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Black hole is a term for one of the great anomalies of the cosmos: the imploded remains of a giant sun, consisting of matter so densely impacted that its ravenous gravity rips at the very fabric of the Universe, and from which no matter or lightcanescape.

No film crew can capture the awesome wonder of such a galactic maelstrom, especially since it exists only in theory. But it can be simulated, and that is the challenge before the Walt Disney Studios as they tackle their biggest film project to date – The Black Hole.

In the film, five space explorers discover a mammoth space station which is on the verge of being swallowed by a neutron star’s inescapable gravitational field. Dramatizing this cosmic mission will be an international cast, led by Maximillian Schell, Anthony Perkins and Yvette Mimieux.

The production will be designed by Peter Ellenshaw, Oscar-winning matte artist for several past Disney classics, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mary Poppins. A record 150 matte paintings – nearly twice the number used for Close Encounters of the Third Kind – are being designed by Harrison Ellenshaw, the son of Peter, who created the 13 glass shots used in Star Wars (see cover story, STARLOG #14). The younger Ellenshaw’s work was also used in The Cat from Outer Space and Return from Witch Mountain. Responsible for the look of the massive ship and slated to receive art direction credit is premiere space artist Bob McCall.

The miniature spacecraft and space station will be built by mechanical effects supervisor Danny Lee and his crew. Lee received his own Oscar for his work on Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Filming Lee’s models will be the work of two more Oscar winners, Eustace Lycett and Art Cruikshank, who will be aided by a newly developed camera designated ACES (Automated Camera Effects System), said to be the most sophisticated effects system in the history of filmmaking.

The Black Hole has been budgeted at $17.5 million. Though live-action filming was completed in April, effects work will continue through October. In a significant departure from past Disney policy, the December release is being planned as a PG-rated picture.