In the late 1970s, The Black Hole was the Disney studio's full-force venture to make a sci-fi epic, coming on the heels of Star Wars. From the bombastic opening overture and impressively elaborate, high-tech opening credits, you expect a grand-scale space opera and on the surface, it appears to be that.
I was very much into Star Wars (1977) at the time, so I definitely would have been part of the target audience for The Black Hole. It may have been the last Disney movie (before Pixar) that I saw in a theater. The Wikipedia entry has some interesting info:
Widely regarded as Disney's answer to Star Wars (though work on the film was already underway as early as 1975), at $20 million it was the most expensive picture produced by the company to date. It was generally not well received by critics, although the special effects were highly praised. The movie earned $25 million at the US box office, making it the 13th highest grossing film of the year.
The film was nominated for cinematography and visual effects Academy Awards and was notable for being the first Disney film not to have a universal rating, due to mild language (being the first Disney film to include profanity of any type) and scenes of human death never seen in a Disney production before. To that end, it was rated PG in the U.S. (also another first for Disney). Along with frequent subtexts, there were also metaphysical and religious themes expressed through the film, a first for any Disney film. This film led the company towards experimenting with more adult-oriented films, which would eventually lead to the creation of its Touchstone Pictures arm to handle films considered too mature in nature to carry the Walt Disney label.
The Black Hole has been released several times on VHS and DVD. It is actually one of the very first Disney videos ever made, the first release being 1980. Although never a huge hit, it has spawned an avid cult following.
I remember being very frightened by the movie, particularly the robot Maximillian. It looks like the folks at Cracked.com had a similar experience as I did, because Maximillian is #6 on their "The 7 Most Underrated Movie Henchmen" list. They have a great video of it, and this description:
The hulking, vaguely humanoid robot Maximillian was the henchman of Dr. Hans Reinhardt (a villain whose primary character trait, it seems, was having crazy blow-dried hair. In this he excelled). Maximillian is a Swiss army knife of destruction, with laser arms, whirling blade arms, a juicer, a blow-drier (for his boss), more laser arms—you name it, he's got it and is probably going to use it to murder you. Plus, he never says anything; he just stares at you and follows you around—even to the bathroom, waiting patiently outside while you do your business.
Even Maximillian's own boss is a little freaked out by Maximillian. And with good reason: When the shit inevitably hits the fan later in the film, the big red robot leaves Dr. Reinhardt trapped beneath some wreckage and hops into an escape craft. Every robot for himself, sucker!
In the psychedelic ending of The Black Hole, Reinhardt is trapped in Maximillian's body, standing atop an infernal landscape. Owned! Who's the boss now, smart guy? Maximillian—King of Hell, fools!