Walt Disney and Salvador Dali seem the most unlikely of artistic collaborators - one the embodiment of prim and proper Midwestern values, the other the quintessential outrageous showman who once vowed to spit on his mother's portrait.
And yet collaborate they did, in 1947, on an animation short called Destino that was abandoned while still in development. Following the theft of about 150 storyboards and other assorted bits of artwork that later turned up on the New York art market, it was assumed to have been lost for ever.
Now their collaboration has come back to life. Thanks to some assiduous recovery efforts by present and former Disney employees, and the commitment of Roy Disney, Walt's nephew, Dali's original sketches and storyboards have been reconstituted and turned into a short film that has been earning rave reviews.
Destino won the prize for best animated short in Melbourne, and has just been shown at Telluride, in Colorado, in anticipation of its formal American debut at the New York film festival. It is, as one might expect from Dali, a head-trip of a film in which images blend and mesh into each other. It includes images of eyeballs wearing dinner jackets, a monastery bell tower, the Tower of Babel, a wall eroded by the sands of time and a ballerina's head that turns into a baseball.
Baker Bloodworth, one of the film's producers, admitted that some of Dali's ideas had to be cut because the restorers found them "incomprehensible". Although mindful of Dali's admonition - "If you've understood any of this, I've failed" - they tried to stay true to his spirit.
Almost more interesting than the film itself is the story of how it came about. Dali, contrary to what one might expect, regarded Walt Disney as one of the great film surrealists after seeing Fantasia and greeted him warmly when he met him at a party in 1945.
After Dali completed work on the celebrated dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1946), he and Disney conceived of Destino - based on a popular Spanish song at the time - as one element in an omnibus animation film.
From the start, however, it was clear that the men had crucially different notions of where art and commerce should meet.
Disney told the press the film would be "just a simple story about a young girl in search of true love". Dali, on the other hand, said it was "a magical exposition of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time" - not a concept the Hollywood publicity machine was likely to handle too well.Reuse content