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“Architects of the Imagination” Highlights Disney and Dalí’s Unlikely Friendship

To the world, Salvador Dalí was an eccentric Surrealist and animation pioneer Walt Disney was a notorious dreamer. But to each other, they were fierce friends and collaborators. Although the unlikely pair grew up worlds apart, they found one another through their art, and their work together has endured long after their lifetime. The history of this remarkable friendship between two icons is explored in a new exhibition titled "Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination" at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.


Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney by the beach in Spain, 1957

To the world, Salvador Dalí was an eccentric Surrealist and animation pioneer Walt Disney was a notorious dreamer. But to each other, they were fierce friends and collaborators. Although the unlikely pair grew up worlds apart, they found one another through their art, and their work together has endured long after their lifetime. The history of this remarkable friendship between two icons is explored in a new exhibition titled “Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination” at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.


Walt Disney, 1930s

At first glance, it might seem as though Disney and Dalí had very little in common. One had a penchant for dancing and singing mice, the other for melting watches and elephants distorting into space. The exhibition is a testimony to the improbable connection between these kindred spirits; spanning archival film and audio, hand-written letters, and early art from Disney and Dalí’s childhoods through to their collaborative animated short, “Destino”, which was completed after their deaths.


Wally Rizzo, Salvador Dali photograph for Paris-Match

It was as World War II tore through Europe when Dalí retreated with his wife to the United States and he first met Disney. Not long after, he went to work on designing visuals for Disney’s anthology features, one of which would become “Destino”. Exhibition curator and filmmaker Ted Nicolaou described Disney as “a man ready to experiment in any way possible.” He wasn’t just about being family-friendly – he wanted to dive into the deepest parts of his audience’s imagination, and to stay ahead of the curve while doing so. Disney regularly employed artists to enhance his works and keep them fresh, a tradition that the museum has upheld with exhibitions by contemporary artists like Maurice Sendak and Camille Rose Garcia.

Plagued by the war and financial troubles, Disney and Dalí’s collaboration wouldn’t come to fruition until almost 60 years later. In the museum’s exhibition, their short is on view as a culmination of the artist’s unique relationship. Disney, always the romantic, once coined the piece as a “boy meets girl” love story, but of course it is much more than that. It is an alliance between two legendary voices; Surrealist painting and traditional animation, combined with computer animation by a future generation of artists that they have influenced. Where Disney sought to captivate audiences, Dalí aimed to startle and disturb, but both found a goldmine of inspiration in their imaginations. “Architects of the Imagination” proves that dreams, no matter how unusual, really can come true.

“Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination” is now on view at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco through January 3rd, 2016.


The Dalí and Disney families around the dinner table in Spain, 1957


Salvador Dalí, Illustration from Novella L’Oncle Vincents, 1924


Mary Blair, Fantasy Sequence of Maids Cinderella concept art, 1950


Salvador Dalí, The Broken Bridge and the Dream, 1945


Salvador Dalí, Tieta Portrait of My Aunt Cadazues, 1923-24


Salvador Dalí, Untitled, 1946


Salvador Dalí, Study for Sentimental Colloquy, 1946

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