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Disney and Dali: A Journey of Dreaming

Arts & Entertainment

By: Brittany Kinard

Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. The names themselves conjure up entirely different styles. On one hand, there is Dali, the Spanish surrealist whose works delved into exploring the subconscious. Motifs and symbols abound within his painting, causing the viewer to contemplate the disjointed narrative on display. On the other end of the spectrum, there is Disney, the American animator and filmmaker. Disney’s works brought together innovative techniques to broaden the storytelling medium of animation into film. It’s a strange combination of stylistic sensibilities but in the new exhibition at the Dali Museum, the artists common thread of connect lies with their exploration into dreams.

In Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination, the exhibition is set up in ten galleries to bring the viewer through their lives and paralleling careers. The exhibit begins with a brief introduction of the two artists. Patrons will see the two in strikingly similar photographs. Both stand against a doorway staring intently at the camera, enigmatic in stature. A large scale schematic of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and a picture from Dali’s 1939 World’s Fair exhibition, the Dream of Venus are on display in the first and second galleries .The Dream of Venus shows a person swimming in a tank against a surrealist background. To give an appearance of a fish tank, the picture is illuminated, light rippling across the exhibition floor like waves. The iconography of the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the Dream of Venus are meant to show how Dali and Disney could bring dreams into reality thereby making them tangible.

As the exhibit continues, patrons will see glimpses into the artists’ life growing up. Both are only two years apart and grew up in small towns. The towns would appear in their later works. Disney, would base Mainstreet, USA off of his hometown of Marceline, Missouri. Dali frequently painting small town of Catalonia’s .On display are early cartoon drawings from Disney and early self-portraits from Dali. Moving on, one gallery entitled Machines and the Unconscious has, film clips from the early Disney animations to Dali’s surrealist films. The Dali films shown like Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or are at once both unsettling and intriguing. Disney’s early animations are glimpses into the genesis of an innovative and gifted storyteller. Both artists embraced the new technologies of their time and used it to enhance their works.

After walking through the other galleries like Fame and Invention, The War Years, and Hollywood, Disney and Dali’s parallel career’s intersect in the Destino gallery. Disney highly admired the works of Salvador Dali and sent him a letter inviting him to come to his studio in Hollywood. The letters of the correspondence are on display along with newspaper clippings of the eventual meeting. Having got Dali to agree on a surrealist project, Disney had a film in mind much like Fantasia. Working with one of Disney’s animators, John Hench, the early storyboards for Destino take up an entire wall of the exhibition. The sketches are a wonder to look at because of the synthesis between the Disney sensibility of coherent storytelling and Dali’s bizarre foray into the realm of the subconscious. Dali described Destino as “a magical exhibition of life in the labyrinth of time”. while Disney refereed to it as “just a simple love story, boy meets girl”. Unfortunately, only fifteen seconds were made of the film. Disney became exasperated over Dali’s pace with Destino.

Years later, Destino would finally be made using the notes and storyboards from John Hench and Salvador Dali. The film is shown opposite the fifteen second sample footage. The whole film has the familiar Dali symbols of ants and a story amongst a dessert landscape. The viewer is left wondering how the movie would have looked if Disney had allowed Dali to continue on with the project. John Hench would say in a later interview, Disney told him “We should have made that thing anyway.”

Despite the failed project, Dali and Disney remained friends throughout their lives. Surrealism would influence Disney films like Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella. The pictures are on display along with ones like Donald in Mathmagic Land. The image showing a forest with numbers etched into the trees. Others show the Fairy Godmother turning Cinderella into a princess and a prince fighting off Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Disney fans are sure to marvel at early images of the film classics.

Before leaving, there is one final surprise in before exiting. A virtual reality experience. Patrons can wait in line to use the Oculus Rift to go into Dali’s painting The Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus”. Surrounded by a desert landscape, the viewer can look up and see towering beasts resembling elephants or explore a crumpling ruin while hearing a whistling wind. Melding art with technology, the museum keeps Dali’s and Disney’s legacy alive in Architects of the Imagination and makes it into a fantastical experience.

The exhibition will run until June 12, 2016.

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