Salvador Dalí (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989) was a prominent surrealist painter born in Spain. He was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media. Dalí has been cited as major inspiration from many modern artists, such as Damien Hirst, Noel Fielding, Jeff Koons and most other modern surrealists. His manic expression and famous mustache made him something of a cultural icon for the bizarre and surreal. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork, to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem, and to the irritation of his critics.
So why am I talking about him here? In 1999 while working at the Disney Animation Studios, I started to see images in “dailies” that really caught my eye. I had heard of a Disney/Dali project before that had never been completed. Yet here it was, being worked on again! Below is a short version of the story on how it came to be, and how it was finally finished after all those years.
Disney had met Dali a party thrown by the Hollywood mogul Jack Warner in 1945 and struck up a rapport that led them to collaborate on a film project called “Destino”. Writing to his “very, very dear friend”, Dali told Disney that he was “encouraged by the route of our common destiny” and how “the night of our meeting I spent almost entirely without sleep”. Unfortunately, rising costs led to Destino being shelved. Not that this got in the way of the friendship, with the Disneys visiting the Dalis at their home in Port Lligat, Spain, years after they had first met. Destino was storyboarded by Disney studio artist John Hench and artist Salvador Dalí for eight months in late 1945 and 1946; however production ceased not long after. The Walt Disney Company, then Walt Disney Studios, was plagued by many financial woes in the World War II era. Hench compiled a short animation test of about 17 seconds in the hopes of rekindling Disney’s interest in the project, but the production was no longer deemed financially viable and put on indefinite hiatus.
In 1999, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney while working on Fantasia 2000, rediscovered original artwork and unearthed the dormant project and decided to bring it back to life. Disney Studios France, the company’s small Parisian production department, was brought on board to complete the project. A team of approximately 25 animators deciphered Dalí and Hench’s cryptic storyboards (with a little help from the journals of Dalí’s wife Gala Dali and guidance from Hench himself), and finished Destino’s production. The end result is mostly traditional animation, including Hench’s original footage, but it also contains some computer animation. The six-minute short follows the love story of Chronos and the ill-fated love he has for a mortal woman. The story continues as the woman dances through surreal scenery inspired by Dalí’s paintings. There is no dialogue, but the soundtrack features a song by the Mexican composer Armando Dominguez. The 17 second original footage that is included in the finished product is the segment with the two tortoises (this original footage is referred to in Bette Midler’s host sequence for The Steadfast Tin Soldier in Fantasia 2000, as an “idea that featured baseball as a metaphor for life”).
"Destino" was finally completed in 2003. It’s a beautiful piece of animation history with a happy ending. Proving no good idea is ever truly dead. If you haven’t yet seen it , you really should. The video is included above. So, what are you waiting for? Watch it now!