The images described in this article of Dalí’s animatics for Destino are available via Ron Barbagallo’s Animation and Art Conservation, as part of his “Lost and Found Series.”
Figure 1: The theme of rejection and that of being cast aside till you figure it out is a theme that repeats throughout Salvador Dalí’s Destino. To illustrate the polarity of the different needs that separate men and women, Dalí drafts a literal barrier, and places them in front of doors, windows and stairs that could potentially allow each to move through these portals and pathways to the other side. (Image used with permission.)
In the summer of 1946, Salvador Dalí sat in a chair staring at a single sheet of Disney animation paper. It was late in the morning and Dalí was sullen. Walt Disney asked him to cut his short down, saying it was visually complicated and ran long. But Dalí felt his narrative was lean. It was tightly conceived. Interwoven and fluid. It was a moving painting reminiscent of some of the longer musical sequences in Fantasia (1940). From where he sat staring down at his artist table, there was nothing to cut.
Rejected, Dalí cast a hollow stare at the blank sheet of animation paper resting on his table. He held it up. He put it down, and held it up again. He looked out the window seeking escape. He wanted what Walt Disney promised him. What was contracted. He wanted to make the film he wanted to make.
Then, abruptly, Salvador Dalí rose from his chair and held the sheet of animation paper up in one hand. With a good amount of theatricality and a dab of irony that bordered on the surreal, Dalí stood tall and announced to the room: “I can’t work on this. The paper is pre-designed.” Immediately after this pantomime, Dalí picked up the phone, called for a car and left the Walt Disney Studio, abandoning work on his Destino project in 1946.
This was not the first time creating art for Hollywood made Salvador Dalí’s head hurt. By 1945, Dalí’s struggle to find love from the Hollywood he adored and instead harvesting only rejection was nothing new. Nor was it something unique to the film he envisioned for Walt Disney. Any understanding of Dalí’s time at the Disney Studio must be counterbalanced by what was Dalí’s lifelong attraction to using film as a medium of artistic expression, and what pulled Salvador Dalí to Tinseltown in the first place — being asked by Alfred Hitchcock to create a cinematic dream sequence for the MGM film Spellbound.
The story of Dalí coming to work for Disney is said to have started at a dinner party at Jack Warner’s house where Dalí was lured by a promise. Disney told Dalí that if he agreed to come to work at the Walt Disney Studio, Dalí could make the film he wanted to make. That sort of freedom coupled with the idea of being able to make a motion picture where the images you saw on the screen were hand-painted visuals that moved was particularly intriguing to Dalí. It meant Dalí could take the previously static ideas he had been working on and bring them life by way of making moving art with cross-dissolves, and setups where dreamlike imagery morphed from one image to another in an organic way.
Dalí’s decision to accept Walt Disney’s offer was also enhanced by what was a failed amount of artistic control Dalí recently experienced while working with Hollywood giants David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock on their film Spellbound (1945). A left brain/right brain work opportunity that was ripe for strife, Dalí was tasked by O. Selznick and Hitchcock to create a 4-minute dream sequence for their motion picture Spellbound, and instead Spain’s leading surrealist delivered a free-flowing amount of footage that reached 20 minutes in length; only two minutes of which was used in the final cut of Hitchcock’s film.
Dalí’s discontent over the lack of respect for his artistic statement coupled with the horror that O. Selznick would take Dalí’s vision and cut it into disconnected fragments upset Dalí. This is why being offered an opportunity that gave him complete control was a real incentive. So Dalí doubled-down and accepted Walt Disney’s offer. The difference this time was — Dalí would get in writing that the film he was planning to make would be “completed as the artist had planned it” (quoted from an interview with Roy E. Disney done by David D’Arcy and published in The Art Newspaper).
Even by taking this extra step, Salvador Dalí would come to learn that such is the bait and switch game of contracts entered into in Hollywood — a place where unhappy cinematic endings are often the result of promises made and when it suits someone, promises injudiciously broken.
After contracts were signed, the news of the Disney-Dalí collaboration was made public in the November 1945 edition of the Dalí News. The announcement read: “Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí have reached a decision to produce in direct collaboration a new animated film in a new medium never yet tried. Nothing more can be said yet, but the American admirers of the melting watches can be reassured. These will appear in the film and, thanks to the virtuosity of Disney, for the first time, one will be able to see how they move. The melting watches in action” (November 1945 edition of the Dalí News).
Salvador Dalí came to work at the Walt Disney Studio lot on January 14, 1946 and worked until April 1. This is what I will call the Winter story session. After the first of April, he took some time off before returning to Disney to work on the Destino project on May 22, 1946. That work continued until July 31, 1946. This period concludes work on what I will refer to herein as the Summer story session. Dalí returned to do more work in August of 1946. His last documented visits to the studio range between April 1947 and the beginning of 1948, with no clear record of what was done during that time.
In the decades that followed Dalí leaving the Disney Studio, the mythos surrounding the Destino project, (1946) became an oddity people talked about, like a question someone might throw at you while playing the Disney version of Trivial Pursuit. Journalists, in particular, filled the void of information about what happened in 1946 by publishing articles about how the Destino project (1946) was done for the sake of publicity. About financial hardships at the Studio at that time. They wrote about what opportunists Dalí and Disney were. How the two had enormous egos.
My involvement in the story of Destino started in 1999 while I was interviewing former Disney employee Bill Melendez for an article for Collector’s Showcase. Toward the end of the interview, Melendez told me he was in the room the morning when Salvador Dalí walked off the Destino project in 1946 and he described to me the theatrical way Dalí left the studio. (Bill Melendez shared this story with Barbagallo toward the end of a phone interview Barbagallo recorded with the ex-Disney artist shortly before September 8th, 1999, the day Barbagallo used relevant portions of that Melendez interview to write the article for Collector’s Showcase.)
I shelved that story in the back of my mind like so many other stories of Disney discontent told to me over the years during the course of my recording interviews with various artists and business people who worked with Disney. My involvement with Destino would surface again when Roy E. Disney asked me to attend an early screening of their 2003 Destino short on the Disney lot. Shortly thereafter, I published an article about the aesthetics around that film. After that article was published, I started to get an accelerating number of JPEGs from people claiming to have Dalí art from Destino (1946). Most of them did not until one day, someone did.
That day was in the summer of 2014, when someone sent me high resolution digital files and asked for my review. That digital collection depicted images of what appeared to be 72 story sketches and 13 sheets of photographs of storyboards made by or under the supervision of Dalí for Destino.
Eleven of the drawings in this digital collection are not present in the 13 sheets of photographs. Nor are they in the three additional sheets of photographs that would round out the full set of 16 photographs that make up the full record the Winter and Summer story sessions. When asked where the art came from, the story was a familiar one. A folder containing drawings and photographs were discovered after someone died when the deceased’s house was being cleaned out.
The estate of the deceased reports that the artifacts were salvaged from the trash on the Disney lot. At the time, the deceased was a temp employee doing sound work for a non-Disney company renting space on the Disney lot in the early to mid 1950s. The story is plausible since the Disney Studio was known to be renting space on the lot to outside vendors.
The estate asked me what the artwork was and why the art was important. For me to answer that question I told them I would need time to study the art. Because the art was sent to me digitally, I started by examining the JPEGs they sent of the 72 drawings, commonly referred to as “story sketches.” The switch to working digital is key to understanding how I ended up making the conclusions I made and why I ended up making two films. For three decades, I was accustomed to working with physical Disney art so I approached the 72 digital files in a similar way until that route led to a dead end. This is because a traditional review of the digital art only led to notes indicating what medias and mediums were used to make the drawings, and how very different Dalí’s drafting style was from the Disney artists who drew rather clubfistedly on top of his line work.
After examining the art in what was a way I was used to (dissecting the art’s construction), I decided that since this collection was made of high resolution JPEGs all made at 600dpi that I would create a side-by-side film comparison film where I took every image that was in the digital collection and tried to match it to any of the imagery seen in the 2003 Destino Disney short where any part of the imagery seemed remotely similar. The result of making that side-by-side film was surprising and frustrating.
A significant amount of the imagery in art did not match up with what is in that film. This approached seemed like a dead end.
Months later, on a day when I needed a break from a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) cel setup I was repairing, I decided it was time to take another look at printouts I made of the digital photographic storyboard record by throwing reproductions of the 13 photographic sheets on the floor in my studio. Examining those pages as a group, I noticed that two of the photographs of the storyboard sessions lined up. This is when I saw that the boards were meant to be read eight images across by way of connecting four images on one sheet to four images on the right side of another sheet.
See Figure 2: Salvador Dalí intended the storyboard panels themselves to be male and female. In order for them to make sense, they must agree to interconnect.
After lining up the two sheets it was also obvious that, for the most part, the story sketches were numbered sequentially in the bottom left corner of each story sketch, like this where “1,” and to the right of “1” was “2,” etc. After pairing up all 13 of the photographs, I noticed many of the details in the sequential sketches linked up in a narrative way. In this assembly, I also noticed the story sketches revealed that there are moments in the drawings that include character turn-arounds and camera instructions. At times, the art in the story sketches included what would be rough animation if the images were played one after the other. Again, because the art was sent to me digitally this is where I returned to making a second film.
Starting with image “1” in the photographs of the Winter storyboard sessions, I began creating my own Destino Animatic. I referenced the photographs of the Summer storyboard session afterwards to correct the order of the Winter session because the Summer session clearly was re-purposing art from the Winter session by way of moving some of the art around and adding new art Dalí intended to flesh out parts of his story. That meant eliminating 4 sequential drawings from the end of the Winter boards. Dalí redesigned and expanded this sequence significantly after he returned from taking a break between creating the Winter and Summer sessions. I also removed the first story sketch in the Winter storyboard session because that exact story sketch exists in the Summer story session where the pasted image of a woman was taken out. After those corrections were made, the Animatic I constructed was ‘plus-ed’ with the 11 images not found in Disney’s photographic record. “Plusing” is an animator’s term for additional drawings for the same scene that are made where two or more drawings create “extreme” moments that flesh out how a sequence will animate. After that construction was completed, two story sketches were removed because they did not line up in a fluid way.
The only observation I had from my first viewing was that my Destino Animatic moved in a fluent way. But from the first viewing, I could not tell what the narrative meant. The epiphany happened midway during my second viewing when I noticed the female character in this film had one primary role – rejecting the male character. Every time she presented herself to him and every time he noticed her, she either ran from him or sent him away. Noticing that pattern of behaviour, I stopped and went back to the beginning and re-watched the Destino Animatic all the way through. On my third viewing, and within the context of women rejecting men when men pursue women sexually, it became obvious that the apparently random ideas were in fact a complete series of images that contained a fluid and rather symmetrical narrative, one with a very definite beginning, middle and end, and one that contained a story where the male figure in the film was seeking the attention of the female figure and her role was correcting his behaviour. This narrative is strongly present in the Destino Animatic that I made but is absent in the 2003 Disney short, leaving me to conclude that Dalí’s intention for Destino was significantly different and longer than its stylized 2003 Disney cousin.
See Figure 3: To be attracted to and long for that which you cannot hold. This ache and the desire that the object of your affection has the same needs you do is at the core to the narrative of Salvador Dalí’s film Destino.
After this, my goal became one of connecting the dots. To flesh out to any student of Dalí what the justifiable reasons could be that led up to the emotion Bill Melendez witnessed the morning he saw Dalí leave the Disney Studio. By way of doing this, I wanted to let the art speak for itself. Flesh out its narrative drawing to the next connective drawing, and by doing that, transport the world, artistically and historically, back to 1946. To a time when Salvador Dalí told a journalist that within the project he was making that you will find everything he ever painted, all his pictorial concepts — the melancholy of space, dissolving images, hallucinations of man and landscape. And for the first time show the film “completed as the artist had planned it.”
Putting Destino into Context
The way to put Dalí’s Destino into context is to start by viewing the art as Salvador Dalí intended it — as a motion picture. Then, secondarily, examine the imagery in the individual drawings made to support that film. A review of that imagery and what those motifs say are the foundation of my review and define the core of what I feel Dalí intended for Destino.
Before I get into dissecting the film and the motifs in the Animatic for Destino, there are some broad strokes about the film that need to be addressed – about the film contextually, and from where within Dalí’s body of work Dalí was drawing and what type of elements he would have seen in Disney animation that would have synced up with the type of unresolved issues he had as a two-dimensional oil painter.
To start with the first bit of context is this, that Destino was conceived as a film, and a film Dalí was mak- ing at the Walt Disney Studio. As such, it is also a film Dalí was creating in concert with Bob Cormack (to a much lesser extent) and to a much greater extent with John Hench. Neither of these two Disney staff artists were the fine art peers in the way Luis Buñuel was on the films Dalí and Buñuel collaborated on many years earlier. Dalí was a well-paid leader working as a fine art surrealist and a man whose prominence in his field landed him on the cover of Time Magazine a decade before. John Hench was assigned to be Dalí’s other set of hands and Dalí’s guide or Jiminy Cricket, as it were. Hench was not one of the Disney’s Nine Old Men, nor was Hench one of Disney’s pre-strike animation innovators.
Therefore, and more to the point, as James Bodrero claimed, John Hench was able to paint in the style of any artist (Destino’s Destiny by Daniel Kothenschulte, 1/26/16), and that his role was to help co-render Dalí’s designs from outline into story sketches. He was also there to fill in the gaps of Dalí’s thinking. Hench was not a stylist, or a fine art surrealist. He was a commercial staff artist Disney put in place to insure the work Salvador Dalí was doing had a Disney cinematic form.
Thus, as much as the Animatic I restored for Destino expresses Dalí’s unique vision, Dalí would have been dependent on Hench to take his designs and lend to Dalí’s story a sense of cinematic readability. By 1946, using story sketches to do this was something the staff artists at Disney Studio perfected well. If one were to contrast the Animatic I made for Destino to what survives of Dalí’s work on Spellbound and factor in Dalí’s willingness to be a Disney ‘team player,’ you would still be left with the fact that John Hench as a company man helped turn the sketches and story sessions into a clearer, readable piece of Disney cinema and by doing saved Disney from having to pay Dalí for ten months of work instead of five.
You can further see the difference between Dalí’s work on Spellbound by contrasting it against the Destino Animatic I made. Dalí’s work on Spellbound is structurally more reminiscent of Dalí’s collaborations with Luis Buñuel, in particular that of their work on Un Chien Andalou (1929). This is not to put down the aesthetic of Spellbound or Un Chien Andalou. Rather, a case can be made that Dalí’s work on those two earlier films foretell the way other fine artists who were similarly obsessed with cinema might work in the future. Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966) in particular comes to mind. Both Un Chien Andalou and Chelsea Girls display an appropriation on themes seen in popular movies. Both also contain an exaggerated, abstracted use of the sort of drama one might see in a movie. Both have moments of interpersonal conflict that are not anchored in the convention of what would be a normal screenplay.
This is not to say that the Animatic I made for Destino and Un Chien Andalou are dissimilar because both have several things that connect them. Both share an overall tone that is highly romantic. Both are dreamlike and somewhat sad. Both contain elements of struggle and a tension that leaves the characters feeling tortured. Both use the idea of the struggle between male and female as a construct to build a story. Both feature male characters that are sexually charged and sexually needy. Visually, both share a nearly identical scene featuring a human hand with the ants crawling out from the centre of its palm.
Allowing the Artwork to Speak for Itself
In viewing the Animatic I made for Destino, one of the first things the art tells me is that Dalí’s narrative was meant to be — male-centric — not female-centric. Dalí’s film was meant to be a visual and dance-driven fairy tale that documents a man’s journey from lust to love. The story in the Animatic for Destino is romantic, linear and epic. It was designed to be a fluid, painterly ballet. A visual music box that allows the story to pirouette around male and female archetypes. These archetypes take on a variety of different forms like a cubist artist might, and when one considers that surrealism came out of cubism this makes perfect sense. These visual personifications represent various aspects of male and female behaviour. They morph and change within traditional gender roles, but at all times, they are meant to represent the idea of one man and one woman — and at the same time, represent all men and all women.
Examining the Destino Animatic further, you can see Dalí did something fine artists routinely do. They pull or “appropriate” directly from artistic elements seen in past works and they use aspects from those works to create a new artistic statement. Dalí not only pulls from elements found in his paintings and experimental films, but as seen in the Animatic I made for Destino, he also pulls from elements present in Disney animated motion picture aesthetics. Aesthetics that would have been ripe in his mind because the visuals in the Destino Animatic reference Disney films that came out only a few years before he designed Destino. When contrasting those early 1940 Disney films to the Animatic for Destino, overall and in a most elegant way, the Animatic I made for Destino displays a grand awareness of the dance segments seen in Disney’s 1940 concert film: Fantasia.
Creating a free-flowing collage of moving visuals and integrating dance or movement into those visuals is something seen throughout the Destino Animatic. Dance-like gestures flow from beginning to end like a shimmering liquid dream. These gestures help lend, to the otherwise mature piece of subject matter, a quality that is reminiscent of a child’s windup toy or music box. The dance-like flow not only lightens some of the heaviness of Dalí’s narrative, but dance or a ballet as a device is something Dalí uses to emotionally push the narrative forward in two stylistically different and yet two very connected ballets. Both of the dances seen in the Destino Animatic display appropriations from two different segments in Fantasia.
The first of the two ballets in the Destino Animatic happens after the film’s opening scene where a couple has been ascending a spiral, and the second, the more elaborate ballet of the two precedes the enveloping spiral which ends Dalí’s visual symphony. The ballets were designed to play like bookends where the first ballet represents an earlier phase of discussion between men and women, while the second ballet represents a time when the couple has moved toward closure.
The first ballet is also the dance that feels the most Disney-like. It is centered around a female character who is portrayed as an anthropomorphic dandelion. While the idea of a woman who has a dandelion as her head is an idea taken from Dalí’s body-of-work (Three Young Surrealist Women Holding In Their Arms The Skins Of An Orchestra, 1936). The dance in this first ballet is more reminiscent of the humanized floral characters seen in the Nutcracker Suite in Fantasia (1940). As such, this first ballet is the one sequence in Destino that feels the most Disney-like, and as such, it suggests that Dalí left parts of the design of this dance to artists John Hench and/or Bob Cormack. Doing this, would have given Dalí more time to focus on the second ballet.
See Figures 4 & 5 : On the left you will find one frame from the first ballet in Destino. This first ballet is an introductory ballet where the female character presents herself to the male character. It is the most Disney-like sequence in Destino, with dance elements that are reminiscent of Disney’s Nutcracker Suite in Fantasia (1940). On the right, you will find one frame from the second ballet, the Baseball Ballet. Dalí is said to have found the pursuit of the male pur- suit of women to be like that of a dance and that of a sport. Pulling from imagery he painted years, before the Baseball Ballet refer- ences a detail in an oil painting Dalí made a year earlier, one entitled Melancholy, Atomic, Uranic Idyll, (1945). While the woman with the dandelion blossom for a head pulls from Dalí’s 1936 oil painting Three Young Surrealist Women Holding In Their Arms The Skins Of An Orchestra.
This second ballet in the Animatic also incorporates complex contradictory imagery and imagery that could only have come from the unpredictable subconscious corners of Salvador Dalí’s mind. In ways where the first ballet is simple and serves to introduce the dialog these two are having, the second ballet is the setting where Dalí decided to place humour, and quite literally turn the struggle between men and women into what Dalí felt that it was — a sport. To do this, Dalí plants the aspiring lovers on a baseball diamond where they continue their romantic ‘game’ while a team of baseball players play a game of Baseball, and where “players” aspire “to score a base” or “hit a home run.”
A bright spot after what is a good amount of rejection between these two and real unwillingness to acquiesce when the other has a greater need, the Baseball Ballet is a place Dalí chose to lighten the pace of his Destino project by adding comic dance moves and a dash of elegance. Qualities Dalí would have seen in Dance of the Hours from Fantasia (1940). If asking hippos, ostriches, alligators and elephants to dance the ballet in Disney’s Dance of the Hours seemed like an unreal request of audiences in 1940, the surreal use of dance in Destino’s baseball ballet let Dalí delicately soften a story that could have otherwise felt harsh or jarring. This is also another place where Dalí borrowed from his own body- of-work. If you were to look closely at a detail in an oil painting Dalí made a year earlier, one entitled Melancholy, Atomic, Uranic Idyll, (1945) you will find he put an Umpire and the Batter towards the bottom center of that painting.
The use of humor throughout the Baseball Ballet eases the audience watching the Destino Animatic in a calming way, and it by way of the Batter in the ballet “hitting a home run,” and that play between men and women successfully scored, the end of the Baseball Ballet starts the beginning of what is the long elaborate final sequence of Dalí’s film.
See Figure 6: Dalí took a break after the Winter 1946 session at Disney, and upon his return in May of 1946, he created an elaborate counterbalance at the end of his film. Pulling out four drawings from the Winter session but expanding out from what those drawings meant, Dalí created a long kaleidoscopic ending so the film ended as ostentatiously as the film began. The male and female characters at the head of this end sequence are represented as a pair of deer that are reminiscent of the sort of deer Dalí would have seen in Bambi (1942).
This is where Dalí decides to feather out from referencing only the cinematic art of Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940). This final segment in the Destino Animatic begins the film’s big ending and to begin this transition Dalí starts by referencing an elongated shadow. The perspective and theatrical use of shadows here feels much like an element taken from a Hitchcock stage set. Quickly, that imagery moves on and this is where a pair of deer reminiscent of Bambi (1942) appear. The deer appear in profile in a doorway that opens in the chest of a male figure where the deer take on the roles of male and female. Through an elaborate kaleidoscope of geometric patterns like those seen in musical production numbers of Busby Berkeley, the deer fall into a collage of images. This Busby Berkeley-esque sequence pulls from imagery seen in earlier parts of the Destino Animatic. Some of these images are: the shapes of a tortoise shell, parts of a telephone and the human eye. Most of this ending was created after Dalí returned from his summer vacation.
See Figure 7: A series of drawings that illustrate the Busby Berkeley-type imagery seen in the end sequence Dalí intended for Destino. If you look carefully at the negative spaces between the phone cradle – you will see the profile shapes of the male and female deer. The intricacy of how the deer profiles integrate is further proof that the story session drawings are actually – animatic drawings.
The end sequence builds and takes on many other elements appropriated from Disney cinema of the early 1940s, starting with playing off mythic stylings Dalí would have seen in Night on Bald Mountain. Toward the end of the sequence, there are also touches of gothic church-like framing as seen in Ave Maria. The gothic part of the end sequence in the Destino Animatic begins with the effect of a stained- glass shattering into many pieces. This scene is followed by the rise of a male figure who spirals upward towards while what appears to be a flock of birds in the sky rise from the top of his head. This burst of birds can be read in another way where they symbolically represent a male sexual climax. This spectacle falls right before the end of the film, where Dalí places that spiralling male figure in an emerging space of Gaudí-style architecture. This place reads very much like a surreal cosmic Cathedral. It is here where the Destino Animatic is not without its religious or Catalonian underscores.
This long final scene barely exists in the Winter/Summer 1946 photostatic record. This is where the row of four story sketches that I mentioned earlier, the ones from the end of the Winter session, were removed by Dalí and the idea that they represented (one of a doorway opening to her heart) was replaced with this much longer representation of that idea. This longer sequence counterbalances the film’s opening scene where the two lovers ascend a spiral, and visually places the male and female characters on a funnel-shaped spiral that symbolizes completion in the way the first spiral at the beginning of Destino suggests a union that is blossoming. The expanded end sequence also gave the film a visual sense of symmetry and let Destino end in a way that felt as grand as the film was supposed to begin.
There are two other Disney appropriations I want to mention. One comes from a visual element from an artist whose work at Disney proceeded Salvador Dalí’s arrival at the studio and the other has to do with setting a precedent for story.
The very Disney visual element is the consistent use of complicated dissolves as seen throughout the Destino Animatic. One can see that Dalí (and/or John Hench) had an awareness and appreciation of the visual advancements in optical ‘art’ used by Herman Schultheis, a photographer and effects technician who worked in the Disney Special Effects Department. Schultheis was someone whose work left an indelible mark on Fantasia and in the other Disney films he worked on. While Schultheis was not employed at Disney during the time of Destino (he worked at Disney from February 1939 to June 1940), the Special Effects Department where he innovated was active, and more importantly, so would have been the impression in Dalí’s mind that the aesthetic of using complicated dissolves was tool available for Dalí to place on his artistic table. I’m not suggesting that Dalí would have had an exact understanding of who the mastermind behind the optical visuals were in Fantasia (1940). But what I’m saying is — Dalí was very attracted to using dissolves like those in the film he wanted to make (if not even more sophisticated ones). Those sort of dissolves would have allowed him to achieve the various states of visual consciousness that appear all over the ever animating Destino landscapes and are a logical leap from many of the elements ones see in Destino lifted from Dalí’s non-Disney oil paintings. This sort of visual would have been key in helping Dalí achieve what he said he wanted to see in Destino: “the melancholy of space, dissolving images, hallucinations of man and landscape.”
No matter how many elements were appropriated and built upon, the thing that connects all of these appropriations are — they are all visual, and where Dalí’s intention for Destino really distinguishes itself is on its narrative level. This is because the type of story Dalí wanted to tell is most closely akin to the story one sees in Disney’s adaptation of Igor Stravinsky‘s The Rite of Spring in Fantasia. Stravinsky was not as directly involved in Fantasia nor worked physically at Disney as Dalí did. But Stravinsky would have been Dalí’s closest artistic peer.
When one examines the Animatic for Destino by comparing it to The Rite of Spring several similarities emerge.
Starting with: neither The Rite of Spring nor Destino were designed to be cartoons or Silly Symphonies. Both The Rite of Spring and Destino tackle subject matter that is deep. Monolithic and brand new for animation. The Rite of Spring is clinical dramatization of Evolution of Life on Planet Earth. While Dalí’s intention for Destino dramatizes the longstanding difference, and the longstanding indifferences, between the genders and despite of that dichotomy, the time-tested path the genders take to finding union.
Destino also warns about the melancholy of argument between the genders and informs on the value of learning to acquiesce when the person you are pursuing has a greater need than you do.
For these reasons, Destino was never meant to be superficial. It was not intended to be a portrait of a princess dancing in the desert (reminiscent of Megara in Disney’s Hercules, 1997). Nor was Destino supposed to be weird for the sake of being weird, or harsh or unreadable. Just the opposite is true. Dalí’s intention for Destino was, in many ways, a warm sincere look at a time old struggle. One Dalí decided to wrap up in a cartooned bow and decorate with tributes to the Disney sensibilities I’ve mentioned that Dalí loved.
A Look at Destino Animatic, its story and its hieroglyphs
The Destino Animatic I made is distinguished by six distinct sections, one layered after the other, each lending a coherent beginning, middle and end. Those sequences can be discussed in six segments.
The Destino Animatic starts with a pastiche. A visual bit of surrealist Tapas. A short opener that flows in a series of smokey, dream-like fragments. Here, the viewer is introduced to the idea that men are damaged, literally missing body parts and we are shown a man’s head where an opening in his skull appears leading us inside the man’s mind. The symbolism here is that the film is a view inside what men think is going on with the male/female struggle for union. The opening sequence also introduces dance. Elements that depict time, and musical timing. The man and woman in the opener are set upon pyramid-shaped metronomes that feature a clock dial. It is a dark David Lynchian-like stage where the couple meet in profile against a nighttime landscape. There is also another very obvious element to the opening pastiche – that Dalí intended Destino to be a duet between man and woman.
Their encounter shifts quickly after the pastiche into one of a more realistic setting — a party environment set on an ascending spiral. A woman is sexualized here in a classical Greco Roman nude sort of way but wearing a very translucent gown. The man is wearing formal attire. He is a headless mannequin of a man and missing limbs. Moths are seen flying out of his open chest. Both the male and female characters in this sequence will go on to have any number of male or female representation.
After the establishing shot, the couple are on a spiral and around them are the trappings of a party: chairs, a table and drinks. The female character is quick to flee the ever-spiralling attention of the male character. This only encourages him and when his interest piques, it causes a champagne bottle to burst in his heart. The set of two drawings which represent that are key to understanding the incredible tight symmetry Dalí put into his Animatic for Destino because above the head of the male figure in these drawings is the same swarm that appears in the pair of drawings that rises above the head of the man who climaxes at the end of enveloping spiral that closes Dalí’s film. While the swarm above the head at the end of the film could be explained as birds, the same can not be said about the swarm above the head of the man who has a champagne bottle exploding is his heart. The reason is that male figure is set against a wall not a sky. It should also be pointed out that both sets of pre-ejaculation and ejaculation drawings fall precisely in the same place after the film starts and in reverse that number of places from where the film ends. This sort of tight rendering is important in understanding that the drawings for Destino, which are often referred to as “story sketches” may be more aptly described as “animatic drawings.” They’re more tightly interlocked and possess more key animation renderings than your average set of story sketches made for a five-minute Disney short.
See Figures 8 & 9: As seen in images 9 and 10 from the beginning of the Animatic I made for Destino, the two pre-ejaculation drawings are probably the clearest illustration that Dali intended Destino to be a male-centric perspective on a man’s journey from lust to love. It can also be stated that its view of women is primarily a view wrapped around the way men take the way women treat men during what would be called “the mating ritual” in 1946. The flurry or swarm swelling above the male figure’s head can be seen to right in both panels – clustering in the first drawing and rising from the head in the second.
See Figures 10 & 11: In what would be images 9 and 10 from the end of the Animatic I made for Destino, the ejaculation drawings fall (again) above the head of the male figure in both drawings. It’s easy to see how the swarm could be disguised as birds, and I believe Dalí intended to disguise them as such. Closer examination though and by way of comparing them to the two pre-ejaculation drawings that fall in the be- ginning of the film, it’s clear that Dalí placed the pre-ejaculation drawings against a wall in a spiral with no sky behind them, meaning this release is physically much smaller than birds. Either way, Dalí is anchoring a man’s interest in a woman as a primarily physical thing and that starts with sexual interest and ends in a climax during the film’s climax. If there were a group of drawings that argue in no uncertain terms that Dalí intended for Destino to be a thoughtful and elegant look at a man’s journey from lust to love, these four drawings state this rather clearly.
That assumption aside, the story in the film’s opening sequence continues after the champagne bottle explodes in the man’s heart. Literally, Dalí shows us the eyes of the world are upon this couple, staring at everything they do. In response, the female character splits into two. The character to the left is reminiscent (as mentioned earlier in this essay) to the women seen in Dalí’s painting Three Young Surrealist Women Holding In Their Arms The Skins Of An Orchestra, (1936). As she turns and tries to run away from the man who is pursuing her, he literally becomes electrified by the very idea of this woman and tries to pull her into his orbit. The female character escapes and makes her way up toward the top of the spiral. While doing so, she passes shimmering puddles of liquid, tall towers and fallen collections of coins, snails, and some very charming delicate crabs made of folded paper. Eventually, she retreats into a conch shell. This is the end of the first sequence.
The beginning of the second sequence is the most Dalí-like, and it’s full of rough ideas, and visuals that Hench struggled to create “turn-arounds” that would have animated fluidly. Turn-arounds is an animation term used by character designers where they lend various views: side views, back views, etc. to a design so other artists would know how that person or object will look when it is turned around. My thought about this second sequence is that this section pulls from Dalí’s aesthetic almost exclusively and it is was meant to be showcase for the art of Salvador Dalí. Dalí and Hench probably felt time was an issue, so they left the exact qualities of the fall from the tower to earth sequence as it is thinking it could be tightened up after this leg of the project was shown to Walt Disney.
As this second sequence continues, the woman in the conch shell falls from the tower, and we spin around an epic mindscape. Here, the pace of the short slows down and the world around these two enlarges. We see a dream-like sky full of surreal images that include telephone handles, classic architectural elements, flying fish, gelatinous shapes, metronomes, eyeballs and a sky-catcher attempting to bring order to the chaos in the sky.
After the fact that the world is bigger than the two of them is established, the female emerges to transcend a staircase made of telephone handles. The landscape here is made up of a cluster of buildings, not unlike those found in arid, ancient cultures. The female character appears as she arrives at the base of a bell tower. This imagery is right out of a Dalí oil painting, Anthropomorphic Echo, (1937). It’s at this point, that female figure transcends fully from the tower to bow, seemingly to present herself to the male character again. He is seen, precisely as he is in the pastiche that starts the film, attached to a metronome-like shape with cracks that run through his stone-like physique.
The female figure rises from the ground and as she does the male figure dislodges himself from the metronome where he is mounted. Here, is where the first ballet sequence begins, the one that is more conventional and very Nutcracker Suite-like. One definite Dalí appropriation in this scene is the “the girl with hoop,” which is a character you can find in Dalí’s 1936 oil painting Landscape with a Girl Skipping. Dalí’s famous melting clocks (seen in many of his oil paintings) are also featured in this sequence. During this first ballet, we also see for the first time that the female character and her head are baseball- shaped. She is also introduced in this sequence as a tiny dandelion blossom. A tiny dandelion blossom becomes a visual tool that Dalí and Hench will use to take the idea of “her” into later sequences of this short. — End of the second sequence.
As in life, relationships based solely upon physical attractions frustrate and dissolve. This leaves the male figure, after some turmoil, having to blow her (in the form of the aforementioned dandelion blossom) a kiss goodbye. These drawings of him trying to grasp an elusive blossom is almost the standout sets of drawings that represents the struggle of what this short is meant to be about.
After the kiss farewell, the male character gazes into the palm of his hand, the hand that was trying to hold her. Suddenly, ants emerge. This scene with a human hand that has ants crawling from the centre of its palm is right out of the Dalí and Buñuel 1929 film Un Chien Andalou.
The scene with the hand evolves and this causes a new landscape to emerge. One filed with tiny bicyclists steadily moving forward. As the sequence continues, the couple is soon confronted by a barrier that arises between them. This barrier has doors and windows that emerge to test and frustrate their union. Literally, the couple struggle to meet as windows and doors appear and close before them. This sequence also introduces the tortoise shell couple who are featured prominently later in the film. — End of the third sequence.
After this, the male figure is sent on a journey through the relics. He is forlorn. Rejected. Yet, the female character is frequently seen in this sequence as a small dandelion blossom ballerina. She follows the male figure as he navigates through a maze of relics in this mindscape desert. Soon, an index finger anchored in the architecture falls down around the male figure as if to say, “Hey, dummy! Not that way. This way!” The figure leads the male figure into a cavern that features a dazzling array of clock dials, some big, some small, and all of them twinkling and seen in varying degrees of consciousness (Herman Schultheis-style). At the end of the clock-faced passage way is a U-shaped doorway where seemingly unrelated elements emerge to form to create a classic Greco-Roman face. The male figure is beckoned by the female figure who appears as the nose of this face. He jumps through this passage way and lands on the other side where the female figure is waiting for him. — End of the fourth sequence.
The Baseball Ballet starts here in what Dalí intended to be his film’s fifth sequence. This sequence is quick to introduce the idea that the male and female figures are part of a much larger game, an actual baseball game. Dancing around them on this active baseball diamond — are the tortoise shell couple seen at the end of the third sequence. They’re back and are a sweeping part of the ballet itself. Overall, this second ballet is grander than the first. It is full of symbolism and metaphor, and has many conflicting layers. It ends when the Batter hits a “home run” and the ball passes through the Umpire, who turns into vapor. The speed of the baseball drags the mist of the evaporating Umpire along with it. — End of the fifth sequence.
This begins Dalí’s grand finale for Destino, a place where all of the imagery seen in Dalí’s seemingly disconnected film converge into one massive enveloping visual spiral. This part of Dalí’s film appropriates from images seen throughout the drawings made for Destino: the tortoise shell of the tortoise shell couple, eyeballs, dandelion blossoms and the ever-present telephone handles. This Busby Berkeley- like tunnel sequence is elaborate, nearly hypnotic, and as the symbolic elements that introduced the short come together, the imagery ends up shattering as the spiralling tunnel ends and a series of architectural places emerge. The male figure rises out of the centre of this chaos, right in the centre of the frame, and a heart (or possibly the sacred heart?) appears above him. His spirit seems to become one with the great architecture that rises around him. This sequence represents his physical climax and the end of the male figure’s journey from physical lust to emotional love. He is now able to open his heart to receive the woman he’s been pursuing . — This is the end of the sixth and final sequence.
The narrative, as seen in the Animatic I restored for Destino is coherent. It fits Dalí’s description for his short and displays Dalí’s willingness to apply his aesthetic to the concert film Disney aesthetic of early 1940s Disney. The film was never meant to be harsh or choppy, or peculiar simply for the sake of being peculiar. Conversely, it’s highly romantic and rather warm and playful, even when it is at times, it delivers a rather self-deprecating view of men. Overall, what Dalí wanted for Destino was a grand ballet of imagery with a story that is fluid and linear, and contained a moral, like so many Disney fairy tales.
The full version of the Destino Animatic proves this and it proves Dalí saw Destino as a moving painting and not in terms of a piece of traditional 2D Disney animation. That’s because it lacks centralized staging areas for the animators to focus on. Instead, almost everything in every frame was meant to animate, and animate at difference percentages of visibility. He designed his Destino to be visually active and visually complicated. So complicated, that even if money were no object and the technology of the day was in place to create the moving painting Dalí envisioned, the question of how to market a film like Destino had to be a deciding factor in why the film was shelved.
The other factor Walt Disney might have had with Dalí’s vision for Destino is that it contained a type of subject matter alien to anything seen in the films his studio made: a sexually-themed narrative.
Therefore, for reasons of expense and its suggestive sexual undertones, it can be no surprise that a sullen Salvador Dalí was asked to return to his drafting table and cut down his film. Dalí was probably asked to simplify the complexity and expense of the visual opus, and to tone down the sexual undertones hidden within his drawings. He was probably also told if the film was animated the way Dalí intended, his lush tale of man’s journey from lust to love could have easily run 18 to 22 minutes long and taken years to produce. (If it could even be produced using the hand-painted and analog optical techniques of the day.)
Cutting the idea of his film down, more than anything else, was probably the hardest thing for Dalí to embrace because the film Dalí designed for Destino was as seen in the Animatic I made rather complete.
This is why the biggest takeaway I have from reviewing the Animatic I restored for Destino is this: How much respect Walt Disney had for Salvador Dalí’s talent, and how that respect led to a surprising lack of supervision of Salvador Dalí by Walt Disney himself. More than John Hench, Walt Disney would have been aware the film Dalí intended was veering off course. That its story and expense were problematic for the studio. So problematic that maybe Dalí’s visit to the Magic Kingdom can be summed up like this: that Walt Disney gave to Salvador Dalí enough creative rope and that Salvador Dalí, through no fault of his own, surreally hung himself with it.
See Figure 12: She embraces him, and this opens the doorway to his heart.
In preparing for the publication of this essay, I’m aware that there is information herein that will provoke dialog. Many people have not seen the Destino Animatic I made unless they were at the July 2017 SAS conference in Padua, Italy. Overall, the public knows what they think is Dalí’s Destino by way of the Disney short which received so much in the way of newspaper articles written before and after its court ordered 2003 completion.
With regard to the 2003 effort from Disney, I reference the film’s producer Baker Bloodworth, in a video interview posted on the Tate website. In that interview, Bloodworth had this to say about the studio’s inability to decipher what the storyboards were and the film’s narrative:
“In 2001, Roy Disney and I partnered to produce the picture… we hired Dominic Montferret, a highly regarded animator in France. It was his first directing job, and he took the collection of art and the storyboards, and he spent months and months and months examining it. After these many months, trying to ascertain what the movie should be, what the movie was intended to be in the Forties, and how he would complete it, he decided he should re-story board the entire motion picture… Dominic’s re-interpretation of these boards, of these storyboards, allowed us to move from frame to frame, from image to image, because Dalí had only given us a very loose road map to the motion picture” (from a 2007 video on the Tate Modern website).
In 2003, when Roy E. Disney invited me to see an advance screening on the Disney lot of his version of Destino the official count of the number of story sketches Disney acknowledged was 135. This number differs from the 169 drawings that are on display throughout the 16 pages of black and white photographs that make up the photostatic record of the story sketches (3 of those drawings do not exist in the collection that I looked at and were not used in the Animatic I made for Destino. Eleven drawings not found in the black and white photographs but were found in the new collection were used in the Destino Animatic.). In my research, I count that there are no less than 181 known story sketches. Twelve (of those 181) story sketches exist outside of the photographic record (the 11 I have referenced and one additional drawing sent to me by someone else after my lecture). I believe that these 12 drawings are in fact “plused” animation drawings that help animate certain actions that present in the other drawings that exist in the photographic record for Destino. This leads me to conclude that the term “story sketches” is not entirely correct. The Destino drawings would be better described as animatic drawings, and that many of the animatic drawings were removed from the photographic record because the photographic record was an attempt to take the animatic drawings and reduce them so a storyboard for the film could be made. This would account for the unusual amount of “plused” drawings that exist and keep surfacing.
It’s unusual in the realm of story sketches made for Disney films in the 1940s that five and a half minutes of animation would have a number of story board sketches approaching 200. Equally odd is the fact that so many elements in the drawings animate when played sequentially. The implication of the 174 drawings that I believe make up the known Animatic drawings for the project (170 used to make the Destino Animatic, the three present in the photographic record that are not in the newly found collection, and one drawing that was sent me after my lecture at the 2017 Society for Animation Studies conference at the Università degli Studi di Padova, in Padova, Italy) would mean that 31.6 of these drawings would represent one minute of storyboard time if squeezed into the five and a half minute running time used in the 2003 film to illustrate Dali’s vision. Meaning there would be a single drawing for every 2 seconds of animation. That quantity of “story sketches” is rather high for a typical storyboard.
Moreover, and tabling the sexuality of the pre-ejaculation drawings at the head of the film’s spiral and the ejaculation drawings at the climax of the film, and by way of examining that there are two “plused” drawings to each of these sequences and that each set of drawings is placed symmetrically timing-wise in the same place from the beginning and in reverse from the end of the film, it’s hard to see the 181 drawings that Dalí and Hench created as anything more than a way to insure Dalí’s surrealistic imagery animated as Dalí intended.
About the sexuality seen in Dalí’s Destino:
Salvador Dalí was born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain. At the time of his birth, the idea of family and union were central ideas to life. 1904 was 60 plus years before divorce became a way to arrest the dialogue between men and women as both sides wrestle with themselves as individuals trying to find centre. Since the 1960s, the idea of the individual, and the idea of career and earning money became a primary concern in Western culture. Back in 1904, going from making one generation to next was often a matter of life and death. Disease-like plagues such as polio, tuberculous, scarlet fever and crib deaths killed many people. Even if you avoided succumbing to these, the average life span was 47 years.
While I expect a review of Dalí’s essay as seen in the Destino Animatic I made will produce a lot of dialogue, I fully expect that most of the dialogue that falls off track will be from people needing to press 2019 views of sexuality upon something Dalí crafted in 1946. Inclusion is a wonderful thing, and maybe it’s an even more wonderful a thing when people can put their need to trumpet their individual feelings so loudly that they miss embracing something or someone else. In a way, isn’t that what Dalí’s Destino is about? As such, please try to review Destino as Dalí intended it to be seen in 1946 — as a tale about union where two intrinsically different sets of needs struggle to find centre so they can be one.
The author would like to thank Jim Walker, Paula Allen, Alexandra Magnuson for their unending patience and guidance, to Amy Ratelle, Daniel Kothenschulte and Marco Bellano for their unbiased belief in my Animatic, to Bill Melendez for his narrative and for being one of so many people willing to share their stories of what it felt like to work with the people who work at Disney, and to Roy E. Disney for his apolitical belief in my animation art conservation work and for his forward vision.
Ron Barbagallo is the Director of The Research Library at Animation Art Conservation, in Los Angeles, California.
© Ron Barbagallo
Edited by Amy Ratelle