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
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific