I’ve posted on a few subjects recently, so this one probably won’t be too long. But I watched this again the other day and remembered how breathtakingly beautiful it was. I am in fact talking about ‘Destino’ – a film released by Walt Disney productions in 2003 but one that began production in 1945. It’s a collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Yeah. Seriously.
To be honest though, when you think about it the partnership makes sense. Cartoon in and of themselves defy reality in a childlike sense – and especially older cartoons which lack the contemporary humour of things like Pixar films and so just come across as weird. But even Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ was ridiculously trippy, pouring forth a soft flow of surreal images, music and magic. But unfortunately production was stopped in 1946 as Disney was struggling with finances in post World War II America. However in 2000, Walt’s nephew found the dormant project and gave it to a Parisian studio under Disney’s control, allowing Dominique Monféry to direct the project.
The team that worked on it mostly used traditional animation methods which puts across this richly vintage atmosphere throughout the whole thing. The story actually follows the ill-fated love of Chronos for a mortal woman named Dahlia. We follow the bitter sweet story as she traverses a surreal landscape inspired and partly created by Dali. This is the initial level of surrealism here. The landscape is formed of basic shapes put together but with extraordinary detail on the surface. The deep blue skies, wide plains and obscure triangle structures and wide, twisting, lucid columns provide a dream-like landscape for the story to take place in. It’s reminiscent of ‘The First Days of Spring’ (1929) whereas the human figures remind me more of ‘The Burning Giraffe’ (1937.) Those same human forms are just as transient as the structures themselves. In this brief world all things are structures which can be moulded, which can be changed. Like when Chronos sheds metal skin which in turn becomes a sculpture. There’s another particular section where Dahlia strides across the sand as it waves like the sea and hardens into a small city, she ends up tumbling through a tower which opens it’s walls like holes for her to fall through. Every movement, from that scene, to just when she turns her head or Chronos kneels down, feels deliberate and yet light. You constantly feel like you’re flying through this world with them – it’s actively a joy to look at.
This is as much due to the soundtrack by Mexican composer Armando Dominguez and performed by Dora Luz. The old grain of the love song is hauntingly struck with the older visuals and design. The piece is slow at first but gradually thickens in texture to join the ascending movement of the film – as both Chronos and Dahlia fly through the ever-changing dream-space that the world is formed of. A melancholy pursuit of deep affection. In a way it feels comforting to watch, perhaps it’s the older music or animation, but it feels like you’re in your own mind watching someone else’s beautiful story.
The thing I love most about it is that, despite it only being seven minutes long, it gets me every time. Whenever I watch it I feel intensely sad and I never know why. Even now knowing the story of Chronos, the film still portrays it in a surreal mode which relies on a visceral reaction, it relies on you using you senses – which I think people do when they also report feeling sad but never knowing the reason. It’s utterly beautiful to watch and a real insight into two amazing artists. It’s an ocean to slip away into quietly, and return without knowing you’ve even left.