Just As I Thought

What Eisner didn’t know…

The Oscar-nominated animated short “Destino” was originally conceived by Walt Disney in collaboration with Salvador Dali almost 60 years ago. Walt’s nephew Roy (who recently resigned from the board to pre-empt his ouster) resurrected the project, and for much of it’s production cycle kept it secret from Michael Eisner, the company’s CEO.

Dali and Disney began the project nearly 60 years ago after they were introduced at mogul Jack Warner’s house. Dali was in Hollywood designing sets for the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “Spellbound.”

Working with Disney artist John Hench, who died this month, Dali spent eight months on the film from late 1945 to 1946. The project was put on hiatus by Walt Disney because the company was having financial problems after World War II.

It seemed the destiny of “Destino” was sealed until 1999, when Roy Disney was making the animated feature “Fantasia 2000.” As he rummaged through the studio’s animation research library in Glendale, Disney discovered about 230 pieces of art created by Dali and Hench.

At that moment, he realized some of the story sketches and paintings could be used to complete “Destino.”

Now that the film has a chance of winning the Academy Award, there’s plenty of talk of what Disney might say in an acceptance speech.

Now, with the Academy Awards only days away, many veteran animators who have long seen Roy Disney as a champion of their art form have a wish: They want Walt’s nephew to win the statuette on Feb. 29 and deliver a nationally televised slap at Eisner and his company, which has laid off hundreds of animators in recent years.

“I think people are relishing the potential sight of Roy getting up and giving the acceptance speech at the Oscars,” said Kevin Koch, president of Hollywood’s local animation guild and a staff animator at DreamWorks SKG. “The irony of the situation is not lost on most people.”

For his part, Roy Disney joked during an interview Wednesday that he had penned 487 Oscar acceptance speeches of which “only about three are printable.”

It’s very interesting that two of the best projects to come out of Disney recently (from Disney itself, I mean, not third parties like Pixar) were Destino and Lilo & Stitch, both projects which were small and flew under Eisner’s heavy-handed radar. Perhaps this can be taken as proof of his chilling effect on creativity?

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