Destino: Walt’s Dream, Then Roy’s

dvd review

It took sixty years for Salvador Dali’s unfinished Walt Disney project, Destino, to reach fruition. In comparison, the seven years it’s taken for a home video release doesn’t seem so bad, but the process has been frustrating. And even now, the opportunity to own the Oscar-nominated film comes with a hitch:

A Dali-esque moment from Destino.

if you don’t have a Blu-Ray player, you’re out of luck. The short, and a very good feature-length documentary about Disney and Dali, are only available on the four-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, which retails for $45.99 and is being discounted online for about $28. And while other features appear on the standard DVD discs, Destino is only available for screening on Blu-Ray.

Is it worth the money? In the grand scheme of things, I think so. The new high-definition transfer of Fantasia is breathtaking (see separate story), and the short is worth its weight in gold.

I fell in love with Destino the first time I saw it—or rather, the first two times. I was lucky enough to be invited to a—

—small screening by Roy E. Disney in the spring of 2003, in the studio’s Animation Building. He spoke about the project and even let us ogle several original Dali oil paintings that had been under lock and key in the vault for more than half a century! Then we watched the six-minute film, so beautifully realized by Dominique Monfery, from Disney’s Paris studio. The handful of us in the audience then peppered Roy with questions about the film, and how it came about. After a few minutes I piped up and asked if we could watch it again. Roy said “Sure,” and we did. (When I was asked to introduce the short, and interview Roy, at that year’s Telluride Film Festival I begged them to present it the same way, and we did. The film grows on you and becomes more hypnotic with each viewing.)

This was Roy Disney’s baby. He first discovered the Dali artwork when he was producing Fantasia 2000, which includes one tantalizingly brief test shot from the film. He also realized the value of these Dali originals and asked the studio’s lawyers if they legally owned them. After much searching they said the original contracts said they would indeed own the art once the film was completed. That was Roy’s cue to put the short into active production, with studio producer Baker Bloodworth and Dave Bossert supervising the project. They were lucky enough to enlist the active participation of John Hench, the nonagenarian who had worked hand-in-hand with Dali back in the 1940s, and was still reporting to work at Disney Imagineering in the new millennium.

Dali and Disney meet again, decades after their unfinished collaboration in the 1940s.

The finished Destino made the film festival circuit, in the U.S. and overseas, and was nominated for an Academy Award. It was never released theatrically, but Roy always knew it would reach its most appreciative audience on DVD, and urged the home video department to make a feature-length documentary about the fascinating saga behind the Dali short. The first filmmaker assigned to the task worked on it for months but Roy was unhappy with the result—including the way the director shot an interview I did with him on-camera. A second producer was hired, and I interviewed Roy again. That version of the documentary was also rejected. Finally, the folks at EMC West were given the task. Barbara Toennies and Ted Nicolaou do first-rate work for Disney and this is no exception.

All during this time, Disney buffs asked Roy—and me—when Destino was going to be released on DVD. There was no answer. On two separate occasions it was scheduled to be part of my Walt Disney Treasures series, along with another orphaned short, Mike Gabriel’s Lorenzo. I wrote introductions and put them on camera; both times the idea was scrapped. (I also hosted a short “bonus feature” about other unrealized Disney projects, including original artwork and commentary from animation experts. That, too, is still sitting on the shelf.)

All of that is water under the bridge. What lingers is the regret that Roy didn’t live to see his baby released to the home market before his untimely death one year ago. Destino is a remarkable film, and the story of how it came about—first in the 1940s, then sixty years later, because of Roy Disney’s determination—is as interesting as the short-subject itself.

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June 2024