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Cast of Netflix’s ‘Over the Moon’ Talk about the Importance of the Film

By Flora  /  26 Oct 2020 (Monday)

​Credit: Netflix

InCinemas spoke with Phillipa Soo, Cathy Ang, Ken Jeong, Margaret Cho and Glen Keane, the cast and director of Netflix’s new animation, ‘Over the Moon’ in an online interview where they shared about the importance of the film that talks about the Chinese culture, as well as playing the characters that spoke to them. 

‘Over the Moon’ is a musical adventure animation film where a young girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) builds and flies a rocket ship to meet the moon goddess, Chang’e (Phillipa Soo). Directed by Glen Keane, the film is a modern-day interpretation of the folk tale featuring an all-Asian American voice cast including Sandra Oh, Ken Jeong, Margaret Cho, John Cho, Kimiko Glenn, with leads Cathy Ang as the young Fei Fei and Tony Award-nominated Phillipa Soo as the moon goddess. 

We know several tales surrounding Chang’e with her Jade Rabbit, as well as her relationship with Houyi, the archer who shot down nine suns. Her story is the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival where most Chinese families celebrate the full moon where Chang’e lives. 

​Credit: Netflix

In this movie, Chang’e is anything but ordinary. Not only does this fairytale goddess look enchanting and ethereal, she is in fact a 9-feet tall goddess in the movie, and a pop superstar of the planet. In our first introduction of Chang’e, she performs a Kpop-esque pop song ‘’Ultraluminary’ to her moon fans, a scene you could say is ‘out of this world’.

“In the animation, we were going to turn her completely upside down - which is a risky thing to take - after all, she is the sacred goddess of the Chinese culture,” shared the Oscar-winning director-animator, Keane who worked on beloved Disney animations including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan and Tangled. 

He explained: “We made her to (a pop star) like Kate Perry and Lady Gaga, but we also managed to turn her back again towards the end. For instance, Chang’e reveals the real person she is and we get to watch the change in her. We understand her now and empathise with her… We turned her character upside down and gave her back to the people richer and more noble in many ways.”

For Soo, embodying a character like Chang’e wasn’t an easy task as well. “It was exciting but I knew there was a really high bar set here and I have to do her justice. At the same time, it was there in the writing, the music, and with the animators and creators. When they showed me Chang’e’s outfits, I knew there was the bar that has been set for me. Layering in all those elements is what created her. It was so much fun and so delicious to play her.”

The ensure the Chinese culture is depicted authentically in the film, director Keane along with the film producers travelled to China for visual and character development inspiration and was greeted warmly by the village folks. 

“It was important to go to China and go into Chinese homes. The round tables and plates of food on table was something true to the Asian culture. All of the acting, the gestures, has to be all true, and therefore we also made a specific point that will we not hire anybody who was not Asian to do the voicing of the characters.”

Credit: Netflix

“It was like our version of ‘The Lion King’. It was a big deal! It was all Asian-American cast and everyone in it was so incredible… the songs and animation were just awesome! I was just so excited to be a part of it,” shared Cho, who voices Fei Fei’s aunt.

Jeong echoed Cho’s sentiments, adding that he felt ‘an honour’ to be a part of the animated movie. “Not only we have an all Asian-American cast, ‘Over the Moon’ has a great story, great characters, great animation, great producers, great directors and also ethnicity culture not withstanding, really just one of the most talented voice cast in animated film that I have been a part of.”

“On so many levels, it is truly one of my favourite projects to be a part of,” said Jeong, who voices Gobi, a glowing and singing pangolin on the moon who was exiled 1000 years ago. 

Even for the lead actresses - Ang and Soo, ‘Over the Moon’ was the first time they had the chance to play a specifically-written character of Chinese descent. 

Soo shared: “It’s a celebration of Asian films with Asian actors and characters and an Asian storytelling. I think that is something for me that I haven’t been able to access because I haven’t been able to play (a role) that was written as Asian; and in this case, a Chinese, so I do feel it is very empowering for young people to see this film. It is important for them to see themselves being represented on screen and for them to know not only on-screen, off-screen, on-stage and off-stage, there are places that we can find ourselves and sometimes it just starts by looking at the screen and go ‘Hey, that person looks like me’ and that impact that is just so powerful.”

“This is my first time that I, as a Chinese-Filipina-American, getting to play a Chinese character. I am very excited to share my family’s culture and tradition to everyone and I feel really proud that a film like this is represented on screen. It makes me hopeful to know that the rest of the world will be able to watch the film, get curious and celebrate it. It means the world to be a part of this,” added Ang.

Cathy Ang may be a fairly new name compared to the incredible cast list, but look out for this young Chinese-Filipina actress because not only can she sing, dance and act, she recorded the theme song of the film, ‘Rocket to the Moon’ in one take. 

"This film was an example of the lessons we were animating about the 'impossible made possible'. In doing this film, we all went through this journey of loss. One of the loss is the people in our film, family members of the people working on the film. Because of the pandemic, Netflix was shut down and we were asked to leave. We still had deadlines to meet and the way we did it is the passion and commitment of completing this at all costs. I have never worked on a film as beautiful and emotional as this one," said Keane.

Over the Moon is now streaming on Netflix
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