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
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London