Disney Film History: Perri

perri 1

Up to this point, Walt Disney’s True Life Adventure series had done well in both television and theatrical avenues. The nature documentary which Disney had invented was becoming popular with other studios as well. That meant that Walt had to take the next step forward to stay ahead of the game. He decided to make Perri, his next true life tale, a “True Life Fantasy” adapting documentary footage to a story.

Despite the lack of real box office success, Bambi had always been a favorite of Walt. With that understanding, he must have really enjoyed the writing of Felix Salten, the author of Bambi, because this is the first time Disney adapted a second book by the same author. Perri was somewhat of a followup to Bambi about a squirrel of the same name who falls in love with a fellow squirrel named Porro after being saved by a human girl. The story was adapted documentary footage shot in Utah and Wyoming. Over 20,000 feet of footage was shot to put together the film, which actually used less than half of that footage. Animations were tossed in here and there to add to the story, including a cameo from our deer friend Bambi. (See the pun I put in there!)

perri 2

Unlike other True Life Adventures like Secrets of Life or the Vanishing Prarie, this film doesn’t start with an animated paint brush and map, further seperating the “True Life Fantasy” idea from the other films in the series. The film, however, does bring back narrator Winston Hibler who had narrated the other previous True Life films. He also serves as producer and write songs for Perri, which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Score, it’s only real accomplishment.

perri 3

The film debuted to a mixed review by critics in August 1957. Critics had once said that Disney’s documentaries created stories instead of simply showing the beauty in which they were filming. Secrets of Life had toned the comedy and stories down which made critics happy, but Perri was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Footage had been manipulated to support the story this time which was disliked by the shakers and movers of the reviewing world.

Despite criticisms, the film did do well at the box office. It was released again in theaters in 1964 and 1972 but has only been available to own once in 2005. The film doesn’t hold up like some of the more serious True Life Adventures that would make way for the eventual Disney Nature films. It stands alone as some weird hybrid of documentary and live action film that doesn’t give us a great enough story to be an adventure but is too fantastical to be a documentary. Luckily, this was the last of Walt Disney’s True Life Fantasy films. I look forward to getting back to the regular documentaries in the future.

Josh Taylor
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Previous Film: Johnny Tremain
Next Film: Old Yeller

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Posted on March 25, 2015, in Articles, The Whole Picture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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