Mouse brings life to surrealist's work

Roy E. Disney may have parted company with Michael Eisner, but he’s fully backing one of Disney’s “new” films.

Actually, Disney says the project he exec-produced, “Destino,” was first conceived in 1945 when his late uncle Walt “hit it off” at a party with surrealist painter Salvador Dali. He hired the Spanish expatriate (in Hollywood working on Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”) to create a short film for an animated compilation.

Walt paired Dali with inhouse animator John Hench, and for nine months Dali “came promptly every morning,” says Hench, now 95, and worked 9 to 5 on a bizarre story about love and destiny.

Dali drew or painted more than 200 storyboards depicting a woman who cannot meet up with her lover, so ends up literally in his heart.

Later, Hench, who helped Dali on smoothing the narrative transitions, shot a test film, which Walt liked but Disney’s distributor RKO felt was not commercial enough. So “Destino” was dumped.

But fate and finance played a role in “Destino’s” resurrection.

While working on “Fantasia 2000,” Roy Disney found an old studio contract that stated the company “did not have ownership of Dali’s work until ‘Destino’ was completed.”

So Disney finished “Destino” with the help of Hench, currently senior VP of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering, producer Baker Bloodworth, co-producer of 2000’s “Dinosaur,” and a small crew at the now-defunct Disney Paris studios.

“The French artistic sensibility was appropriate” for Destino, says Bloodworth.

Hench feels it is “quite an accomplishment” the film was ever completed without Dali, but the Dali Foundation approved the work five months ago.

Disney is loaning some of the sketches to a traveling Dali exhibition celebrating the artist’s centennial next year.

And “Destino” itself has been traveling to various film fests, including the ones in Melbourne, where it won the Grand Prize, and New York.

On Dec. 19, “Destino” paired with Disney’s feature “Calendar Girls,” for New York and Los Angeles screenings, then goes wide. A DVD version arrives this spring.

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