The Time Salvador Dali Worked for Walt Disney
Last month, Walt Disney Studios officially announced that the entertainment industry juggernaut had been gradually shutting down its hand-drawn animation department, an organization whose proud artistic tradition dates all the way back to the silent era of the Roaring Twenties and has included such unforgettable movies as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and The Lion King. But did you know that the department also, briefly, employed the world’s most famous surrealist?
Salvador Dali was approached by Disney himself in 1945 to propose a collaborative film. Entitled Destino, the picture would be based upon a Mexican folk song of the same name, with the music played to accompany a sequence of Dali-designed animation. The overjoyed surrealist enthusiastically agreed and quickly began sketching storyboards.
Disney’s sudden turn to surrealism was an attempt to silence several of his critics who felt that his films all too often sacrificed genuine artistry at the altar of marketability—favoring tradition and safety over innovation and experimentation. The evocative Fantasia, released in 1940, had been a groundbreaking first step on this front, and the animator now hoped that Destino would keep this newfound momentum going.
But alas, the project died in infancy and Disney pulled the plug on the film after its third month of production. Though he would remain lifelong friends with Dali afterwards, nothing remains of their short-lived joint venture but a 15-second demo reel and a handful of rudimentary sketches.
However, some 54 years later, the development of Fantasia’s long-awaited sequel, Fantasia 2000, inspired Disney’s nephew, Roy, to finally revive the project. A team of French animators were brought on board to produce the six-minute film on the basis of Dali’s notes and storyboards. In 2003, his musical vision was released at long last. Their efforts are currently available on YouTube: