One of the strangest sentences you’re going to find on IMDb is “the friendship between Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí.” Because I mean, parse that. Stop to think how that happened. There’s a Tumblr called “Awesome People Hanging Out Together” that is just that, but usually, that’s things like “here are people on the set of a movie they made together.” Or “these people were connected in a way you already knew about,” like Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Or “look, it’s the Oscars.” Disney and Dalí might’ve met at a party at Jack Warner’s, but there seems to be no certainty on the subject.
Apparently, this is the story of Chronos falling in love with a human woman named Dahlia. Which you could not prove by me. The story, such as it is, comes across in a series of surrealist images involving much familiar Dalí iconography. Things melt. There are eyes everywhere. Dahlia dances across a barren desert landscape with distant craggy rocks. Clocks dissolve into light. Dahlia’s head becomes a dandelion, floating off in the wind and giving birth to more little Dahlias. A self-portrait of Dalí helps form a silhouette of a dancer.
This is one of those projects that came at the wrong time initially. I wouldn’t cover it for Year of the Month because that would involve deciding what year it was from. Officially, it is 2003, but it was started more than fifty years earlier—you know, when both men were alive. Dalí considered Disney to be the Great American Surrealist, and I do get the idea of that. It’s less surprising than you might think. Still, the American public didn’t see Disney that way, and the studio was financially struggling in the wake of World War II; Walt couldn’t afford the level of experimentation this short would have represented.
I don’t know that I’d say I like this short. It’s very much what you’d expect. You want animation in the artistic style and sensibility of Salvador Dalí? You’ve got it. It’s actually not his only worth with Hollywood film; yes, he’s considerably more famous for “Un Chien Andalou,” but he did dream sequences for three movies from 1942 to 1950. Presumably because, if you can get Salvador Dalí to do your dream sequence, you’re going to. And, yes, this has the same dreamlike quality that Alfred Hitchcock used. Still.
Still, long-time readers know I’m fascinated by Disney history as much as anything. This is definitely one of the stranger aspects of Disney history. Was it that supposed fateful dinner at Jack Warner’s? Maybe. We’ll never know, unless someone there kept a diary that hasn’t been uncovered yet. It’s probably true that the short was eventually finished for publicity reasons—the fabled lost collaboration and all that—but regardless of the reasons, it was finished, and it is now available. And well worth the watch, for historical reasons if no other.