Ancient myths and modern life collide in “Over the Moon,” an upcoming animated musical from Netflix. Set in present-day China, this is the story of a 12-year-old girl who builds a rocket to fly over the moon and locate the mythical Moon Goddess. Of course, things don’t go quite according to plan and she finds herself on a quest she never could have prepared for.
Newcomer Cathy Ang is the voice of Fei Fei, our young heroine. John Cho and Ruthie Ann Miles voice her parents. Sandra Oh, Margaret Cho, Ken Jeong, Robert G. Chiu, Phillipa Soo, Kimiko Glenn, and Artt Butler also lend their voices to the cast.
In 2019, both “Klaus” and “I Lost My Body” helped Netflix make company history when its first two animated feature films were both nominated for Oscars. That was just the beginning of a new avenue for the streaming service that has long been an industry leader in innovation and growth. Now, director Glen Keane brings together a talented team for the next great animated feature.
Netflix has brought together Keane with producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, some of the stars to talk about this exciting project.
Cathy Ang was thrilled to talk about what she shares with her science-loving leading lady. “I love science so much,” she said. “Both my parents were doctors, so I’ve always loved biology. And actually my partner, he’s in his MD PhD right now because he wants to become an astronaut, and he is working in biophysics. So we actually joke about that because I’m going to beat him to the moon.”
She went on to say, “It’s just so exciting to see a young girl who’s our heroine, who’s the focus of the story, be this excited by knowledge. And it’s just encouraging all kids to that spark inside of them and follow all their curiosities… [Fei Fei] just has so much passion for everything, science and her family. She’s so filled with love. And it’s an honor to be able to portray someone like that.”
Glen Keane had the opportunity to travel to China several years ago, in preparation for the project. “What was amazing to me about China was the deep roots of tradition and the incredible advancement in technology,” he said. “One day we were riding on the magnetic levitation train, the Mag Lev, traveling at 426 kilometers an hour. And there’s no wheels. It doesn’t touch, it just floats. I couldn’t believe it. You’re just sitting there and you’re flying, everything’s zipping past. The next day you’re visiting this ancient little water town that we based the story on.”
He went on to tell a story of visiting a local family and sharing a meal with them. The experience made a profound impression on the director, who said, “I left really transformed to tell the story of this moment of discovery. It has more power when you really experience it yourself. And so every moment of that trip is in the DNA of this movie.”
“Over the Moon” was written by Audrey Wells, who tragically passed away in 2018. This is the final script from the writer of films including “The Kid,” “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and “The Hate U Give.” Sandra Oh, who worked with Wells on several films, explained that she tried to turn down this role because of timing and other issues. But a conversation with producer Gennie Rim changed her mind. “And I’m so grateful for that,” Oh explained, “because knowing Audrey, knowing her writing, knowing her family and knowing what I believe this film meant to her and her family. To be able to be a part of it was a really great experience for me.”
Ruthie Ann Miles shared what drew her to the role of Fei Fei’s mother. She said, “What appealed to me most is that her heart is just so open, and she’s so imaginative. And her mother’s heart is to open her child’s mind to possibilities. Not only to entertain her and love her and nurture her, but to entertain and love and nurture her mind, which was very important to me.”
As Asian stories have become a more prominent part of the film experience, John Cho was excited to show his daughter a film about a Chinese girl, and her reaction surprised him. “…While we were watching this film, I was like, this is so amazing, look at all these Asian animated faces. And she was nonplussed. And I was so thrilled about that. And so, yes, the world where giving her content or providing content for her, where this stuff is normalized is a real gift.”
As the Moon Goddess, Chang’e, Phillippa Soo shared her feelings about being cast, “I was of course honored because it’s so infrequent that I’m being asked to play specifically Chinese characters. And also even more rare that I get to be in a film with incredible Asian actors who are surrounding me. So when I read the script and they invited me to come join them to create this beautiful story, I was of course, immediately on board and so excited.”