The Palo Alto community steps in to help Perry, inspiration for the donkey in ‘Shrek’

PALO ALTO — The inspiration behind a beloved American movie character lives in Palo Alto. But as Perry the Donkey gets older, his medical bills grow along with him.

Perry the donkey is known to many. He modeled for the 2001 Dreamworks film ‘Shrek’.

“In 1999, he reinvented himself as a movie star,” Mike Holland, one of Perry’s 30 volunteers, told CBS News Bay Area.

“Dreamworks contracted with Pacific Data Images to do all the models (for “Shrek”) and the lead designer lives here in Barron Park and he looked at his models and said, ‘I know where a donkey is.’ So they came here and studied Perry. If you look at the body and the ass in ‘Shrek,’ that’s his body, or it was 2001, 1999.”

Perry has entered his golden years, his 30th birthday is June 9 and the medical bills are starting to mount.

“They’re getting older, they have what the vet calls old man problems,” Holland explained. “The increasing medical claims result in $25,000 for the three of them, and $15,000 for the additional unexpected medical claims all three have had. We are at a crucial crossroads,” Holland said.

Support for Perry, along with friends April and Buddy, is entirely community-generated, aside from a $15,000 city grant from 2016.

That’s in large part because they are an important part of the Barron Park community.

“We have grandparents who remember playing with the donkeys when children brought their grandchildren, so this is not new. This goes back at least 70 to 75 years, so it’s a neighborhood tradition,” Holland said.

In addition to selling their own merchandise and even compost, the donkeys rely on donations.

Then the city of Palo Alto stepped up with an offer to match community donations of up to $10,000 in a one-time donation.

So far they have raised $4,000 and Mayor Greer Stone said in a statement to CBS News Bay Area that the grant is “a small investment with a big return realized in the form of smiles on children’s faces, outdoor education opportunities and greater well-being. . for our entire community. We welcome everyone to come to Bol Park and see our beloved donkeys.”

But some see the costs as unnecessary. At a recent city council meeting on May 20, Councilman Greg Tanaka said he didn’t think this was the best use of their discretionary funds.

“I have to object to giving $10,000. This year we have a shortage; this year we will have a deficit next year,” he said. “It just seems irresponsible to me, so I don’t support this and I don’t think we should be doing this now if we’re losing money.”

But Stone argues that they must use that discretionary pot before the next fiscal year.

“There is approximately $77,000 in the council’s reserve; it expires on July 1 and will not be renewed. It is a great opportunity for the community to interact with these beautiful animals,” said Stone.

For Holland, he can’t see a world without these donkeys, a lineage that has been in the community since the 1950s and provides unique Bay Area-style emotional support to neighbors.

“I can’t imagine this not happening. “I’m not the first person to volunteer here and I certainly won’t be the last,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and dozens of people come here every day. It’s a real tradition, a funny neighborhood tradition.”

The city has set a deadline of June 23 for customers to double their grant money.