Disney has always had a beautifully bizarre way of rousing the imagination and an effortless way of telling stories. Occasionally dipping into the surreal and otherworldly, over the years they fostered a curious soft-spot for surreal elephants and morphing animals, placing them in acid-trip-like scenarios. A snippet from the film Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) featured a nightmare sequence with the song Heffalumps and Woozles, where Hunny pots grew legs, and a bunch of shape-shifting phantasmagoria elephants plodded around trying to steal Pooh’s beloved honey. Perhaps Disney’s most iconic surreal moment was the Pink Elephants on Parade scene from Dumbo (1941), in which Dumbo and his buddy Timothy Q. Mouse became accidentally intoxicated, hallucinating fat pink marching elephants who used their snouts as trumpets and morphed into psychedelic formations. And then of course there’s Fantasia, both the original 1940 version and the late 2000 version, both containing masterfully surreal animated shorts adapted to the dynamics of some of classical music’s greatest compositions, complete with dancing mushrooms and personified wizard brooms.
At one mystic point in history, the world of surrealist master Salvador Dalí collided with Walt Disney’s universe, producing a visually stimulating short animation together called Destino. Their first encounter came in 1945 at a Warner Brothers studio party. A mutual appreciation for the surreal arts drew the two together and the collaboration became inevitable. But the short film wouldn’t see the light of day for 58 years, after multiple factors brought the project to a halt, including Dalí supposedly being too expensive for Disney who was reported to be in debt at the time. It was rendered incomplete, until Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney came across Dalí’s original artwork for the project, and decided to enlist a team to finish what they started.
What surfaced from the replicated version of Dalí and Disney’s original creations was a visually invigorating 6-minute surrealist masterpiece that landed an Oscar nomination in 2003. Destino is a love story following Chronos, the personification of time, and his unrequited love for a mortal woman named Dahlia. Dahlia dances and floats through metamorphosing desertscapes, inspired by Dali’s legendary paintings, to the sounds of Mexican composer Armando Dominguez. Dalí explained it as “a magical exposition of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.” Disney suggested it was “just a simple story of a girl in search of her real love.”
The stunning visual buffet gives us a peek into the amalgamating minds of two brilliant artists, who were experts in their craft and knew exactly how to keep their audiences in awe – a transcendent work of art we only wish we had the chance to see more of.