The Tale of Despereaux
THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX [2008 / 2017] [Blu-ray] Small Mouse, Big Dreams! Small Hero, Big Heart! Enchanting, Heart-warming and Fun!
Once upon a time . . . In the far away Kingdom of Dor . . . lived a brave and virtuous mouse with comically oversized ears who dreamt of becoming a knight. Banished from his home for having such lofty ambitions, Despereaux sets off on an amazing adventure with his good-hearted rat friend Roscuro, who leads him on a very noble quest to rescue an endangered princess and save an entire kingdom from darkness. Based on the heart-warming bestselling book and featuring the voice talents of an all-star cast, ‘THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX’ is a magical, modern fairy-tale that's destined to win the hearts of young and old alike. Narrated by Sigourney Weaver.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 2008 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Best Animated Feature. 2009 Annie Awards: Nominated: Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production for Robert Stevenhagen and Sam Fell. Nominated: Best Music in an Animated Feature Production for William Ross. Nominated: Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production for Evgeni Tomov. Nominated: Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production for Robert Stevenhagen. 2009 Casting Society of America: Nominated: Outstanding Achievement in Casting for an Animation Feature for Debra Zane. 2008 Motion Picture Sound Editors: Nominated: Golden Reel Award: Best Sound Editing in Sound Effects, Foley, Music, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film for Anna MacKenzie (ADR editor), Diane Marshall (Foley artist), Chris Jargo (supervising dialogue/ADR editor), James Moriana (Foley artist), Jeffrey Wilhoit (Foley artist), Jon Title (sound designer), Lon Bender (supervising sound editor), Michael Hertlein (dialogue/ADR editor), Michelle Pazer (ADR editor), Nancy MacLeod (supervising Foley editor), Paul Aulicino (sound effects editor) and Peter Myles (music editor). 2008 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards: Win: The Visitor, Step Brothers and Burn After Reading for Richard Jenkins. 2008 Satellite Awards: Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media.
Voice Cast: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Ciarán Hinds, Robbie Coltrane, Tony Hale, Frances Conroy, Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Shaughnessy, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Cullen, Sam Fell, Jane Karen, Bronson Pinchot, McNally Sagal, Gary Dunn, Georgie Kidder, Belinda Peregrin Schull (uncredited), Robin Atkin Downes (uncredited) and Daniel Riordan (uncredited)
Directors: Robert Stevenhagen and Sam Fell
Producers: Allison Thomas, Casey Crowe, Celia Boydell, David Lipman, Gary Ross, Jamal McLemore, Peiyu H. Foley, Robin Bissell, Ryan Kavanaugh, Tracy Shaw and William Sargent
Screenplay: Chris Viscardi (screen story), Gary Ross (writer), Will McRobb (screen story) and Kate DiCamillo (book)
Composer: William Ross
Cinematography: Brad Blackbourn (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [Anamorphic]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 93 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Animation Studios / Mediumrare Entertainment / Freemantle Media International
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX’  is based on the award-winning book by Kate DiCamillo, and featuring an all-star voice cast including Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, William H. Macy, Tracey Ullman, Robbie Coltrane, and Ciaran Hinds. The screenplay adaptation was penned by director Gary Ross and other luminaries as stated above.
The story is set in the Kingdom of Dor, which has fallen into perpetual sadness and darkness after its queen dies as a result of a freak accident caused by a rat in her soup. Banished from the surface world, rats have retreated deep underground and grown vicious and resentful. The mice in "Mouseworld," are much more well-adjusted and very cuddly. Enter young Despereaux Tilling [Matthew Broderick], who befriends the lonely human Princess Pea [Emma Watson] and Despereaux Tilling becomes very enamoured with her and with tales of chivalry and brave knights.
Despereaux Tilling envisioning himself as a likewise honourable and courageous knight, Despereaux Tilling sets out to rescue the Princess Pea and save the kingdom from the grief that has gripped it for years. Along the way, he encounters Roscuro [Dustin Hoffman], a banished rat who wants to make amends with Princess Pea . . . until she rejects him. In the rats world it is dominated by the sinister Botticelli [Ciarán Hinds], who enjoys staging gladiatorial arena matches between doomed mice and a giant cat.
Princess Pea finds herself becoming Botticelli's prisoner due to the actions of her troubled and homely servant girl Miggery Sow [Tracy Ullman]. If Despereaux Tilling can save the Princess Pea, he might also just restore hope and light to Kingdom of Dor and prove that even the least among us deserve a chance. Oh, did I mention that soup is a major part of the story?
Rarely does an animated film follow traditional fairy-tale conventions without attempting to include as many popular culture references as possible. ‘THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX’ is one of a kind, because it is a really beautiful animated film, and there is even animation-within-the-animation, and an epic that will delight children, their parents, and anyone who loves a good animated film alike. There is adventure and fantasy, especially Boldo, a creature made out of produce and voiced by Stanley Tucci, is one of the most amusing, imaginative screen characters in fairy-tale lore, but also the entire Mig subplot is especially poignant and a good lesson for children to learn, the only thing that might upset children is that the animated film raises an interesting question: Why are rats, the bringers of the Black Plague and one of the most detested urban pests, suddenly so popular as the heroes of animated films? Then again, the cuddly denizens of ‘Flushed Away,’ ‘Ratatouille,’ and ‘THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX’ do not resemble their real-life counterparts, which parents should explain in the best way to their children. But if children thinks this what happens in those particular animal kingdom, children might not be so charmed by their antics in the animated arena. Again the result is exactly the kind of animated film the entire family should treasure, and will be especially enamoured and charmed for younger viewers, and especially the happy ever after end of the animated film and I suspect it will get repeat viewing many times, but what a shame it was not produced in 3D. But despite this, if you want to give children a magical experience of wonderful a fairy tale, then you will not go wrong with this excellent Blu-ray disc, and once children are hooked, I suspect they will beg their Parents to do lots of repeat performances.
Blu-ray Image Quality – Universal Animation Studios and Mediumrare Entertainment bring you this wonderful magic animation in stunning 1080p image presentation. The wonderful colours are captured well, from the bright blue skies and blue-green ocean waves of the introduction to the more muted tones of the castle and village to the vivid browns and golds of “Mouseworld” and the dark yet garish reds and blacks of “Ratworld.” In the bonus features we learn that the film-makers were trying to capture specific painterly styles, from the Vermeer-like Castle setting, to the Hieronymous Bosch-influenced “Ratworld,” and the video transfer does this justice with nary a compression artefact in sight, and the good colour saturation is very good detail overall. This Blu-ray presentation completely blows away the standard-definition inferior DVD. Compression artefacts and minor image flaws are nowhere to be seen, providing fans of this animated film with a totally sharp, and brilliant detailed of all the characters in this glorious magical animated film. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Universal Animation Studios and Mediumrare Entertainment presents us with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio experience and captures the energetic film music score by composer William Ross well. Use of the surrounds is fairly subtle: a "Land Ho" from the rear right channel as a ship approaches the Kingdom of Dor, the rattles and clanks of armour and weapons all around us as one of our brave rodents escapes the King's soldiers, and some water drips and other ambient sounds to establish the dreary dankness of “Ratworld” are a few places where the surround channels are put to very good use, but when there are no surround sounds I had to crank the sound up quite a lot, because at the normal setting I have it was very quiet when the characters talk. The dialogue is very clean via the centre speaker, but a bit too pristine at times, sounding artificial. Surround elements is sparse, but well balanced, evenly mixed with the animated film's robust film music score. The bass is rich and lively, but not quite as enveloping, particularly during some of the animated film's more intense action sequences. All in all, this is a fine surround mix, and is always clear and intelligible which helps us to follow the animated characters sometimes complex motivations.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Deleted Songs  [1080p] [1.78:1] [4:36] Here we get to view two deleted songs, which you view black-and-white storyboard drawings that have been animated and they are as follows: “It's Great To Be A Rat” and “Soup, Soup,” and it would have been interesting to see how it would have actually looked if they had been included in the finished animated film.
Special Feature: Making of ‘THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX’  [1080p] [1.78:1] [11:41] Here we go behind-the-scenes of the animated film with the cast and crew, especially seeing the voice cast in the recording session and are allowed to act out the scene they are putting their voices to, and also see the process involved in making this particular animated film. We also get to view some nice clips from the animated film and some very nice colourful illustrations. Contributors include: Hate DiCamillo [Author], Gary Ross [Screenwriter/Producer], Allison Thomas [Producer], Sam Fell [Co-Director], Robert Stevenhagen [Co-Direstor], Stanley Tucci [Boldo], Emma Watson [Princess Pea], Matthew Broderick [Despereaux], Kevin Kline [Andrew], Gabriele Zucchelli [Supervising Animator], Brad Blackbourn [Director of Photography], Evgeni Tomov [Production Designer], Jason Horley [Lead Digital Matte Painter] and Ryan Michero [Head of Lighting]. It is something that fans of this animated film should definitely check out.
Special Feature: Scene Progressions  [1080p] [1.78:1] [35:08] Here we get to view six different scenes from the animated film and we also get to view how it progressed into the five different stages of evolution, until the finished animated film via the following: SCRIPT; STORYBOARD; LAYOUT, ANIMATION and FINAL LIGHTING and as we view each stages we get to hear the actual narration that is said in the film by Sigourney Weaver. With each six scene progression that are included, will only really be enjoyed by really die-hard fans interested in how it looks at each stage of production, and if you are not a fan of this process, by the time you get to the sixth Scene Progression, you might get very bored.
Special Feature: Top Ten Uses For Oversized Ears Featurette  [1080p] [1.78:1] [1:20] Here is an extra bonus for young children, especially if they are getting bullied for being different, and informs them of the benefits of oversized ears, and especially with wonderful colourful illustrations, starting at number 10:
10. FLIGHT: Handy for those unexpected drops.
09. BALANCE: Perfect for nay tightrope walking.
08. ENHANCED HEARING: To gain advantage when on a noble quest.
07. MAGIC TRICKS: Ever seen the old coin-behind-the-ear trick?
06: WIGGLING: Kids just love that.
05: PROTECTION: To help cushion your fall.
04. SHIELD: Handy in the event of unwieldy flying vegetables.
03. FANNING: To cool down after a perilous escapade.
02. SPEED: The airlift makes running feel light on your toes.
01. DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: They make you unique and that gives you confidence.
Finally, I suspect it is something older viewers will only feel it is only worth viewing once, but I suspect younger audiences will want a repeat viewing.
Finally, writer-producer Gary Ross has crafted an impressive screenplay that is ambitious without being condescending or predictable. Kate DiCamillo's fans should forgive Gary Ross and others for changing details to suit this animated film. If anything, the animated film should attract more readers ready to follow the more in-depth chronicle of Despereaux Tilling, Princess Pea, Mig, and the other magical characters that are introduced to in this very memorable and magical animated film. ‘THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX’ is definitely a mixed bag, but is ultimately in my opinion very well done. The animated film is much more intended for family viewing with younger children; especially in the way the story is unfolds, as well as presented and it also includes plenty of humour for all ages to really enjoy. As a mainly children's animated film, it definitely provides a very good message, and shows you can have a very good time. Children will love all the characters, but especially Despereaux Tilling himself the mouse who is very lovable, very entertaining and especially as it has a fantastic and brilliant voice cast that gives the animated film that added bonus as well. The Blu-ray release is really fantastic and very colourful, and featuring also a great image and audio presentation for this animated film, while adding quite a few interesting Blu-ray special features. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso