The Tale of Despereaux (film)

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The Tale of Despereaux
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay byGary Ross
Story by
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) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
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 Rob Stevenhagen (in his feature directorial debut) loosely based on the 2003 book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo. The film 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. The animation was provided by Framestore.

It was released in the United States on December 19, 2008, by Universal Pictures. The movie is the second theatrically-released computer-animated film distributed by Universal Pictures, following The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie. The film grossed $86.9 million on a $60 million budget and received mixed reviews, where many critics praised the film for its animation, voice acting, and the 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 encounters and converses with Pea. She makes him promise to finish reading the story about a trapped princess and 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 vows revenge. 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 (who had been punished again by the council by learning to be afraid and was lost somewhere in the process, believing we was dead by his people) 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 enlist his family, but they are afraid by his presence (thinking that he is a ghost); Despereaux rings the town's bell to prove his survival. Andre, hearing this and having had enough of the law and gets back to make some soup, which brings the enchanted smell back to the kingdom and brings back Boldo. Despereaux tries to get help from Andre and Boldo, but only convinces Boldo to accompany him into the dungeons. En route, they are discovered and attacked by rats; Boldo sacrifices himself to allow Desperaux to reach the arena.

Back in the rat colony, Roscuro sees the apologetic sincerity in Pea's eyes and regrets his actions, but an enraged Botticelli signals the rats to eat or trample over Pea. Despereaux lets loose a cat into the arena to scare some of the rats away, and fights the others off as sunlight flows into the rat world (caused by a chain reaction by the combined efforts by both Despereaux, Roscuro, Pea, and Mig; Boticelli, with another combined effort from Desperaux, Roscuro and Pea, is trapped in a cage with the cat.

In the aftermath, Roscuro apologies to Pea for causing her mother's death; Mig is reunited with her long-lost father Gregory, who recognizes the heart-shaped birthmark on the back of her neck, the king is able to overcome his grief and soup and rats are allowed back in the kingdom. The mice all then try to be braver like Despereaux, while 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.



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) 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 the film.[2] Mike Johnson was hired to repleace Chomet as director,[3] before the role eventually went to Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen.[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 developed by Brash Entertainment and published by Sensory Sweep Studios was released on December 2, 2008 for the PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS, and Microsoft Windows. An Xbox 360 version was originally announced, but it was cancelled.[citation needed] While the PlayStation 2, Wii, and Microsoft Windows versions were an action-adventure game, the Nintendo DS version was a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer.


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."[6] Metacritic, gave the film a 53/100 approval rating based on 25 reviews.[7]

Roger Ebert of 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 also wrote, "I am not quite so thrilled by the story".[8] Christy Lemire of Associated Press was more critical, writing that the film "feels obvious, preachy and heavy-handed."[9]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at the third position in the United States, behind Seven Pounds and Yes Man, with $10,507,000 in 3,104 theaters with an $3,385 average;[10] 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 Rob 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. ^ 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.
  3. ^
  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 Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  7. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  8. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  9. ^ "'Despereaux' feels like a 'Ratatouille' rip-off". 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  10. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 19–21, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-21.

External links[edit]