MANILA – Netflix is slated to release the animated musical “Over the Moon” this month and it boasts of a full Asian cast bringing the story of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon, to life.
Directed by Oscar winner Glen Keane, the film follows 12-year old girl Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) who builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a Chang’e (Phillipa Soo).
There, Fei Fei ends up on an unexpected quest and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures.
“Over the Moon” is an exhilarating musical adventure about moving forward, embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.
In a virtual press conference for the movie on Thursday, Keane, Soo and Ang opened up about doing the project and how it is a step forward in terms of representation in the big screen.
“It's exciting for me to be able to share my and my family's culture and some of our traditions. I feel really proud that it's getting represented on screen and hopefully the rest of the world will see it and get curious and celebrate it,” Ang said.
Calling it a part of her “personal identity journey,” Ang added that the movie made her appreciate more the way her parents, who were both immigrants from the Philippines, tried to impart a lot of their culture on her as she was growing up.
“I realized more so than ever that that's a huge gift. It's made actually a dialogue between my parents and I more exciting because we have new things to talk about. My dad is from Ongpin and my mom is from Nueva Vizcaya. I just want to go there. I want to go and visit and see and just kind of live around the area for a while because there's so much to learn about other cultures. Even if I am Filipino, I want to go there and learn. I hope that people can watch the movie and feel the same way about Chinese culture. I believe that people will fall in love with China when they see it,” she said.
Echoing what Ang said, Soo shared that this is also the first time that she got to play a specifically written Chinese character, and to be in a cast of completely Asian actors.
“I can't do anything but celebrate that. It's just so exciting to me and I think that the joy and celebration that we have in being a part of this project comes through in the film. It's such a celebration of Chinese culture and this myth and the story,” she said.
“It's very empowering. I think for any young person who sees this film, it's important for them to see themselves represented on screen, and to know that not only on screen but off screen, on stage, offstage. These are all places where we can find ourselves. Sometimes, it just starts by like looking up at a screen and saying like, ‘Hey, that kind of looks like me,’ and the impact that that has is so powerful,” she added.
Keane said it was so vital that the movie has an all-Asian cast to make the story more believable.
“It was as important to do that as it was to go to China and spend time there having dinner in Chinese families home, everybody's sitting around a round table. The authenticity of the people and the culture, these are marinated in that all of the acting, the gestures needed to be so true,” he said.
Keane said they were very careful in tuning the performances of each character so that it was true and authentic to the Asian culture.
While the tone of the whole movie is inspirational, “Over the Moon” also talks a lot about losing a loved one and moving on from that.
When asked how she prepared to embody such a heavy mindset for her role, Ang said: “I actually kind of learned a lot through Fei Fei. During the process, I actually lost one of my best friends. I think that seeing Fei Fei go through her grief was really actually uplifting for me and helped me understand how to let go of a loved one, but still have the memory of them fill your heart with joy.”
Soo, for her part, said: “It's right there in the writing and it's right there in the story. To be able to step into Chang’e’s journey, and not only that but to have such a fabulous actress like Cathy to work with and work off of and be inspired by, I was just so touched by the relationship that these two women have and how they really change each other.”
Ultimately, Soo said that “the feeling of losing something often comes with the feeling of learning something” and she feels like that is very apparent in this film.
As the film comes out in Netflix on October 23, Ang and Soo are hopeful that the audiences would take to heart the many lessons introduced in the movie.
“When you look at Fei Fei, she approaches every problem with a belief in herself, and a belief that she can find a solution as long as she never gives up. That in itself is an awesome lesson for people in general. She gets creative and she is able to do the impossible. She builds a rocket to the moon. I think that's exciting and inspiring for kids,” Ang said.
The young actress said there’s also the message of healing “where we learn that in order to heal from whatever's going on in our lives, we need other people who can actually lift you up.”
Soo, meanwhile, said the biggest takeaway from the movie is the various ways that show that love is everlasting.
“How you can find love in different places, in different people. Sometimes you don't even know it and it's been right there in front of you. I think it's such a beautiful way for people to see the different ways that they can love,” she said.
And even though there is a global pandemic, all of them believe that this is actually the perfect time for the story to come out.
Aside from Soo and Ang, the film stars Robert G. Chiu (Chin), Ken Jeong (Gobi), John Cho (dad), Ruthie Ann Miles (mom), Margaret Cho (Auntie Ling), Kimiko Glenn (Auntie Mei), Artt Butler (Uncle) and Sandra Oh (Mrs. Zhong).