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THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX

About The Production
DiCamillo admits that when she penned "The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread,” she wrote the type of novel she wanted to read as a child, and the kind that still enchants her as an adult. "When children's literature works really well, there's still magic and possibility that you're sometimes not allowed in an adult book,” she offers. "It feeds some necessary part of us, and it speaks to the child in the adult. I wanted to write a story that addressed how profoundly complicated we are, how we can be good and bad at the same time and how we find comfort in each other.”

Thomas and Ross agreed with her worldview and approach; they also believed that it was important that their translation honor the multilayered narrative and keep the Narrator as a guide to our hero's quest. "Kate established an intimate relationship between herself and the reader,” Ross notes. "The first thing Allison and I wanted to do was maintain that relationship.”

Though the writer/producer had penned award-winning screenplays over the years, The Tale of Despereaux offered opportunities other films often do not. Ross explains: "Fairy tales have in them a strong moral sense. There's a big underpinning to what the characters are. They wrestle with big ideas, big issues and resolve them. Kate wasn't afraid to go into that. And in a universe that has a lot of disposable pop culture in it, Kate set out to do the opposite.”

The producers agreed that if they were to do justice to the adventures of this "enthusiastic, pluckish young mouse” the film could not simply become a cartoonish interpretation of DiCamillo's intricate novel. Rather, they chose to pursue it as a classic fairy tale informed by the richness of a modern fairy tale that would work well for a character-based epic. Ross relates, "We wanted to reflect a cinematic version of a great illustrated book, filled with those images from childhood that never leave you.”

This fundamental choice affected decisions made in the areas of visual style, character design, color, lighting, animation style and performance. These lofty ambitions were all accomplished for a budget of approximately one-half to one-third of other CGanimated movies from major studios (The Tale of Despereaux is budgeted at $60 million).

CG director Sam Fell and fellow director, veteran story artist and animator Rob Stevenhagen joined forces to form the team who would direct Despereaux. Together with production designer Evgeni Tomov, director of photography Brad Blackbourn and the experienced visual effects company Framestore Animation of London, The Tale of Despereaux production team embarked on a complex, new path for the project. Director Fell remembers: "When I came across ‘The Tale of Despereaux,' I felt I had found something that was unique and full of magical characters and tone. It was something I missed in everything else I was seeing around at the moment—material geared toward cynical comedies. It really grabbed me.” Just like the producers, he was moved by how intricately DiCamillo had developed the emotions of her characters. He offers: "That kind of psychology is much fuller than in your average animated fare.”

Producer Thomas explains the unique talents the team offered: "From stop-motion to CG features, Sam brought an eclectic background in animation and the ideal experience we were looking for in a director. As his partner, Rob, with his unique narrative skills, complemented him perfectly. Evgeni had a clear vision of the sophisticated look we wanted, and Brad wanted to design software that emulated true film exposure and lenses. With Gary's live-action approach to directing actors, cinematic style and cutting patterns, this team's integration has been seamless.”

Framestore has a celebrated 20-year history in commer

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