"I have come to Hollywood and am in touch with the three great American surrealists -- the Marx Brothers, Cecil B. DeMille and Walt Disney," the artist wrote to his friend Andre Breton in 1937. Salvador Dali had a great admiration for Walt Disney and wanted to create a movie with him. Dali approached Disney at a dinner party at the house of Warner Brothers head Jack Warner to present his idea of what he called "the first motion picture of the Never Seen Before."
Disney agreed and the result was a short film called Destino. Disney assigned director John Hench to help Dalí turn the Mexican ballad "Destino," by Armando Dominguez, into a kind of music video.
Dali worked at the studio for several months painting, drawing and discussing with Hench the challenges of adding motion to what he described as his "hand-colored photographs." Dali produced the principal images for the film, about 22 paintings and 135 sketches as well as images on lined paper to be used as a visual guide to the unfolding action of the film. Eventually, Disney's studio ran into financial trouble and and could not complete the film. Now, almost 60 years later, a team of Disney animators, headed by Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, has finished what is one of cinema's oddest collaborations.
Destino is a six-minute film set to a Spanish song, devoid of dialogue and without a clear story line. It follows a dark-eyed ballerina on a journey among strange objects through a desert landscape in a dreamlike atmosphere. The film premiered at the Annecy Animation Festival and has toured festivals worldwide, including the Telluride, Montreal and Venice festivals, along with the Melbourne International Film Festival, where it won the grand prize for best short film.
“I believe they (Walt Disney and Dali) influenced one another,” says Roy Disney. “Disney films can be seen as being incredibly surreal, and I imagine that is why Dali was attracted to them. But also I think they worked well together because, above all, they were both incredible optimists.”
The remnants of the aborted film include 150 storyboards, drawings and paintings, which have sat for the 57 years in the Disney vaults (some believe that cels and sketches were stolen from the Disney studio). Those works provided enough source material and were the basis of the new Destino, which combines some of Dalí's iconic images -- the melting clock, the tower of babel, a nightmarish beach, a pyramid with a clock embedded in its base -- and adds motion. Images morph into one another, everything unfolding with a haunting, surreal.
A curator from the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which oversees Dalí's estate, called Destino "the perfect combination of Dalí and Disney." The film will be included in "Dalí 2004," a Spanish exhibit celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Dalí's birth.
"Talk about your wonderful world of color," writes Peter Howell in today's Toronto Star. "Images of sex, love, life, decay and rebirth jostle for retinal attention."
- Listen to NPR's segment on Destino & Watch Scenes from the film.