In China, the moon goddess Chang’e is more famous than Santa Claus. So says Peilin Chou, the producer of Over the Moon. The legend of Chang’e has been spun and reworked through countless stories over the centuries, and Over the Moon is its latest iteration.
The cg musical adventure has been in the works for years at Shanghai’s Pearl Studio. Along the way, Netflix boarded the project, as did animation titan Glen Keane, who is helming it in his feature directorial debut. The first trailer has launched ahead of the film’s release in the fall. Watch it and read the official synopsis below:
Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl named Fei Fei builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess. There she ends up on the adventure of a lifetime and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures.
Pearl started life as Oriental Dreamworks before becoming fully Chinese-owned last year. It is positioning itself as a prestige production company with a special insight into the Chinese market. Over the Moon is its second release, after last year’s Abominable (which performed modestly at the box office).
It is also the third animated feature to be produced by Netflix, following Klaus and The Willoughbys. The animation is being handled by Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) in Vancouver, continuing a growing trend for animated features with lead Chinese producers to “reverse-outsource” the animation back to North American studios.
Keane made his name as a character animator at Disney in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2018, he won an Oscar for his short film Dear Basketball, which was written and narrated by Kobe Bryant. He discusses Over the Moon with his producers Chou and Gennie Rim, as well as other colleagues, in an hour-long work-in-progress presentation that was made available this morning as part of the virtual edition of the Annecy animation festival. The presentation spotlights the contributions of several key collaborators, including:
- Writer Audrey Wells (The Hate U Give), who wrote the script, but died before the film entered full production. Chou notes that Wells described this script as the “most important” she’d ever written — she was already ill when writing it, and viewed it as a love letter to her daughter and husband. Her death had a great impact on the project, motivating the team to “drive deeper with the emotions in the animation,” says Keane.
- Production designer Celine Desrumaux (The Little Prince), whose backpacking trip across China coincided with Keane’s research trip to the country. The pair met and visited Wuzhen, the scenic canal town on which the film’s world is modeled. “Celine had an amazing eye for things,” says Keane. “Walking through [Wuzhen], I was beginning to see the town through her eyes.”
- Guo Pei, the renowned Chinese fashion designer, who was hired to design the costumes in the film. It was her first time working in animation, and she was enthralled by the chance to create virtual clothes, unbound by the laws of gravity. Keane recalls a meeting with her where, lacking a mutual language, they communicated “through drawing.”
- Animator and filmmaker John Kahrs (Paperman), who joins Keane as co-director. Kahrs, who Keane praises as “one of the greatest animators in the world,” was excited by the challenge of working with the “wildness” of Desrumaux’s art direction. He pinpoints the cloth of Guo’s costumes as a particular challenge, which the SPI team rose to: artists “were fighting each other to get shots … because the difficulty was so high that it was something they could always have on their reel forever.”
Over the Moon is executive produced by Janet Yang, Glen Keane, Ruigang Li, Frank Zhu, and Thomas Hui; and produced by Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou. The key voice cast is Cathy Ang (Fei Fei), Phillipa Soo (Chang’e), 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). The songs are written by Christopher Curtis (Chaplin), Marjorie Duffield, Helen Park (KPOP), with a score by Steven Price (Gravity).