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Western Animation / The Tale of Despereaux

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The Tale of Despereaux is an animated film adaptation of the original novel, released in 2008 by Framestore.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, the rats are described to be ugly, and Roscuro's ugly appearance is actually the cause of the Queen's heart attack but in the movie, the rats don't look particularly ugly. Desperaux also looks less like a real mouse and more like an infant in the movie.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Roscuro in the book was a common castle rat who was already being trained to steal and trick to stay true to his species' reputation, not the domesticated, bumbling companion of a human sailor.
  • Adapted Out: In the novel, Despereaux was mentioned to have a sister, Merlot, but she doesn’t make an appearance in the film.
  • Blind Seer: After Despereaux is exiled for the crime of consorting with humans, he meets the blind mouse Hovil, whose eyes are pearly white. Hovil is charged, among other tasks, with overseeing the gateway into the darkened sewers beneath the dungeon. Early on, he is the only mouse who seems sympathetic to Despereaux's curiosity and fearlessness. It appears to the viewer that Hovis lowers criminals into the sewers using a thread whose color corresponds to their crime. For Despereaux, convicted of courage, the thread is red.
    Despereaux: Red?
    Hovil: Ah, so they tell me. You're the brave one?
    Despereaux: I guess.
    Hovil: Wear it proudly. There's no shame.
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  • Bratty Food Demand: The leader of the boorish dungeon rats demonstrates his authority to Roscuro by showing him a large group of rats surrounding a large pile of food and chanting, "Eat! Eat!" but not daring to eat until the leader has rung the gong.
  • Composite Character: Gregory is a composite of the jailer from the book and Mig's father
  • Death by Adaptation: Botticelli, as he gets eaten by a cat.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: See Nightmare Fetishist, below.
  • Expy: Botticelli looks like the rat version of Anton Ego.
  • Faceplanting into Food: A rare Played for Drama example. When the queen witnesses Roscuro coming out of her bowl of soup, the resulting shock causes her to die on the spot and she faceplants right into her soup.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The Queen. It's unclear if she suffered a fatal heart attack, or drowned in her soup after fainting and faceplanting in it, but neither option is pleasant.
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  • Fisher King: The kingdom goes grey and overcast when the King goes into mourning.
  • Fully Dressed Cartoon Animal: Despereaux, Roscuro and other mouse and rat characters, unlike their book counterparts, who are drawn nude.
  • Good Is Bad And Bad Is Good: Despereaux is not frightened by things that are intended to scare him (such as carving knives) and draws a picture of a cat in his book, nicknaming it “Fluffy.” Such courage and appreciation for cute animals would be considered normal behaviors among humans, but his parents and teachers are all shocked and horrified about this.
  • Happily Ever After: Subverted. The narrator remarks that this is normally where everyone lives happily ever after in the epilogue, but "what fun is that?"
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Roscuro starts off as a good guy and a Token Good Teammate for the rats, has a Face–Heel Turn after Pea rejects his apology, and eventually settles on the Face side for good when he stops the rats from eating Pea and helps Despereaux defeat Botticeli.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The jailer regrets being so mean to Mig when he realizes she’s his daughter.
  • Never Bare Headed: Despereaux keeps his red hat on most of the time, although he does take it off when bowing in front of Pea.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Despereaux drew pictures of cats in his notebook, much to his teacher's (and parents') horror.
  • Opening Shout-Out: Early on in the film, the meager Despereaux becomes enchanted with certain, often-recurred Renaissance notions of heroism: honor, courage, chivalry, and truth. When Despereaux encounters Hovis, the older mouse cryptically references these precise words to reassure the frightened mouse.
    Hovis: Courage, right?
    Despereaux: And truth. And honor.
    Hovis: Good. But especially courage.
    Despereaux: I'm ready.
  • Prophet Eyes: Hovis the thread-master, but only in the film.
  • Resourceful Rodent: Despereaux uses a sewing needle as a sword and the rodent civilisation often uses junk and trash as objects, clothes, etc.
  • Serious Business: Soup. To the point the Narrator claims the people love Soup Day more than Christmas.
  • Shout-Out: Boldo is a reference to Giuseppe Arcimboldo, famous for painting detailed portraits of human heads comprised of other things (fruit and vegetables, flowers, animals).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Gregory the Jailer, as the rats chewed through his rope.
  • Suicidal "Gotcha!": For the audience. The subversion of the Happily Ever After occurs while Despereaux is hanging from a window and apparently falls to his death. They later reveal him gliding away on his huge ears to his next adventure.
  • Token Good Teammate: Roscuro is one for the rats until his (temporary) Face–Heel Turn.
  • Unreliable Voiceover.
    Narrator: First of all, rats hate the light. They spend their lives in the darkness. (A rat is shown looking right at the sun.)
    Narrator: They're also terrified of people, which is why they slink and cower all the time. (The rat walks right up to a human.)
    Narrator: And as far as telling the truth as concerned, well, that is impossible, because as everyone knows, a rat can't talk. (The rat begins speaking to the human.)
  • Vocal Dissonance: The mice and rats speak with deep, human-like voices rather than the high squeaky one rodents have in Real Life. It is shown they do speak human language in-universe, so this is really is how they sound and not just for the listening pleasure of the viewers.