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CGIFeature Film

The Tale of Despereaux Trailer


Here is the trailer for Universal’s CG adaptation of the children’s book The Tales of Despereaux. Sam Fell (Flushed Away) is directing, but the production has had a troubled history with earlier directors including Sylvain Chomet (Triplets of Belleville) and Mike Johnson (The Corpse Bride). Chomet told an interviewer about his decision to leave the film: “As the budget got bigger, the studio wanted a less dark, more commercial story and it wasn’t what I wanted to make.” Chomet’s wife and business partner, Sally, added, “We had barely finished a character sketch and its potential as a plastic toy was being assessed.”

(Thanks, Jakob for trailer link)

  • iluvhatemail

    I have no doubt Universal has turned this from something decent to something boring. Why does a young mouse have such an old voice?

  • Sean Johnson

    Well, as long as there’s no singing and dancing, I’d go see it.

  • When I arrived in London in mid 2006 practically every single person I met was working, or had worked on this film in some capacity.

    Occasionally several times.

    The character design is yucky.

  • Killroy McFate

    I hope there’s breakdancing. And kung-fu.

  • Robin

    I think this film is looking great! It’s kinda bad timing with the recent Ratatouille release though.

    Speaking of Pixar, has anyone heard of the union talks going on there. I heard they my be organizing? is this true?

  • Oh. This is absolutely terrible.

    I’ve read the book. Shoot, I read it to my daughter when she was 3! (She was maybe the only 3-year-old I’d ever consider reading it to, though.)

    This trailer doesn’t fit The Tale of Despereaux at all. The story really is dark (in a creepy, Dark Crystal sort of way). The lead character is basically sentenced to near-certain death (eaten alive by rats in a dungeon) by his own father; the princess and king are trying to cope with the queen’s recent death; there’s the conflicted rat named Roscuro who plays Yang to Des’ Yin (living in the darkness, but feeling a yearning for the light); and then there’s the abused, neglected, unloved girl Miggery Sow… perhaps the most tragic character in the entire book.

    This? :shudder: This trailer makes it look like nothing but a lame Ratatouille ripoff. I truly hope it only speaks for the first 10-15 minutes of the film. Because otherwise, I’m going to have to try and explain to my (now) 5-year-old daughter why some people would use Despereaux’s name on a story that clearly wasn’t his. =/

  • gregm

    quickly turned off by some of the voice work.

    some good people worked on this film. I hope that they were allowed to bring their talent onto the screen.

  • Bob

    So based on the trailer, I get the sense that this movie is about a mentally disabled mouse… right?

    looks pretty bad

  • Gobo

    Travis: I was thinking the same thing until the last 30 seconds or so, where suddenly you see the dungeon, Rocsuro, and Miggery Sow in quick succession. So I’m hoping that they just chose to give the movie a wacky kids-movie tone for a trailer and didn’t carry that through the whole film.

  • Carlos

    A little bit Stuart Little, a little bit Ratatouille with a dash of Flushed Away. Hm. At least it has a more distinct look than the assembly line cg characters most studios use.

  • gordon schmoo

    I agree with Travis. The book is beautiful in its darkness. I read it to my kids when they were 5 and 7 and they loved it this way. This trailer is not the Despereaux I want to see. The Designs are awful and the acting is boring and typical. This trailer shows why animation can one of the best movie experiences (WALE-E) or it can be one of the worst….(Despereaux, Valiant, …… fill in blank)

    Where is the sincerity?

  • Disney Clone

    I happened to work on this project and have seen it take shape. Let me tell you it was and still is a disaster. If I ever teach animation at a school or someone ask me an opinion about this very project? My answer is and will be that TofD is an example of how not to make a film/project. The amount of money, creative energy spent, and people power wasted on this poor looking thing could pull some countries out of national debt.

    Did I mention it was directed via speaker phone and email. Sad but true! Dont waste your money on the admission, read the book instead. The director/s didn’t!! Dont be fooled by all the cute looking 3D puppets moving around. Little substance behind. They are lucky this thing is getting made at all. Lucky M.J. and S.C. abandoned the ship. Too many rats as it was! I am not bitter just telling it how it was/is! Call me a realist.

  • Fred Cline

    The lighting has a very rich look to it. It is great to see the textures fall into so much darkness which doesn’t often happen in CG films. Can’t gather much about the quality of the story from this trailer, though. I hope it’s good and that it does well.

  • Celia

    The look of the film is charming: good color, and a non pixar style. However, it doesn’t appear the animators really push the expressions in these characters. Perhaps they aren’t going for a cartoony approach. Still, I can tell from the trailer that the book is probably much better!

  • marcd

    Disney Clone – Sorry to hear that.

  • rachel

    I agree with Fred Cline–the lighting & textures look amazing. I kind of hate the character design though. I loved this book, and it sounds like the script has too much modern humor/banter to stay true to this wonderful story.

  • Dave (Odd)

    I too think they deserve credit for the “look”, which seems mainly due to good lighting direction. And I really loved how the old man’s fingers were animated. Very subtle, not just a bunch of predictable zoweezowee wow movements that seem pre-programmed. Subtlety and nuance don’t seem to get appreciated. Not sure why that is.

  • Dan

    I think it looks richer than Bolt. But, I agree that the voice on the main guy doesn’t seem right, and the lip sync isn’t that great. It’s too bad they strayed away from a more interesting conception. I loved the Corpse Bride and Triplets-I can’t say that about Flushed Away. I’m sure they would have made this one way more interesting. But, I’d go see it.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Looks good but…
    why an adult voice on a child mouse?

  • This certainly looks interesting. The animation’s pretty much bogus, as are the voice actors, but the character design is interesting and somewhat fresh.

    The rigs look awful though.

  • Er…does anyone else besides me think this should have been done in 2-D or a combination of live-action and CG?

    The tone of the book is so dark and delicate…ugh, why do film adaptions of even the most gentle children’s books always have to be so…brash and garrish? Sheesh.

  • Mark Morgan

    Mixed feelings on this one. The story of a misfit going on an adventure is hardly groundbreaking for animation. Happy Feet and Bee Movie both mined that material recently, but then so did Ratatouille and we all know how that turned out. I think how you tell a story is as important if not more as what the story is about.

    Bottom Line it looks much more appealing than Bolt and if it isn’t as dark as the book, it is still the darkest looking non adult cartoon I’ve seen in a while.

    The voice for the main character is a little old, but then I rarely go to movies for celebrity voices and it could be worse. Now if they were casting some professional voice over people in the main roles, I’d be there in heart beat. The biggest thrill I got out of Mulan was hearing June Foray as the grandmother. Of course I’ve heard her a hundred times before, but who cares! It was June freaking Foray! I am such a voice actor nut it’s not even funny!

    All in all, I will go see this as long as there’s nothing better on, and I can’t say that about every animated feature these days. Still haven’t seen Surf’s Up.

  • Dan

    You’re missing out Mark. Go and see Surfs Up.

  • Yeah, the book is full of subtext, analogy and hidden meanings that look totally lost in this watered-down version of the story.
    (The character mentioned earlier, Roscuro, is short for Chiaroscuro – the Renaissance painting technique of using light against dark to create depth. Very symbolic of the dichotomy in his character.)
    I just hope Kate DiCamillo isn’t too ashamed of what they have done to her beautiful story. She should have negotiated script approval.
    The art direction may look great, but let’s face it, great art direction doesn’t sell tickets. If a story is boring and/or shallow, great set design and lighting won’t save it.

  • Mongoose Jnr. III

    Wow what a rich vein of pure bitterness!! Sure – this production did have a bumpy start with two directors leaving etc. but that happens on a lot of films. Also with a completely new studio undertaking a job of this size there are bound to be some teething problems.

    As for the story – call me old-fashioned but maybe it’s a good idea to actually watch the movie before completely dissing it? There is some really cool stuff coming in the film and it’s a lot darker than the trailer. The acting is subtle and the sentiment behind this story is a lot more more interesting than most animated films out there at the moment.

    I don’t actually think that this film is being made just for animators – it’s for kids and I think kids will love it.

    Now – animators – go buy a new plastic toy to cheer yourself up, wear a new hawaii-shirt, and then try to cast your mind back to why you got into animation to begin with and see if you can work up some enthusiasm for something that:

    A: Was made post-1956, and
    B: Isn’t Pixar (is that blasphemous? Will I die now? Oh golly)

  • John

    Hmm – I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what the Chomets say… He was twice reprimanded by Universal for misapporopration of funds – he was spending the Desperaux budget on his own 2D film L’Illusioniste – before Universal had enough and booted him off the project. Naturally he’s going to be spinning a different story about WHY he wanted to leave the project – never mind the fact he was fired from it.

    I know people working on this right now and I agree with Mongoose Jnr. III saying watch the bloody thing before you say whether its any good or not! The people who are working on this are very very talented and who knows how its going to turn out?! Cartoon Brew – the home of Cynicism and Contempt.

  • Given that it would cost me something in the neighborhood of $25 (before popcorn and soda) to take my family to see a film in the theater, I just plain can’t afford to “actually watch the movie before completely dissing it.”

    If the film ends up AT ALL like the book, then I’d say this trailer is grounds for fraudulent advertising.

    And yes, I’ll admit I sound bitter right now. Everything that makes the book stand out among its peers seems to have been ripped completely from the film. Right now they’ve got their work cut out for ’em… just to convince me to get the thing at Redbox.

  • Charles Doan

    I have to agree with everyone about the voice. Why they chose Matthew Broderick for the main role is beyond me. Besides that I’ll still go watch it.

  • red pill junkie

    Hmm… maybe they decided to use a grown-up voice because it was perceived that using a child voice for a character that undergoes all sort of dark adventures might seem too… brutal; although from the comments above that seems to be exactly the secret behind the success of this book. That was the same reasoning for the character design of TLOTR—some purists complaned that in the book, Tolkien’s hobbits are more childlike—but fortunately Jackson’s formula worked.

    All in all, it doesn’t seem like a bad movie, although I fear some folks might think “what? ANOTHER mouse/rat movie??!” and skip this one until it goes out as a DVD.



    From the trailer… I love what I see…. I like the storybook illustration quality of the design… And, no I did not work on this film. I will see this film. Might buy it.

    Shout out to all the Neeeeeeh sayers…

  • Danel

    I have three main problems with the review and quite a few of the postings:
    1. Everyone talks about how the story is ‘butchered’ without having seen the movie (which is apparently still in production…).
    2. People have hard time opening their minds and departing from the visual images they have created in their heads after reading the book (most often influenced by the illustrations, which in this case were quite weak). This is a very common problem, though: being disappointed that our ‘boxed’ thinking is challenged!
    3. For the reviewer and Ppople accepting speculations that Sylvain Chomet ‘left’ the movie: in fact, he was sacked and this was NOT his decision to leave! Universal spared him the embarrassment and did not publisize this fact. What he does now is a ‘sour grapes’ talk!

    The look, as much as you can tell form a trailer, is different and richer than most of the CG I have seen. I don’t think this is bad at all and would congratulate the artists!
    To Disney Clone I would say: apparently you had a bitter experience, but there are rarely animation productions that are not plagued by disastrous management and stupid producers’ decisions. You should not dismiss a film because of this: the result can be still impressive because of the creative talents that worked on it!
    I totally agree with one thing that will haunt the movie, unless they do something about it: the choice of a male adult voice for Despereaux. A blunder!..

  • Nancy Beiman

    I’m in the minority here, but I’d much rather see this from Bolt, judgint from the trailers alone.
    It’ll be interesting to see how this does after RATATOUILLE. Frankly I don’t see why it shouldn’t do well…if they would just cut that pointless and weakly animated scene of the cook from the beginning of the trailer. Why call attention to an ‘imitation’?
    I agree with mongoose jr. that you really should see the movie before writing your reviews. But some trailers appeal more than others. My least favorite this year was for WALL E.

  • Artvader

    Hey Nancy, you would much rather see Bolt?!.. Don’t miss also other ‘masterpieces’ of mainstream cartoon, such as ‘The Wild’ and ‘Happily N’Ever After’! Great aesthetic! Yuck… And don’t forget to swing by the nearest McDonald’s for a ‘fine meal’ afterwards!..

  • Daniel:

    “People have hard time opening their minds and departing from the visual images they have created in their heads after reading the book…”

    My nay-saying is about the story itself, not visuals. This trailer is just as true to Despereaux as that spoof trailer for [The] Shining was to King’s novel. That’s why I hope this trailer’s intentionally misleading about the tone of the film.

  • Mark Bryson

    It’s not only Gary Ross that Chomet has had disputes with he has also given a very public lashing in the past to Pixar about the quality of film’s it produces. He seems to have distaste for Hollywood. Didn’t he only last 3 months at Disney before he walked?

    What has happened to Chomet’s adaptation of Jacques Tati’s L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist)? It’s been in development for years wasn’t it supposed to be released in May? Did he buy the Tati script? It’s been documented that Tati had wrote the L’Illusionniste as a letter to his estranged daughter has she been consulted?

    Chomets former partner, Nicolas De Crécy says Chomet plagiarized his work upon the release or Triplettes.

  • Cyrille

    I did work on the project too, actually on both CG movie Gordon Schmoo discribe as the worsts. What this bulls*t about the directors directing by email? The directors were there in London, in flesh and blood doing their job. The producer was in L.A sending his comments on the movie WIP by email, phone meeting or whatever…
    One of the problem on ToD is not a lack of director. It’s rather too much of them. The Art Directors were sometimes pulling on their own direction.
    But the result isn’t as bad as everybody seems to say. BTW, I also worked on Happily N’ever After, which Gordon would probably add to his list. It’s not enough to have the director on site sometimes, you also need a good one.