It begins with a rat causing trouble in a kitchen, but this is no Pixar knockoff.

Based on Kate DiCamillo's much-loved book for all-ages readers, The Tale of Despereaux—opening Friday—is a CGI animated family movie that's noticeably different from a lot of other recent family flicks. It's a straightforward fairy tale, devoid of pop culture references or big musical numbers, focused instead on a simple story of courage and heroism.

The man responsible for bringing this retro family movie to the big screen is Gary Ross, the director of Seabiscuit and Pleasantville, who adapted the book to the big screen and served as the film's producer.

Ross spoke with CT Movies about what the story means to him, what the process of adaptation was like, and which classic family films have inspired him.

I took my wife to see the movie. She had read the book and I had not, and it made me want to go back and read the book—

Gary Ross: Oh, cool! In fact, Kate [DiCamillo] says that what makes her happy is that people can see either one—or read either one—first and still enjoy the experience, so that's awfully nice.

How involved was she in the movie and the adaptation?

Ross: We talked with her the whole way through. She wrote an early treatment for us of the movie, so we have a great relationship.

What attracted you to this story?

Ross: I loved the characters and I loved the themes. You don't often get to do a movie that's about kindness, and people releasing themselves from anger in order to get free. All these characters are so wounded that they're visiting cruelty on one another, and they're hurting one another because they're hurt. I very much enjoyed the idea of making a movie that's about breaking that cycle.

It would be ...

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