Salvador paints, but Walt Disney! A surreal friendship (and an old joke)

Archives reveal how a successful creative collaboration became a strong long-lasting friendship

Newly released private correspondence has revealed for the first time how the surrealist artist Salvador Dali and film mogul Walt Disney went from being professional collaborators to close friends.

A shared love of fishing was one of the things that brought them together, according to letters unearthed by archivists at Disney Studios and exclusively provided to The Independent on Sunday, which show just how close the artist and the animator became.

The two men met at 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".

In another letter to Disney, on 2 June 1946, Dali predicted Destino "will become one of the most brilliant moments of [Dali's] artistic career" and that "we wait with anxiety the miracles of technical realisation which I know you are also as exigent and maniacal about as is Dali himself... Don't forget that in the hours of great artistic adventure, we should also try to develop great friendships".

Disney and his wife Lillian would talk of going fishing with Salvador and Gala Dali, with the Dalis writing to their "very dear friends" how they were "joyfully waiting for you... I would love to see you and Mrs Disney and help catch those fabulous crawfish".

And in a letter written on 11 June 1946, Disney said: "I am happy to know that you are both so thrilled over Destino. We are not going to let the pressure of time stop us from getting something that will be worthy of Dali's talents. If we can find the time, Mrs Disney and I would be happy to visit you again and perhaps take advantage of your invitation to go crayfishing in the Carmel River." He wrote again on 3 July 1946 of how they were "looking forward to our visit... with great pleasure".

And Dali congratulated his friend on the "extraordinary success" of Uncle Remus in 1946's Song of the South as confirming "the triumph of the combination formula – I have not ceased to imagine things for Destino – it must be the 'miraculous fusion' of living action and cartoon".

In the event, 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.

The original artwork from their collaboration was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered by Disney's nephew Roy, who completed Destino in 2003. The six-minute film features eyeballs in dinner jackets, a wall eroded by the sands of time and a ballerina's head that turns into a baseball. It is released for the first time this month as a bonus feature on a special edition on Blu-ray marking the 70th anniversary of Disney's Fantasia.

Brian Sibley, a Disney expert, said: "There was nothing 'safe' about Dali's ideas at all, and Disney seemed willing to embrace them – he knew that he wasn't going to be doing a Mickey Mouse movie."

He was surprised by the letters. "I had seen them as being professional collaborators. I certainly hadn't realised how close they were. But they were both showmen and I think they just found a common bond. They both had rather severe fathers and quite difficult childhoods. There were certain personal elements that would have given them a kind of kinship."

Asked if such a pairing could happen today, he commented: "I look at John Lasseter [head of Pixar] as being very much a kind of Disney figure, so I could conceive of an idea where he might collaborate with an artist – Damien Hirst or someone like that. I can see the possible arena for him working with somebody and doing something experimental."

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice