Film: Over the Moon
Director: Glen Keane
Where to Watch: Netflix
Wanna Skip? Pick a Movie from APAHM Project 2020
Why it Made the List:
Beautiful animation from Glen Keane (who animated my favorite Disney Princess, Rapunzel) matched with catchy songs and centered around my favorite Chinese holiday, “Over the Moon” soars as one of my favorite movies from 2020. “Over the Moon” featured an all-Asian cast and was nominated for several awards in 2021 including an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Annie Award.
I remember seeing a teaser trailer for this film on Facebook and being SO excited for it. My cousin and I made plans to watch it together once it came out on Netflix. Months and months went by and we didn’t hear anything about its release date. Finally in October of 2020 (Mooncake season), it was time to watch! We had a big dinner and of course mooncakes and got ready to watch this film.
Let me preface why the Moon Festival is my favorite Chinese holiday. Moon Festival is always the day before my birthday on the Chinese calendar. We go to my grandma’s house and eat a big meal and I get a little red envelope money for my birthday. Then we eat mooncakes, which are so beautiful. I used to hate eating the egg filling, but don’t mind it as much now, especially knowing the process it takes to make those egg yolks! I have always loved space and the solar system, but there is something so fascinating about the moon to me. How big and beautiful it is, how it can be white one night and a golden yellow the next. One of my favorite times of day is when I’m driving and I can see the moon start to rise behind me and the sun setting in front of me. And does anyone remember that Pokemon episode where Meowth finds that girl Meowth and they talk about the moon? They said that no matter where you are in the world, you’re connected because you’re looking up at the same moon and I guess that always stuck with me.
”Over the Moon” is centered around Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), a young girl in China who loves space and aeronautics. Her mother and father (John Cho) run a mooncake shop (I’m not sure how they stay in business every other day of the year) and her mom always told her about Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) and Houyi, the two lovers who were separated from each other by death. Houyi was a warrior who fought demons and died before he and Chang’e could take immortality pills together. Chang’e was forced to live forever on the moon without her true love. As the story progresses, we find out Fei Fei’s mom is sick and weakening. She eventually passes and several years later, her father introduces her to his new fiancé, Ms. Zhong (Sandra Oh) and her son, Chin.
Determined to make her father believe in one true loves again, Fei Fei decides to prove Chang’e is real and builds a bunny rocket to the moon. With her trusty pet rabbit, Bungee, and the stowaway Chin, she successfully makes it to the moon where she meets Chang’e through an epic K-Pop inspired musical number that is the catchiest thing ever. How it wasn’t nominated for Best Song is beyond me (P.S. Have you heard about Sony’s new K-Pop girl group/demon slayer movie?! If anyone from Sony is reading this, please let me know how I can work on this!!) Chang’e demands that Fei Fei gives her a gift, which Fei Fei does not have. Enraged, Chang’e tells all her subjects, the Lunarians, to find the gift to have a wish granted, for she needs the gift and her Jade Rabbit’s potion to bring her Houyi back before time is up. Adventure begins for Fei Fei including biker chickens, giant leaping frogs, and a little green, glowy friend named Gobi (voiced by Ken Jeong). As my family and I tried to figure out what exactly Gobi was (guesses included a seal, dog, and hedgehog), it was later discovered he is a pangolin, the most trafficked animals in the world. Their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Gobi and Fei Fei eventually find the gift, Houyi’s half of a jade medallion he and Chang’e shared. It was in a mooncake that Ms. Zhong gave Fei Fei, who claims her family are descendants of Houyi. Chang’e, now with the missing ingredient, brings Houyi back to her. However, it isn’t really him (think of when Harry Potter uses the Resurrection Stone). He tells her she has to let go and move on and Chang’e traps herself in a domain of sadness. Fei Fei is determined to help her, but she too falls into sadness, remembering her late mother. Chang’e helps Fei Fei realize that they both have to move on by loving someone new. They both needed to properly grieve and accept that the one they love the most is gone. Chin is able to break through to the domain by proclaiming his affinity for his new sister. The two embrace and Chang’e sends them home, claiming that Fei Fei was the gift she needed all along.
Off the bat, I loved the music in this movie. The beautiful, 2-D watercolor painting of Chang’e and Houyi of course made me happy if you remember at all from my gushing over 2-D animation in last year’s blog posts. The character design did a great job of not making all the characters look the same, which is something I notice they do with Asian characters in non-Asian-centric animated films. I think the film did a beautiful job addressing loss, especially for young people. I myself lost my Grandfather when I was Fei Fei’s age and it was the first death I had to deal with. But with family and loved ones, new memories are made. Life moves forward. We never do forget the ones whose lives we lost, but we do find a way to keep on living.
Additionally, Phillipa and Cathy have beautiful voices, and Ken Jeong too! I find myself singing the Mooncake song every so often. I applaud the all-Asian cast but there are times that I wish we included other or unknown Asian talent instead of the usuals Sandra Oh and John Cho. As much as I love them, I know there are tons of untapped talent out there and I would love for us to be able to expand our pool of AAPI actors. The colors and design are beautiful, I love the little Lunarians. And Chang’e’s outfit and make up are gorgeous!! I forgot until I rewatched it how badly I want to cosplay as Chang’e as soon as Comic Con opens up again!
Growing up, I knew of the moon goddess. We called her Yuet Nu Sheung Nor, which my mother’s Chinese name derived from. We have a beautiful piece of artwork of her in our house. But I’m not sure why I never associated her with the Moon Festival. Nor have I ever heard of Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit. My mother and father never really told me stories like this growing up and my grandmother doesn’t speak English very well, and I don’t speak Cantonese very well. As I’ve gotten older, I have noticed that a lot of my Asian friend and I are trying to grasp and embrace our cultures and traditions and help keep them alive. But our immigrant parents spent their time becoming more American and lost some of these traditions. I’m glad I finally learned a little bit of Chinese folklore with Chang’e and Jade Rabbit from this movie.
This film really helped me to learn more about my favorite holiday as well as the endangerment of the pangolin, and how moon cakes are made. I hope to see more of Cathy Ang in the future, her positive attitude and voice are refreshing. I am so happy that a film like this was made! I love that they took an Asian holiday and used it to tell a fun, entertaining, and extremely heart-warming story. I wonder if we will ever get to see Fei Fei and her family make lo mai gai for the Dragon Boat Festival. Surely they still have enough salted duck egg yolks! I highly recommend watching this film for a feel-good, music jamming time!
Stop Hate and Donate:
**A Reminder! I will be matching donations from this blog post based upon the number of likes it gets! Share this post and tell your friends to like this post!**
Today’s donation link is for Yao Pan Ma, a 61-year old man who was collecting cans in NY for extra money after Covid left him unemployed. He was reportedly struck from behind and repeatedly kicked in the head. The suspect has since been arrested. Ma is currently unconscious in a coma.
Donations will go towards their medical bills and financial insecurity. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe page.
If You Liked This, You Might Like:
Abominable on Hulu
One Small Step on YouTube