The Tale of Despereaux (film)

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The Tale of Despereaux
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Fell
Robert Stevenhagen
Produced byGary Ross
Allison Thomas
Screenplay byGary Ross
Story byWill McRobb
Chris Viscardi
Based onThe Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo
Narrated bySigourney Weaver
Music byWilliam Ross
CinematographyBrad Blackbourn
Edited byMark Solomon
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 19, 2008 (2008-12-19)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States[2]
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$86.9 million[1]

The Tale of Despereaux is a 2008 British-American computer-animated adventure fantasy family film directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen and produced by Gary Ross and Allison Thomas. Loosely based on the 2003 book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, the movie is narrated by Sigourney Weaver and stars Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Frances Conroy, Tony Hale, Ciarán Hinds, Dustin Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Kevin Kline, Frank Langella, William H. Macy, Charles Shaughnessy, Stanley Tucci, Tracey Ullman, and Emma Watson.

It was released on December 19, 2008, by Universal Pictures. The movie is the second theatrically released computer-animated film distributed by Universal Pictures. It was also produced by Universal Animation Studios, Framestore Feature Animation, and Relativity Media. The film grossed $86.9 million on a $60 million budget and received mixed reviews, where many critics praised the film for its excellent animation and the charming title character, but complained that it had an unoriginal and scrambled story.


The sailor Pietro and his rat companion Roscuro dock in the kingdom of Dor, famous around the world for its delicious soups, during the "Royal Soup Day." The chief cook, Chef Andre, makes good soup due to Boldo, a magical genie that emerges from his pot and is made entirely out of food. On a banquet, when Roscuro slips away and ends up in the royal banquet hall, he slips and falls into the Queen's soup, giving her such a fright that she has a heart attack and dies. The entire hall goes into a panic, as the guards pursue Roscuro. He attempts to flee the castle but sees Pietro's ship has already sailed away. He narrowly escapes capture by falling down a sewer drain, which leads to the castle dungeons, where he's found and taken in by Botticelli, the leader of the dungeon's large rat population. Distraught over his wife's death, the king forbids any and all things related to soup and makes rats illegal. Without its soup, Dor becomes impoverished and dreary. Andre is banned from making any more soup and Boldo stops appearing. The king's daughter, Princess Pea, despairs over the sad state of the kingdom and how her father has shut out both her and the world in his grief.

In a mouse village in the castle's abandoned kitchen storage room, a baby is born to the Tilling family. They name him Despereaux. As he grows up, it becomes clear Despereaux's not like other mice: he isn't meek and timid, but brave and curious, unnerving other mice around him. In an effort to teach him to behave like a proper mouse, his brother Furlough takes him to the castle library to show him how to chew books, but Despereaux is more interested in reading than eating them. He starts to become fascinated by fairytale books about daring knights and trapped princesses. One day while reading, he comes across Pea, and the two speak. She makes him promise to finish reading the story about a trapped princess so he may tell her how it ends. Upon discovering Despereaux has violated mouse law by talking to a human, his parents turn him in to the mouse council.

The council banishes Despereaux to the dungeons, where he meets and tells the princess' story to the castle jailor, Gregory, but he doesn't listen and leaves Despereaux alone. There, he is captured by the rats and thrown into their arena with a cat. As Despereaux is about to be eaten, Roscuro saves his life by asking Botticelli to give Despereaux to him to eat. Having been unable to adjust to being a sewer rat, Roscuro is desperate to hear about the outside world. The two become friends, as every day Despereaux tells him the stories and of the princess and her sadness. Hoping to make amends for all the trouble he's caused, Roscuro sneaks up to Princess Pea's room and tries to apologize, only to be lashed out. Hurt by this, Roscuro decides he wants to hurt Pea. He enlists the help of Miggery "Mig" Sow, Princess Pea's slightly deaf young maid who longs to be a princess herself, by convincing her she can take Pea's place if she kidnaps her. After Mig drags Pea down to the dungeons, Roscuro double-crosses her and locks her in a cell.

Meanwhile, Despereaux returns to his family home, only to be punished by the mouse council again by learning to be afraid by the threadmaster, Hovis. As a result, he gets lost in a cave, and is thought by the mice to be dead. He then discovers that the princess is in danger; he tries to tell the king but he is too despondent to listen. Despereaux tries to get help elsewhere; he tries to tell his people to help, but they are afraid by his presence (thinking that he is a ghost). So Despereaux decides to ring the town's bell to prove to his people that he is still alive. A sleeping Andre hears the bell and dreams of his days before soups were illegal. After dreaming, Andre decides that he has had enough of this law and gets back to make some soup, which brings the enchanted smell back to the kingdom and brings back Boldo.

Back in the rat colony, Roscuro sees the apologetic sincerity in Pea's eyes and regrets his actions, but is unable to stop the rats, to whom he has given her, from clambering over her. Roscuro tries to tell the rats that Pea is not bad, but Botticelli does not let him because he wants Pea dead, even going as far as allowing the rats to eat or trample over Pea. Back at the castle, Despereaux tries to get help from Andre and Boldo, but Andre doesn't listen. Boldo does, however, and turns himself into a knight. Roscoro realizes that Botticelli is a double-crossing traitor and that Pea is doomed. He refuses to allow the rats to hurt Pea, and a battle ensues. Boldo sacrifices himself, and Despereaux arrives and lets loose a cat into the arena, which brings sunshine to the rat world, and the rats run away. As the cat returns to its cage, Roscuro then forces Botticelli into it, where the rat leader is then eaten by the cat.

Mig is later reunited with her long-lost father Gregory, who recognizes the heart-shaped birthmark on the back of her neck. It finally stops raining and the sun shines after soup is made for the first time in years. The mice all then try to be braver like Despereaux. The king is able to overcome his grief and soup and rats are allowed back in the kingdom. Roscuro returns to a life at sea, where there is always light and a gentle breeze, and Despereaux himself takes off on a journey to see the world as the film ends.



The film's production was marred by disagreements and malpractice, or accusations thereof, between the French, British and North American staff involved. Sylvain Chomet was employed by Gary Ross and Allison Thomas as director early on, before the film was approved for funding by Universal Pictures, with pre-production (including character design, the first drafts of the screenplay written by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and the addition of the original character of Boldo the soup spirit) taking place at his studio Django Films in Edinburgh. Chomet came up against creative and ethical differences with the producers and was eventually fired from the project and thrown out of the studio space allocated to Despereaux.[3] Mike Johnson was also hired as director before the role eventually went to Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen, who, reportedly, had not read the original novel and directed the film, made at Framestore in London, via speakerphone and e-mail.[citation needed]


The Tale of Despereaux: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedDecember 16, 2008
LabelIntrada Records

The score to The Tale of Despereaux was composed by William Ross, who recorded his score with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage.[4]

1."Soup"Glen Ballard, Gary Ross, and Dave Stewart1:43
2."It's Great to Be a Rat"Glen Ballard, Gary Ross, and Dave Stewart1:23
3."Main Title / Prologue"William Ross2:38
4."The Village of Dor"William Ross2:17
5."Andre & Boldo"William Ross1:27
6."The Soup Is Served"William Ross1:11
7."Roscuro's Fall"William Ross2:42
8."A King's Sadness"William Ross2:00
9."Mouse World / A Mouse Is Born"William Ross3:11
10."Lonely Roscuro"William Ross1:15
11."The Royal Library"William Ross1:30
12."Once Upon a Time"William Ross2:30
13."I Am a Gentleman / Mig's Story"William Ross3:39
14."Banishment"William Ross3:08
15."In the Dungeon"William Ross1:02
16."Cat and Mouse"William Ross2:03
17."Roscuro and Despereaux"William Ross2:11
18."Mig Steals the Crown"William Ross1:20
19."Roscuro's Apology"William Ross3:45
20."Gregory Gives Mig Away"William Ross1:02
21."The Quest"William Ross3:56
22."Despereaux Is Back"William Ross3:15
23."Boldo and Despereauz Charge!"William Ross1:39
24."A Change of Heart"William Ross2:14
25."Rescuing the Princess"William Ross3:07
26."Epilogue"William Ross2:43


The Tale of Despereaux was theatrically released on December 19, 2008, by Universal Pictures.

Home video release[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 7, 2009. One Blu-ray release also includes a standard-definition DVD of the film in addition to the Blu-ray Disc. The film brought in a revenue of $25,531,805 in the US DVD sales market.[5]

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film was released on December 2, 2008 for the PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS, and Microsoft Windows. All of those versions were developed by Brash Entertainment. An Xbox 360 version was originally announced, but it was cancelled.[citation needed] The few critics that reviewed the game have agreed that the Nintendo DS version, a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer, is superior to the three other versions,[6][7] which were otherwise panned.[8]


Critical response[edit]

Matthew Broderick was praised for his performance in the film

Rotten Tomatoes reported that 57% of critics gave positive reviews based on 109 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The website's consensus reads, "Despite its striking visuals, The Tale of Despereaux as a story feels familiar and unimaginative."[9] Metacritic, gave the film a 53/100 approval rating based on 25 reviews.[10]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded three stars and wrote in his review that "The Tale of Despereaux is one of the most beautifully drawn animated films I've seen", but he also wrote, "I am not quite so thrilled by the story".[11] Christy Lemire of the Associated Press was more critical, writing that the film "feels obvious, preachy and heavy-handed."[12]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at the third position behind Seven Pounds and Yes Man with $10,507,000 in 3,104 theaters with an $3,385 average;[13] on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the film was in second. The film closed in March 2009 after grossing $50 million domestically. The film grossed an additional $37 million overseas for a total of $87 million.


Award Category Nominee Result
Annie Awards 2009 Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production Robert Stevenhagen Nominated
Annie Awards 2009 Best Music in an Animated Feature Production Sam Fell Nominated
Annie Awards 2009 Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production William Ross Nominated
Annie Awards 2009 Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Evgeni Tomov Nominated
Casting Society of America, USA 2009 Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Animation Feature Debra Zane Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 2008 CFCA Award Best Animated Feature Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA 2009, Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects, Foley, Music, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film Lon Bender (supervising sound editor),
Chris Jargo (supervising dialogue/ADR editor),
Nancy MacLeod (supervising foley editor),
Jon Title (sound designer),
Peter Myles (music editor),
Michael Hertlein (dialogue/ADR editor),
Anna MacKenzie (ADR editor),
Michelle Pazer (ADR editor),
Paul Aulicino (sound effects editor),
James Moriana (foley artist),
Jeffrey Wilhoit (foley artist) and Diane Marshall (foley artist)
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 2008 Special Award Richard Jenkins For The Visitor, Step Brothers and Burn After Reading For the body of work in the last year. Won
Satellite Awards 2008 Special Award Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated


  1. ^ a b c "The Tale of Despereaux (2008)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ "Detail view of Movies Page".
  3. ^ Cieply, Michael; Charles Solomon (2008-09-27). "Name game: A tale of acknowledgment for Despereaux". The New York Times. pp. B7. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  4. ^ Dan Goldwasser (2008-12-15). "William Ross scores The Tale of Despereaux". Retrieved 2008-12-15.
  5. ^ The Tale of Despereaux - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information. The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  6. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux (Nintendo DS)". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  7. ^ Thornton, Aaron (15 December 2008). "The Tale of Despereaux review (Nintendo DS)". IGN. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  8. ^ Clements, Ryan (23 December 2008). "The Tale of Despereaux Review (Wii and PS2)". IGN. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  9. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  10. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  11. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  12. ^ "'Despereaux' feels like a 'Ratatouille' rip-off". 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  13. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 19–21, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-21.

External links[edit]