Picture Piece: Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney

by Andrew Sholl

Over half a century in the making, Dalí's Disney collaboration arrives on the big screen

They were the art world's ultimate odd couple: the Midwestern sentimentalist who gave the world Bambi (1942), and the eccentric Surrealist responsible for images such as Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumble Bee Around a Pomegranate One Second Before Waking Up (1944). A chance meeting at a party at the Hollywood home of producer Jack Warner led the two cultural titans to strike up a friendship that would lead to a famed - and doomed - collaboration.

For eight months between 1946 and 1947 Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí toiled on an animated short, set to the tune of a popular Mexican ballad. Replete with Dalí's trademark melting clocks and nightmarish statues, Destino was to have formed a part of an omnibus feature along the lines of Fantasia. But with the cameras ready to roll, Disney ran into financial difficulties and the project was abandoned. For 57 years all that remained were 150 storyboards, drawings and paintings and a tantalizing 15 seconds of test footage.

Until now, that is. The 'last unreleased Walt Disney picture', as producer Baker Bloodworth describes it, has been completed by a new generation of filmakers at the behest of Walt's nephew, studio animation chief Roy E. Disney.

Initially Bloodworth and Paris-based director Dominique Monfery blanched at the idea of bringing Dalí's wild-eyed visual imagery to life. 'But', says Bloodworth, 'we came to understand that Dalí's artwork quite naturally lends itself to animation because it is so highly dimensional [sic].' The production team was also fortunate to be able to call on 95-year-old Disney veteran John Hench, who worked with Dalí on the original project.

The final result blends traditional rendered animation and computer graphics to give the film a period look and feel. Destino is currently screening at festivals around the world, giving cinema-goers their first glimpse of a daring artistic experiment described by Dali as a 'magical exposition of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time' and which for half a century was animation's holy grail.

Andrew Sholl

frieze magazine

November-December 2003
Issue 79

First published in Issue 79

November-December 2003

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