Destino in the Italian, Galician, Portuguese, and Spanish languages respectively means “Destiny.” While I am an advocate of people learning a language other than their native tongue, and during the past decade have become a fan of linguistic studies, this blog does not deal with that particular topic…instead it deals with a short animated film fifty-eight years in the making; a collaboration that was originally discussed at a dinner party hosted by Jack Warner, the head of Warner Brothers Studios at the time, between world renowned Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali and the creator of the empire that Mickey Mouse built, Walt Disney.
In 1945, production began on Destino, a short animated film that is all of six minutes and forty seconds in length. Working tirelessly for eight months during the fall of 1945 and into 1946, the team effort between Dali and Disney artist John Hench produced images of a hallucinogenic nature that unfortunately, due to financial troubles that Disney was immersed in at the time, didn’t get finished or released for the public’s viewing pleasure until 2003. Apparently starting in 1940, the Bank of America stopped offering credit to Disney, due, ironically, to the box office failure of Fantasia. The studio had been plunged into a state of financial peril brought on by the war-time economy, and Disney took an especially severe hit because of the non-existent European marketplace. The success of the immensely popular film Dumbo, in 1941, didn’t provide enough capital to bail the company out of its uncertain future. The only thing that saved Disney at the time, and perhaps the reason that it exists today, is that billionaire Howard Hughes offered Walt Disney an interest free loan which helped save the iconic entity. In addition to a weak economy, the studio had been taken over in part by the United States military which used its production facilities to make training films and design aircraft insignias.
The film Destino is set to a Mexican love ballad by Armando Dominguez and is devoid of dialogue. Dali called it “a magical exposition on the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.” The finished product, when boiled down to its essence, is a love story that encapsulates beauty, charm, sadness, and tenderness all in the same film. In this blogger’s opinion, Dali’s images are as evocative today as when he first created them. Viewers of Destino are treated to a plethora of awe inspiring images, for example: ravaging ants, melting clocks, and two gargoyle heads that bear a striking resemblance to Dali and are attached to the bodies of tortoises.
The project sat dormant from approximately 1947 until 1999 when Roy Edward Disney, Walt’s nephew, discovered some work related to the long forgotten Destino which contained a film reel about 15 seconds in length, drawings, paintings, and storyboards in the Disney vaults while he was working on Fantasia 2000. He assigned the restoration project to the Parisian production department of Disney Studios France whose team of animators, using the discovered material as well as the journals that were kept by Dali’s wife Gala, were able to piece together the material in a way they felt both Dali and Disney artist John Hench had envisioned the finished product. Directed by French animator Dominique Monfrey, (Eleonore’s Secret) in his directorial debut, and produced by Baker Bloodworth, (Dinosaur) work on the film began in May of 2001 and premiered on June 2 at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in Annecy, France. Sadly, Walt Disney died in 1966 and Salvador Dali passed away in 1989, so neither man got to see the finished film.
Dali and Disney tried in vain to work together on other projects, but nothing ever came to fruition. Disney was not a man who liked to lose, and he certainly wasn’t a quitter when it came to his vision for his company, but try as they might nothing the two men ever discussed ever transcended from talking points into a marketable film. Throughout the 1950s, Disney and his wife Lillian would visit Dali at his home in Spain. There was talk of Dali creating a sequence based on Dante Alighieri’s Inferno after the Italian government had commissioned the eccentric artist to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy. Also during the 1950s, Disney proposed a project to Dali that would have had him turn another famous work of literature, this time Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, into an animated film. Dali had recently illustrated the work that many literary scholars consider the first modern novel, but once again that project can be relegated to the “what if,” category.
Thanks to Roy Disney, and a team of gifted artists in France, Destino has seen a rebirth and has sparked a renewed interest. It has only been released twice in the theaters, never alone, but as a special treat for movie goers who went to see the films Calendar Girls and The Triplets of Belleville. In recent years it has been making the rounds at various Dali exhibits throughout America and internationally; for example, it was showcased at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Tate Modern in London, and at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The reason I thought Destino was interesting to explore for this blog was that on November 30, 2010, Blu-ray released a four disc special edition DVD of Fantasia & Fantasia 2000, and one of the extras included in the set is the completed Destino, which is not to be missed. It is utterly mesmerizing. If you take the time to see it, or have already seen it, I would love to know if you agree with me.