Art Archives: The Black Hole, Pt. 1
I was four years old when I saw The Black Hole.
Apparently Disney had decided to cash in on the success of Star Wars by crafting their own cute talking robot space adventure. Theaters throughout the U.S. booked the film, and chain stores throughout the U.S. stocked the merch. The stage was set for Disney to move effortlessly into the realm of live action blockbusters.
It didn’t quite work out that way. The Black Hole did have talking robots, and it did have amazing special effects for its time. It even had a strong cast (Maximilian Schell, Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Perkins, and Roddy McDowall for starters). Yet for some reason, the filmmakers opted to explore thematic territory that we would nowadays refer to as “hard sci-fi.” The plot was borrowed heavily from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and infused with elements from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running. It featured violence and death, and ended on a darkly surreal note that was confusing to parents and upsetting to children.
The Black Hole wasn’t exactly a flop, but it failed to capture the imaginations and pocketbooks of America, and Disney backed off in its attempts to usurp Lucasfilm.
Like many kids, my sister and I went to see the film during its opening week. We returned from the theater in tears. I couldn’t process whether I liked the movie or not. All I knew was that I was upset, but couldn’t stop thinking about it. Eventually we stopped crying, and began the cathartic mission of drawing all the memorable scenes from the film.
I recently found, organized and scanned all the Black Hole drawings we made as kids. I’m not sure how many days we worked on them, but they were created on several different types of paper, using a combination of crayons and ink pens. Amazingly, they pretty much explain the plot of the movie, although it comes across as much more violent and action-packed than it really is.
In the years since I was first traumatized by The Black Hole, I’ve grown to appreciate it as a flawed science fiction masterpiece, and as a snapshot of the time before the PG-13 rating and CGI changed the genre forever. I also have a soft spot for the movie because I taught myself to read by following along to a Black Hole storybook that came with a 45 rpm record.
Sadly, my sister Ginger passed away a few years later, so I am unable to get her thoughts on the experience. I also am not 100% sure how many of these drawings were hers. I think the majority were mine, because even at that age I was a pretty big nerd, and it’s the sort of thing I would do. Ginger also helped me draw scenes from other movies like Blade Runner and The Dark Crystal, so her work may pop up in future entries.
NEXT: Stay tuned for the Story of The Black Hole!