Perri is a 1957 film from Walt Disney Productions, based on Felix Salten's 1938 book of the same name. It was the company's fifth feature entry in their True-Life Adventures series, and the only one to be labeled a True-Life Fantasy. In doing so, the Disney team combined the documentary aspects of earlier efforts with fictional scenarios and characters.
In the forest of Wildwood Heart, children have been born to the various animals living there. One pine squirrel couple now has multiple children, including Perri and her siblings, though the father no longer lives with the family and instead lives on his own. The boom of infants in Wildwood Heart causes hunger for many of its animals, and hunting becomes more frequent among carnivorous species. One mother marten, driven by the need to feed herself and her young, attacks Perri's mother with the intent to kill her. In the nick of time, Perri's father appears and taunts the marten in an attempt to lure her away from Perri's mother and her nest. The marten then chases after and kills Perri's father.
Since the marten now knows location of her nest, Perri's mother decides to move herself and her children to her now deceased former mate's vacant nest. However, the marten returns to find more food before she can finish moving them. Perri, still an infant, is nearly caught by the marten, but she survives as the marten leaves the squirrels alone to check on her own children, who are being threatened by a mother raccoon who wants to kill and eat them. The marten saves her children, and the raccoon is later attacked by a porcupine.
However, the squirrels, the martens, and the raccoons are not the only species involved in this time of hunting. A mother fox kills a rabbit to feed her young, but that young rabbit is stolen by a female wildcat who scares off the foxes. A beaver kills aspen trees to build a dam for him and his family. A sapsucker kills various grubs and worms it finds in trees. A goshawk kills a flying squirrel. All around, there is death as animals strive to survive.
As the baby animals grow, a time of learning for them begins. Perri, her siblings, and some raccoon kits learn how to climb trees. A baby beaver learns to chew on plants and trees. Wildcat kittens, raccoon kits, and skunk kits learn to how to hunt. Both a group of wildcat kittens and a fox pup try to kill a clever and brave mouse, but the mouse survives. Raccoon kits learn how to fish.
As summer arrives, nearly all of the young animals grow boisterous and bold as a time of adventure commences. Perri and her siblings explore the trees, jumping from limb to limb and enjoying their life. Perri tries to make some new friends. She first attempts to befriend some hummingbird chicks, but she is dissuaded from doing so by the chicks' mother. She then tries to befriend a flying squirrel, but he is annoyed with her and flies away. Amazed to see that a squirrel can fly, Perri attempts to fly, too, but since she is a pine squirrel and not a flying squirrel, she falls and lands on the ground, a place she's never been before.
Perri is at first frightened to be on the ground, alone and away from her family. She quickly befriends a ground squirrel, temporarily removing her fear, but he gets angry at her when she eats too much of his food, ending the friendship. She then comes across "the Great Forest King himself, Bambi." She tries to befriend one of his children, but she is interrupted from this endeavor as she hears a flock of birds cawing and declaring that there has been a death in Wildwood Heart. She rushes back to her nest, only to find that her mother, her sister, and her brothers have been killed by the marten. The marten then attacks her, but Perri survives by swimming through the brook that runs through Wildwood Heart, as the marten is afraid to swim.
As soon she escapes the marten, she is attacked by a wildcat. She is saved from the wildcat by a male pine squirrel named Porro, who has just recently built his own nest. She decides to build her own nest on a tree near Porro. The marten makes an attempt to cross the brook once more to attack Perri, but she fails, leaving Perri safe from her.
As autumn arrives, Porro and Perri begin storing food for the winter. Perri often leaves her nest to search on the ground for food. During one of these searches, she gets lost. She climbs a tree to be able to look around and assess where she is, but a hungry goshawk knocks out of the tree and sends her tumbling into the scary Grove of the Crooked Aspen. There, Perri is attacked by a hungry weasel. The weasel and goshawk both try to kill Perri. Ultimately, the goshawk kills the weasel instead, and Perri flees.
Wind destroys Porro's nest. He opts to live beneath the ground, and winter soon arrives as a blanket of snow covers Wildwood Heart. The marten tries to cross the brook to get to Perri, who is safe and secure in her home, but fails. For Perri, winter is nothing more than a time of waiting for spring to come, and she has weird dreams about animals materializing from snow under a red moon.
When spring finally arrives, Porro and Perri fall in love with each other. Just as they are getting close to each other, a thunderstorm begins. Lightning from the storm creates a forest fire that quickly engulfs all of Wildwood Heart. Porro returns to his underground winter home to survive. Perri swims across the brook and to safety. As soon as the fire ends, Porro begins searching for Perri, while Perri searches for Porro. Meanwhile, the fire has caused a tree to fall over the brook, making a perfect bridge for the marten to cross. The marten nearly captures Perri, but Porro finds her just in time to save her by getting the marten to chase him instead. Ultimately, both the marten and Porro fall into the clutches of a wildcat. The marten is killed, but Porro survives. He and Perri then reunite, rejoicing that they can now be together with no fear of the marten.
Instead of the European forest in which Salten set his work, a nine-man camera crew led by Paul Kenworthy and Ralph Wright shot Perri in Utah's Uinta National Forest and Jackson Hole, Wyoming (for the winter sequences). Some 200,000 feet were shot during production; only 8,000 were used in the finished product.
True-Life regular Winston Hibler not only continued as the series' narrator, but for this film also served as a screenwriter, songwriter and producer.
Upon its release, Perri was generally well-received by critics and audiences. Along with all of the other True-Life Adventures, it premiered in December 2006 on Disney DVD as part of the Legacy Collection.
- Narrated by Winston Hibler
- Songs: George Bruns, Winston Hibler, Ralph Wright, Paul J. Smith, Hazel "Gil" George
- Song arrangements: Carl Brandt
- Orchestrations: Carl Brandt, Franklyn Marks