After Tron, The Black Hole

Get ready for more Maximilian

With Tron Legacy still a year away from release it seems premature to be talking about what that team are planning next. And yet, here we are, with producer and director Sean Bailey and Joseph Kosinski set to plunder the Disney back catalogue once again, with a rejig of the nutso The Black Hole.

A lasting psychological scar for anyone who saw it as a child when it was relatively new, The Black Hole was Disney's first film not to carry a U rating, which meant that characters could say "damn" and "hell", and that Anthony Perkins could be violently eviscerated by the whirling deathblades of a giant crimson robot. The plot involves some space explorers (including Ernest Borgnine) stumbling upon Maximilian Schell, living alone at the edge of the titular void, on a ship with an army of faceless automatons. He claims his crew deserted him before his attempts to enter The Black Hole, but it turns out he's lying, and the automatons are the remains of his shipmates.

A huge tentpole sci-fi investment for Disney in 1979, it remains utterly bizarre in its total bleakness: its only real concession to Star Wars cash-innery being the crowbarred-in cute floating robots, voiced by Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens. It ends, 2001-like, with everyone entering The Black Hole and suffering a massive existential transmogrification. In a DISNEY film. They used to show it at CHRISTMAS.

Details of the new version are under wraps at the moment, other than the promise that Maximilian (the red robot, not Schell) will be back, and it will be a lot more scientifically "grounded". So no flying wraiths in Heironymous Bosch landscapes then. Travis Beacham, who had a hand in Clash of the Titans, is writing the script.

The Black Hole is a kind of version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, so it's interesting to note that Bailey was also the producer of the crashed McG version of the Jules Verne classic. Were both films originally planned alongside each other, or has Bailey just regrouped and changed his focus?