I Am Not Mad
Film review by: Witney Seibold
I must tell you about Destino.
In 1946, Walt Disney began work on a follow-up project to the unsuccessful “Fantasia” (1940). It was to be another compilation film of animated shorts, set to various musical pieces, each made by a different team of animators.
I wish I could have witnessed the first meeting between Uncle Walt and Salvador Dalí; no doubt it would have been a somewhat awkward clash of two violently mismatched minds leading to either mere frustration or explosive rage, but despite the easily-imagined (not to mention fun-to-speculate-about, one a calm and resolved surrealist, the other an ambitious shark) conflagration, Dalí was indeed hired onto Disney’s project. Dalí invented a short called “Destino,” a visual love poem about the ruin of time. When the design was finished, Dalí’s storyboards complete, and a total of fifteen seconds actually animated, Disney abandoned the project, and shelved “Destino.”
It sat on said shelf until Roy Disney, after the relative success of “Fantasia 2000,” decided to resurrect it, seeing as, since the project was never finished, the rights still belonged to the company. Now, in 2004, 56 years after its inception, “Destino” is finally complete. I’m glad. It’s a wondrous curiosity. Not only to see the fruit of such an odd aesthetic yin-yang, but to experience a sort of aesthetic purity that only Dalí could have birthed. The film stretches out on a cream-soda-colored landscape, and slowly pours out seemingly unconnected images: a young woman enwraps herself physically in the shadow of a church bell. She becomes a dandelion. Ants crawl from a hole in a human palm (an image also used in “Un Chien Andalou”). Faces form from some clever forced perspective. There is a baseball player, sticklike beings with eyeballs for heads, and a large everchanging monolith that seems to contain the secrets of love and time.
The film is brilliant in its images, but seems a little, well, forced by the Disney side of things. Dalí was interested in breaking rules and coloring outside the lines; The Disney Reich seeks order and clarity. One can see in “Destino” the revolutionary ideas bursting forth, but the colors and some of the character design betray the Disney influence. Despite this, it’s an extraordinary film whose time has finally, finally come. Dalí only made two other films in his life, both with Luis Buñuel, “Un Chien Andalou” and “L’Age D’Or.” I think he would be pleased to see that his revolutionary/insane ideas are still alive and well and in such an unlikely medium as a Disney animated short.
At 7 minutes, directed by Dominique Monfery, “Destino” is currently playing at selected theaters before “Calendar Girls” (!). It’s slated for Sundance in January, so keep and eye out.