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[2]
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$60 million[2]
Box office$86.9 million[2]

The Tale of Despereaux is a 2008 British-American computer-animated adventure fantasy 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 generally mixed reviews: many critics praised the film for its animation, voice acting, and the title character, but complained that it had an unoriginal and scrambled story.


A sailor named 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. Roscuro sneaks into the royal banquet hall 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 and the guards pursue Roscuro. He attempts to flee the castle but sees Pietro's ship has already sailed away. He narrowly escapes being killed by falling down a sewer drain, which leads to the castle dungeons. There, he is found and taken in by Botticelli Remorso, the leader of the large rat population. Distraught over his wife's death, the King forbids all things related to soup and makes rats illegal. Without its soup, Dor becomes impoverished and dreary. Andre is banned from making 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 both her and the world out in his grief.

In a mouse village in an abandoned kitchen storage room, Despereaux is born into the Tilling family. As he grows up, it is clear he is not like other mice: he is not timid, but brave and curious, unnerving other mice around him. In an effort to teach him to be a "proper mouse", his brother Furlough takes him to the royal library to show him how to chew books, but Despereaux is more interested in reading them. He becomes fascinated by books about daring knights and trapped princesses. One day, he encounters and converses with Pea. He promises to finish 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 Lester and Antoinette turn him over to the mouse council to avoid being blamed.

The council banishes Despereaux to the dungeons, where he meets and tells the princess story to the jailor, Gregory, but he stops listening 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. Wishing to make amends for all the trouble he's caused, Roscuro sneaks into Pea's room and tries to apologize, only to be lashed out at and pursued by guards once again. Hurt by this, Roscuro vows revenge. He enlists the help of Miggery "Mig" Sow, 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 to the dungeons, Roscuro double-crosses her and locks her in a cell.

Meanwhile, Despereaux discovers the princess is in danger and he tries to tell the King but he is too despondent to hear him. Despereaux tries to get help elsewhere; he tries to enlist his family, but they are afraid by his presence (thinking he is a ghost); he rings the town's bell to prove his survival. Andre, having had enough of the law, gets back to making 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 Boldo agrees and takes him back to the dungeons. En route, they are attacked by rats; Boldo sacrifices himself to allow Desperaux to reach the arena.

In the arena, Roscuro sees the apologetic sincerity in Pea's eyes and regrets his actions, but an enraged Botticelli signals the rats to eat Pea. Despereaux lets loose the cat to chase some of the rats away, and fights the others off as sunlight flows into the rat town. Despereaux is captured by Boticelli, but Roscuro saves him by reflecting the light at Boticelli, sending him falling into the arena. With the combined effort from Desperaux, Roscuro and Pea, Boticelli is trapped in a cage with the cat and devoured.

In the aftermath, Roscuro apologises to Pea once again and she apologises too; Mig is reunited with Gregory, who has turned out to be her long-lost father, and they go back to their farm together; the King overcomes his grief and allows soup and rats back in the kingdom; the mice finally stop cowering (much to the mouse council's disdain); Roscuro returns to his life at sea with the light and gentle breeze, and Despereaux himself takes off on a journey to see the world.

Voice cast


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.[3] Mike Johnson was hired to replace Chomet as director,[4] 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.[5]

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

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.[6]

Video game

A video game based on the film developed by Sensory Sweep Studios and published by Brash Entertainment 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

Matthew Broderick was praised for his performance in the film
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."[7] Metacritic, gave the film a 53/100 approval rating based on 25 reviews.[8]

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".[9] Christy Lemire of Associated Press was more critical, writing that the film "feels obvious, preachy and heavy-handed."[10]

Box office

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;[11] 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, Sam Fell Nominated
Annie Awards 2009 Best Music in an Animated Feature Production William Ross 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. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux (2008)". BFI. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "The Tale of Despereaux (2008)". Box Office Mojo.
  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. ^
  5. ^ Dan Goldwasser (2008-12-15). "William Ross scores The Tale of Despereaux". Retrieved 2008-12-15.
  6. ^ The Tale of Despereaux - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information. The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  7. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  8. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  9. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  10. ^ "'Despereaux' feels like a 'Ratatouille' rip-off". 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  11. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 19–21, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-21.