They don't seem to go together, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. One was the avuncular king of commercial art, the creator of Mickey Mouse and classic family films, the adapter of fairy tales. The other was the flamboyant fine-arts painter, the painter of melting clocks and the sculptor of women who had drawers for breasts.
But, as a new exhibition at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg shows, Disney and Dali were long-time friends and even collaborators. They drew from the same influences -- they both explored the latest technology, and they were both drawn to the ideas of Buckminster Fuller -- and they influenced each other.
"They both were sort of Utopianists in their own way, and Fuller just really appealed to both Dali and Walt Disney," said Peter Tush, the Dali Museum's curator of education and the curator of the "Disney and Dali" exhibition. As the show points out, Fuller's famous geodesic dome design shows up repeatedly in Dali's paintings, and it's a central design element of the Dali Museum. And it's also used in "Spaceship Earth," the centerpiece of Disney's Epcot Center.
"John Hench had a lot to do with Tomorrowland," Tush said. "The guy who was Dali's friend and collaborator was responsible for the design, the look, the feel of Tomorrowland, that sort of Jetsons' view of the future."
Dali's immersive work at the 1939 World's Fair, "The Dream of Venus," was a similar look at the future, Tush said.
"The Dream of Venus" is included
in the exhibition, which is titled "Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination." It opened Saturday and runs through June 12. It pairs Dali paintings with clips and animation cels from Disney films, and leads to sections devoted to "Destino," a short film Disney and Dali started to create together.
Disney wanted to create a film that would have been sort of a "Fantasia II," consisting of several short animated films. He wanted to work with Dali on one segment. Disney loved Dali's constant stream of outrageous ideas -- the film included hallucinatory ballerinas, swarming insects and baseball players -- but grew frustrated with the artist's reluctance to follow through with those ideas.
"I think Walt was fascinated by Dali's imagination, but grew frustrated with his ability to wrap it up," Tush said. "But they remained friends."
"Destino" was not finished while Disney and Dali were alive, but Hench worked with filmmakers and the original storyboards, many of which are part of the Dali Museum exhibition, to finish it in 2003 -- 58 years after work had begun.
The completed seven-minute film shows continuously as part of the exhibition.
Perhaps the most impressive element of the exhibit is a virtual reality presentation that allows visitors to take a walk through a Dali landscape, including the swarming ants from "Destino" and his holographic portrait of Alice Cooper.
An audio tour of the exhibit, narrated by Sigourney Weaver, is available at no extra charge.
The exhibition came out of a collaboration between the Dali Museum and the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. It has already shown in San Francisco, curated by Ted Nicolaou. It was modified for the Dali Musuem exhibit.
"In San Francisco, the emphasis was on the friendship," Tush said. "Here, we've sort of shifted the emphasis toward architecture and imagination."
Details: Through June 12, Salvador Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. Admission: $24 adults, $22 seniors, military, police, firefighters, educators, $17 students, $10 children 6-12, free for children younger than age 6. Information: 727-823-3767, thedali.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.