since died. To replace the crew, Reinhardt built faceless, black-robed drones, sentry robots and his sinister bodyguard robot, Maximilian. Reinhardt says he intends to fly the Cygnus through the black hole because 20 years of study has shown that it's possible. Only an enamoured Durant believes him and asks if he can accompany Reinhardt.

Reinhardt orders his robots to lobotomize Kate, but just as the process begins, she is rescued by Holland, V.I.N.CENT. and BO.B. Harry Booth tries to escape alone in the Palomino, but is shot down and fatally crashes into the Cygnus. A subsequent meteor storm and the explosion of the ship's overstressed main power plant cause the anti-gravity generator to fail. Without its null-gravity bubble, the Cygnus quickly starts to break apart under the black hole's huge gravitational forces.

Reinhardt and the Palomino survivors separately plan their escape in the probe ship used to study the black hole. Reinhardt orders Maximilian to prepare the ship for launch, but then a large viewscreen falls on Reinhardt, pinning him to the deck, surrounded by his lobotomized crew. Maximilian encounters the Palomino crew and fatally damages B.O.B. before being disabled by V.I.N.CENT and left to drift. Holland, Pizer, McCrae and V.I.N.CENT. launch the probe, which has a pre-programmed flight path that takes them into the black hole.

Within the black hole, Reinhardt and Maximilian merge together above a burning, hellish landscape populated by dark-robed spectres resembling Cygnus drones.[7] Meanwhile, the probe ship is led through a cathedral-like arched crystal tunnel by a floating, angelic figure. After the ship emerges from a white hole, Holland, Pizer, McCrae and V.I.N.CENT. fly towards a planet near a bright star.

In the wake of several successful disaster films such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974), writers Bob Barbash and Richard Landau approached Disney Studios executive story editor Frank Paris with the idea for a space-themed disaster film tentatively titled Space Station One.[8] The writers showed Paris a preliminary sketch of their idea, and the idea was later pitched to Ron Miller, who assigned longtime studio producer Winston Hibler to help develop the project. An idea of Hibler was for a black hole to be featured in the story. After nearly a year of work on the project, Hibler was not satisfied with the later story drafts, so William Wood was added to rework the script. Ultimately, Hibler retired from the Disney studios. The project was later shelved until late 1975 when development resumed on the project now re-titled Space Probe One.[8] In 1976, Hibler returned from retirement, and suggested to Miller to hire conceptual artist Robert McCall to create some pre-production visuals to help focus the story and explore some possible ideas.[9]

Hibler died in August 1976, but with the amount of work already invested in the project, Miller took over the project. In October, writer Ed Coffey was added to rewrite the script. By February 1977, Jeb Rosebrook was included to restructure the story, in which the script was then changed to focus on a small core group of astronauts who would encounter a black hole, which was a phenomenon that had been a growing discussion within the scientific community.[9][13][3]

A separate comic book adaptation of the film published by Whitman Comics in 1980 bypasses the whole issue of what happens inside the black hole by having the crew enter the black hole on one page and emerge apparently unharmed on the next page into a parallel universe where they encounter alternate versions of Reinhardt, BO.B., Maximilian and even Frank McCrae, Kate McCrae's father. Four issues were published. The first two issues adapted the film and the second two issues continued the story introducing a race of people called Virlights, whom they end up aiding against a rising tyrant. The rare fourth issue concludes with the promise of a fifth issue but the series was canceled before it was released. In Mexico, Editorial Novaro S.A. published the first four Whitman issues, including the fifth issue, but also released a sixth issue before the series ended.[35] Other comic adaptations released in Europe have the crew emerging into another galaxy, thus confirming Reinhardt's theories. While wondering if they will ever return to Earth, they decide to explore this new universe.

In the official Disney Read-Along recording and illustrated story book, the crew in the probe ship emerge safely on the other side of the black hole, while the Cygnus is "crushed like an eggshell." The story ends with Captain Holland saying, "We've been trained to find new worlds. Let's go find one for ourselves!"[36] The children's book line, Little Golden Books, released a book entitled The Black Hole: A Spaceship Adventure for Robots. The story involves V.I.N.CENT. and BO.B. exploring the Cygnus, visiting its gardens, encountering the "humanoid robots", and escaping detection by Maximilian.[37]

Science fiction historian John Clute dismissed The Black Hole as "a silly concoction" where "the story disappears down the hole".[55] Phil Hardy, writing in The Aurum Film Encyclopedia, also gave the film a negative review, saying The Black Hole featured "the most heavy-handed dialogue imaginable" and added that the film's climax "has no dramatic power at all".[56] Author John Kenneth Muir wrote an extensive review of the film that delved into some of the nuances and metaphysical ideas which marked The Black Hole as more adult-oriented fare than Disney had previously been involved with.[57] In 2014, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson deemed the film to be the least scientifically accurate movie of all time. Criticizing the film, he noted, "They not only got none of the physics right about falling into a black hole, had they gotten it right it would have been a vastly more interesting movie."[58]

There's something endearingly human about our ability to take the most astonishing ideas and treat them in trivial stories. Take, as today's example, the idea of black holes in outer space and the story of Walt Disney's "The Black Hole."

The concept of black holes has trickled down by now from the ivory towers of Cambridge to the middle ground of Scientific American and finally to the funny pages: There may be special places in the universe where collapsing stars have set up gravity fields so dense that not even light can escape from them. So we have a "hole" in space which by definition we cannot see. Since light (which cannot help moving at the speed of light) cannot climb out of the hole. . . would an object falling into it be accelerated beyond the speed of light? And what would happen then?

The possibilities are mind-boggling. One of them, much favored by science-fiction writers, is that black holes are tunnels in space, and that if we fell into one we might emerge (a bit scorched, perhaps) from a "white hole" some. where else in the universe. Because black holes are "singularities" that do not correspond to models of the universe constructed by Einstein or anybody else, they've also inspired wonderfully apocalyptic notions. My favorite is that they're intergalactic bathtub drains, and that we'll all whirl down them some day and turn up in the sewer system of the universe next door.

That would be preferable to what happens in Disney's "The Black Hole," which takes us all the way to the rim of space only to bog us down in a talky melodrama whipped up out of mad scientists and haunted houses. A space mission to a black hole finds that another ship has arrived earlier: The Cygnus, which disappeared 20 years earlier. The explorers go on board and discover that the entire crew of the Cygnus has disappeared, except for a Dr. Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), who explains that he's about to try a daring plunge into the hole. The visitors are not enchanted. But one of them (Anthony Perkins) gets caught up in Reinhart's mad vision, and a journalist (Ernest Borgnine) wanders about the gigantic Cygnus and discovers a great deal more than meets the eye. And then Reinhardt turns mean.

"The Black Hole," meanwhile, revolves in outer space and is glimpsed from time to time through portholes. Physics is not my best subject, but I somehow doubt that we could see a black hole actually revolving, and my objection comes in two parts: I don't think we could see the hole at all, and it would certainly not be revolving at the approximate rate of a ferris wheel.

The friendly robot looks like C3PO, from "Star Wars," and chirps out plucky little sayings while revolving its beady little eyes. The taller robots are ripped off from Darth Vader. And when everybody gets in a shootout, we're left for the umpteenth time with the reflection that gunfights would surely be obsolete in outer space. (Can you imagine a technology that could venture to the edge of a black hole, and yet equip its voyagers with sidearms that inflict only flesh wounds?) 041b061a72


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