The Tale of Despereaux (film)

The Tale of Despereaux

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sam Fell
Robert Stevenhagen
Produced by Gary Ross
Allison Thomas
Screenplay by Gary Ross
Story by Will McRobb
Chris Viscardi
Based on The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo
Starring Matthew Broderick
Robbie Coltrane
Dustin Hoffman
Richard Jenkins
Kevin Kline
Frank Langella
William H. Macy
Emma Watson
Tracey Ullman
Narrated by Sigourney Weaver
Music by William Ross
Cinematography Brad Blackbourn
Edited by Mark Solomon
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
December 19, 2008 (2008-12-19)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States[1]
Language English
Budget $60 million[2]
Box office $86.9 million[2]

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 fantasy book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, the movie is narrated by Sigourney Weaver and stars Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Dustin Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Kevin Kline, Frank Langella, William H. Macy, Emma Watson and Tracey Ullman. It was released on December 19, 2008 by Universal Pictures. The movie is the second theatrically released computer-animated film distributed by Universal Studios. It was also produced by Universal Animation Studios, Framestore Feature Animation and Relativity Media. The film received mixed reviews from critics and it earned $86,947,965 on a $60 million budget.


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, Andre, makes good soup due to Boldo, a magical genie that emerges from his pot and is made entirely out of food. Enchanted by the smell of the delicious soup, Roscuro slips away and ends up in the royal banquet hall, on a chandelier above the royal family's table. 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, and narrowly escapes capture by falling down a sewer drain. It 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 soup related 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 the entire world out, even her, 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 obvious Despereaux's not like other mice: he isn't meek and timid, but brave and curious, unnerving his family, friends, and school teachers. 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 becomes fascinated by fairytale books about daring knights and trapped princesses. One day while reading, he comes across Princess Pea and the two speak. She makes him promise to finish reading the story about the 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. There he is captured by the rats and thrown into their arena with a cat. As he's about to be eaten, Roscuro saves his life by requesting Botticelli 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, but she's frightened by him and lashes out. Hurt by this, Roscuro decides he wants Pea to hurt just as much as he does. He enlists the help of Miggery Sow, Princess Pea's slightly deaf young maid who longs to be a princess herself and despises Pea for what she perceives to be ingratitude of her position, 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 realizes that the princess is in danger. 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. Roscoro figures out that Botticelli is a double-crossing traitor and that Pea is doomed. However, Despereaux lets loose a cat, and the rats run away before the cat goes back into its cage. Roscuro then forces Botticelli into the cage, where he is eaten by the cat.

Mig is later reunited with her father, who recognizes the birthmark on her neck. It finally rains 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 was 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.


The Tale of Despereaux: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by William Ross
Released December 16, 2008
Length 58:51
Label Intrada 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" (written by Glen Ballard, Gary Ross, and Dave Stewart)Glen Ballard, Gary Ross, and Dave Stewart1:43
2."It's Great to Be a Rat" (written by Glen Ballard, Gary Ross, and Dave Stewart)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


Theatrical release

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

Home video release

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 7, 2009. The 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]


Critical response

Matthew Broderick was praised for his performance in the film.

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 56% of critics gave positive reviews based on 107 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Despite its striking visuals, The Tale of Despereaux as a story feels familiar and unimaginative."[6] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a 53/100 approval rating based on 25 reviews.[7] Many critics praised the film for its excellent animation and the charming title character, but complained that it had an unoriginal and scrambled story. 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".[8] Christy Lemire of the Associated Press was more critical, writing that the film "feels obvious, preachy and heavy-handed."[9]

Box office

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;[10] on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the film was in second. The film closed in March 2009 after grossing $50 million domestically, which was lower than its $60 million budget. The film grossed an additional $37 million overseas for a total of $87 million, making it a modest success.


Annie Awards 2009
Award Category Nominee Result
Annie Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production, Best Music in an Animated Feature Production, Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production and Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Robert Stevenhagen, Sam Fell, William Ross and Evgeni Tomov Nominated
Casting Society of America, USA 2009
Award Category Nominee Result
Artios Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Animation Feature Debra Zane Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 2008
Award Category Result
CFCA Award Best Animated Feature Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA 2009
Award Category Nominee Result
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) Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 2008
Award Nominee Result
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
Award Category Result
Satellite Award Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated


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