‘Destino’, by Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney

by Clémentine

Have you seen ‘Destino’, by Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney? This incredible short film was started by the two artists in the 1940s, before being left aside for financial reasons. In 2003 a squad of animators led by Dominique Monfrey finished the project and premiered it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I warmly recommend taking six minutes out of your busy schedule to watch it. If you have seen it before, I warmly recommend taking six minutes out of your busy schedule to watch it again.


Surrealism is a love it or hate it thing, and the same applies to Disney. Plus you may very well belong to one category for the former and the other for the latter, which complicates everything. But even working within these particular parametres, I think it almost impossible not to be fascinated by this uncanny marriage. Uncanny is the word, as the film is essentially strangely familiar if you’re either a Disney fan or a surrealism lover, or both. Because it’s not quite Disney, and it’s not quite Dalí – and the alienation from both is where the beauty appears. The slender female character prefigures Sleeping Beauty or Esmeralda in a typically delicate Disney way, swirling across the well-known backgrounds of Dalí’s most visionary paintings, and elements here and there are clearly stolen from Dalí and Buñuel’s An Andalusian Dog. The subtle mythological imagery makes Hercules even more laughable than it already is. But the ‘storyline’, if there is one, is resolutely Disney’s – a young and beautiful woman transformed again and again in a fantastical seduction game. Music drives the film but once again it is both romantically Disneyish and weirdly edgy and different. A very uncanny creature in many ways. Watching this film I can’t help dreaming of what Fantasia would have been like if Dalí and other surrealists had been there to help.

Yes right ok but there’s still one big major huge question – wait for it –

“Would children like it??”

(“Would adults like it??” “Would senior citizens like it??” “Would chiropractors like it??”)

I can only provide a very personal answer here which is that as a young ‘child viewer’ I was fascinated, entranced and enchanted by surrealism. I spent countless, statue-still hours watching Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, The Blood of a Poet and The Testament of Orpheus, or Demy’s Donkeyskin. I worshipped Magritte. I’m not claiming this is normal, but there might be something in surrealistic art that resonates very deeply in (some) children, if they’re lucky enough to be exposed to it. Anthony Browne plays on it all the time. And as for Disney, it’s difficult to ignore the deep passion that the films trigger in most children. Dalí and Disney, a match made in heaven, which could have brought an incredibly large audience of children to the wonders of their union… but which remained, sadly, short, unfinished and experimental.

Not to say, far from it, that we don’t have wonderful animators today, whose films for children are extremely powerful, bizarre and evocative. But such experiments in art as this short film are taunting and frustrating, and make you wish that mere financial concerns didn’t hinder the creative projects of two geniuses brought together by destiny.

But a world where art wouldn’t be tied to financial concerns – that’s too surrealistic a thought, surely.

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