A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Did Walt Disney and Salvador Dali once collaborate on a film?

February 15, 2001

Dear Straight Dope:

Here is mystery that I have wanted to know the answer to, but I can not seem to find any consistent information about it. In the early 1940's, Salvador Dali and Walt Disney made an animated film together. However, once complete, it was never shown to the public because there would have been objections regarding its content. I'm guessing that Disney wanted people to associate his name with ''Mickey Mouse'' and not naked woman morphing into a pile of ants. My professor (at the University of Salamanca in Spain) claimed that the rights to the film were in dispute by Disney and the estate of Salvador Dali, so, it would never be seen. My question is, does this film exist? Why has the public never seen it? Would it be possible to see it if it does exist? I really want to know more about this. Thanks for your help.

SDStaff Eutychus replies:

Disney has always had a thing for strange bedfellows. The most recent developement in animation has John Kricfalusi of "Ren and Stimpy" fame developing an animated series for Disney Television entitled Green Monkeys. I can't imagine two more differing styles, but even back in the 1940's, Disney was reaching out and trying to extend his art beyond the merely commercial.

The project you're talking about was called Destino. Its origins and eventual abandonment are for the most part a mystery. No one seems to know exactly where or when Walt Disney and the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali met. But because of wartime tensions in 1939, quite a few of Europe's artists found themselves finding refuge in America. It may have been Dali's flair for self-promotion and his attraction to Hollywood that led him to Disney. However it came about, they decided to attempt a combination live action/animation short based on the Spanish ballad "Destino" by Armando Dominiguez. (Disney had previously acquired the rights to the song.) This short was planned to be part of an new omnibus feature like Fantasia. John Hench and Bob Cormack were assigned to work with Dali and turn his inspirations into workable animation. There was only a vague idea of a plot, and what ideas there were were more along the idea of a mood piece following the themes of love, hate, time and destiny.

Disney was no stranger to surrealism as the "Toccata and Fugue" section of Fantasia proved although he admitted to lowbrow tastes and a disdain for modern art. And working with Dali proved to be easy — he reported to the studio every day promptly at 9:30 every morning and spent all day at his artwork almost as a regular Disney employee. Dali insisted on working with his own media, however. When presented with the standard animators paper which has the three hole punch at the bottom of the page, Dali refused to use it saying "This paper will not do. It already has a design!"

So, what happened? Destino's fate is shrouded in as much mystery as its beginning. Disney and Dali, by mutual agreement, abandoned the project in 1947 after numerous storyboards and a 17 second test reel were completed. Hench said Disney felt the market for omnibus features had evaporated. Others privately felt that Dali's more extreme style and ideas may have been too much for Disney's midwestern sensibilities. After work on the short was shelved, much of the artwork was stolen from the studio and eventually showed up on the New York art market. Dali and Disney, however, remained good friends afterwards and continued to visit in each other's home countries.

There is hope that Destino will be completed, although it won't be what the Dali/Disney collaboration might have been. The ideas for the short has been picked up by the current Disney Studio and the re-creation will be supervised by the same John Hench who originally worked with Dali in the 1940's.

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