The Real Life Donkey That Inspired Eddie Murphy’s ‘Shrek’ Character Is at the Center of a Political Controversy

City council members are debating using funds to support the real Donkey
The Real Life Donkey That Inspired Eddie Murphy’s ‘Shrek’ Character Is at the Center of a Political Controversy

The Shrek movies are obviously fictional. There’s no such thing as ogres, gingerbread men can’t really talk, and if you try to put a pair of boots on an actual cat, it will most assuredly claw your eyes out. But one character, it turns out, was inspired by a real-life creature. No not Lord Farquaad/Michael Eisner, we’re talking about Shrek’s wisecracking, dragon-loving sidekick Donkey.

Yup, the Eddie Murphy-voiced ass (in the literal sense) was modeled after Perry the donkey from Palo Alto’s Barron Park. Reportedly, in 1999 a company called Pacific Data Images, which eventually merged with DreamWorks, “visited the pasture and took shots of Perry from a multitude of angles to better analyze how donkeys move.” While you might think that Donkey has a generic donkey-like look, his handlers later claimed that “it’s evident if you know Perry and watch the movie that it’s him.”

The good news is, Perry is still alive, and turns 30 on June 9th. The bad news is, the cost of looking after Perry and his two donkey companions is around $25,000 a year, and expenses just went up by $15,000 this year due to Perry’s “old man problems.” So to help out, the Mayor of Palo Alto proposed giving the park a grant that would match community donations up to $10,000.

But not everybody was thrilled with the idea of forking over 10 grand of the city’s budget to an aging donkey — particularly within the Palo Alto City Council, with one member objecting to this use of the town’s discretionary funds, going so far as to call the decision “irresponsible,” and adding, “I don’t support this, and I don’t think we should be doing it right now when we’re losing money."

Mayor Greer Stone countered that the “$77,000 in the council contingency” expires on July 1st and doesn’t roll over. “It’s a great opportunity for the community to interact with these wonderful animals,” Stone stated. 

Incidentally, in all of this political drama, seemingly no one suggested that perhaps the corporate custodians of the Shrek franchise, the multibillion dollar company NBCUniversal, could fork over some money to help Perry out? After all, Perry’s only compensation for serving as the model for a movie that went on to gross nearly half a billion dollars at the box office was a measly $75 donation to the pasture. And DreamWorks didn’t even bother to mention Perry in the credits.

Really, how much does this company make from selling Donkey T-shirts, Donkey Funko Pops and Donkey Chia Pets?

They can’t donate a small portion of their massive profits to the donkey that started it all? Eddie Murphy could even show up with a giant novelty check. It’s a PR slam dunk waiting to happen.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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