Walt Disney Studio's on-again, off-again science-fiction spectacular Space Probe, is definitely on again, bearing a new title – The Black Hole. The $17 million dollar epic was recently described by Disney vice-president Ron Miller as "our most ambitious picture yet. We are going to renew our reputation as the studio known for its special effects."

The movie, which went into pre-production under the aegis of the late Winston Hibler, has been a source of problems to the studio since its inception... primarily in terms of storyline. After Hibler's death in 1976, the then-untitled film was given to Peter Ellenshaw to develop, and Space Probe was born. After further modifications of the story, a final script by Jeb Rosebrook and Gerry Dey was accepted and retitled The Black Hole.

The most expensive film in the history of Disney Studios, The Black Hole has been declared top secret; barred not only to the press, but also to Disney technicians. Only a handful of people on the studio lot know the ending of the movie, which will feature the Disney version of what is on the other side of a mysterious black hole. Two film units will be working on the movie simultaneously, but independent of each other. Neither unit will ever know what the other unit is filming in an effort to keep the project totally hush-hush until its release.

Starring Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Ernest Borgnine and Jennifer O'Neill, The Black Hole deals with the voyage of the starship Cygnus, a half-mile-long craft which encounters a void in space. Geared as a straight science-fiction adventure, the film will be the first "adult" concept produced by the Disney team in some years. The studio's aim, according to Miller, is to attract the SF fans who made Star Wars and CE3K so successful. "We think this is a great opportunity to get those people who think Disney is a bad name to take a look at one of our films," he told a motion picture trade publication recently.

Backing up Miller's plan for an adult approach will be an astounding array of special effects headed by Peter Ellenshaw, the artist responsible for the mattes and effects for Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and who won the SFX Oscar for Mary Poppins. Ellenshaw's son, P.S. Ellenshaw, who did mattes for Star Wars, will head the matte department for Black Hole. Visual and mechanical effects, which include the use of a $500,000 computer to repeat camera movements ala Star Wars, will be handled by Art Cruikshank, Danny Lee and Eustace Lycett. Frank Phillips will be director of photography, Bill Thomas costumer and Gary Nelson will direct.

Miller, who will serve as The Black Hole's producer, says that the late 1979 release will be previewed via a one-hour NBC Wonderful World of Disney "making of" segment.