Salvador Dali and Walt Disney collaboration – Destino

19 10 2011

IN 1937, Salvador Dalí wrote to his fellow Surrealist André Breton about his trip to California: ”I have come to Hollywood and am in contact with the three great American surrealists — the Marx Brothers, Cecil B. DeMille and Walt Disney.”

That might have been the end of it, if not for a party at the home of the producer Jack Warner, in 1945. There, Disney and Dalí ran into each other again, and, the next year, embarked on one of the 20th century’s least likely artistic collaborations: the creator of Mickey Mouse and the painter of melting clocks joined forces to create an animated short titled ”Destino” (”Destiny”).

Dalí told the press it would be ”a magical exposition of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.” Nervously, Disney translated, calling it ”just a simple story of a girl in search of her real love.” For eight months, they worked on it, until Disney, citing postwar financial problems, abandoned the project.

In the 57 years since, the unfinished short has acquired the reputation of a lost masterpiece. ”Destino” is as legendary in animation circles as the phantom footage from ”The Magnificent Ambersons” is among movie buffs. But ”Destino” is lost no longer. Next month at the New York Film Festival, this six-and-a-half-minute legend will finally have its American premiere.

It has been reconstructed from Dalí’s paintings and drawings by a new generation of filmmakers who were guided by Disney’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, the vice chairman of the Walt Disney Company, and by Dalí’s assistant on the original project, John Hench, who is now 95. It’s a far cry from ”Snow White.” Dalí’s signature incongruities dominate the film; there are crawling ants, colossal statues, shadowy vistas, a baseball ballet and, of course, melting clocks. Still, Mr. Hench recalled in an interview, ”Walt approved the general terms, thinking rightly that whatever Dalí would produce would be an interesting set of images.”

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