Netflix’s upcoming animated film “Over The Moon” is another milestone for Asian-Americans on-screen.
At a recent virtual press conference for the film, the film’s cast and crew opened up about bringing the story of the Moon Goddess to life.
Directed by former Disney animated Glen Keane, “Over The Moon” tells the story of a bright young girl named Fei Fei, voiced by Cathy Ang, who goes on an unexpected quest to a whimsical land.
The film also stars Ruthie Ann Miles as the Fei Fez’s mother, John Cho as her father, Phillipa Soo as Chang’e and Sandra Oh as Mrs. Zhong.
Ang, a newcomer to Hollywood, talked about recording the film’s central song, “Rocket to the Moon”.
“Yeah, that was a very nerve-wracking day. I remember that we were in the studio doing the scratch record. We were trying to record the whole movie that day, and we were running a little bit behind – my song was last to record,” she recalled. “And so all day I was just getting more nervous and waiting to get in there. I was really excited, but when it came time to go in, I couldn’t look at anyone. I was sweating and shaking. And they liked it. They still liked it. And yeah, it was wonderful to be able to look up after that and see everyone excited. I don’t know. It was a dream.
Asked how how important as an Asian American parent it was provide examples of representation for your own kids with the film, Miles said, “I’m so thrilled. One of the deciding factors when it comes time to decide on what jobs to take is if it’s something that I can show my child when she’s 10-years-old. And when I read Over the Moon, my heart absolutely burst. I was so thrilled and I’m really excited for this project because it’s something that will be able to influence her and inspire her and challenge her and teach her as she grows.”
Oh added, “Of course it’s significant and wonderful in a very kind of broad way. But what I’d like to point out right now is that this Zoom screen and what everyone is seeing right now is predominantly all Asian faces. And that’s what’s exciting to me. And the conversation and for me to be able to reach out and even talk to other actors that were all actually in a film together, which I would say, definitely for me and maybe John, we’ve only been the only ones everywhere we go.”
The Canadian actress continued, “And this is now becoming a new experience. And also, the experience that the roles that we are taking on and the roles that are offered, the stories that are offered are actually very culturally specific, which is something that I also think that in the Asian community we really need to expand and also take on and embrace. So that’s what I feel is significant, not only in the film, but also in this moment and whoever. We can’t really see who we’re talking to, but that we’re talking to you this way.”
Talking about his view on Asian representation in the film, Cho said, “It’s hard to find things that don’t represent Asian culture, especially family dynamics, as something that’s not oppressive or is attached to shame or all filial piety or doing things that you don’t want to do. This story is about an Asian family that is rooted in love. And that to me that’s what differentiates it. That’s what gives it its heart. And I love that about this film.”
The cast also remembered the contribution of co-writer Audrey Wells, who passed away in 2018.
“This is my fourth film with Audrey,” Oh noted. “The first one being ‘Princess Diaries’, which she wrote, she had a hand in. And then of course ’Under The Tuscan Sun’ and then before that actually did her first film called ’Guinevere’. And it was at her… Her memorial. And I know the script had come to me and it was just not fitting in.”
Oh recalled producer Gennie Rim approaching her at the in the parking lot after the memorial to plead with her to take the role in the film.
“Everything about that moment was right. Because I did know she was sick. Do you know what I mean? And it’s for lots of reasons that it’s difficult to read something that that just is. And then when I read it, it was just like she… It was like Audrey just basically punched me in the face and it’s just like, “What are you doing? What are you doing? You need to…” And so, yeah, there’s a lot of meaning in this for all of us. And I do have a personal connection with that,” she said, becoming emotional.
“So I was so happy that you stopped my car because it is in the way of her just saying, ‘No, you did my first film. You need to do the last one.’ So I’m so grateful that it was still open for me to be a part of and to join the cast because it is, as you’re saying, this is also in the film, the message of moving on and knowing that her family, knowing the players here, it has a deep meaning. So I’m so, so grateful to be a part of it,” Oh added.
Cho also became emotional later when asked what his favourite thing about getting to work on the film was.
“Easy, working with Glen,” he answered. “And it ties into what I loved about watching the film. And the moment we’re in right now, Glen is a very empathic person and it was very unique in animation for me to work with someone who… There are the limitations, you’re in a booth and stuff and unlike face-to-face acting, you don’t have your partner in front of you. And Glen was my connection to the other character’s humanity at all times.”
The actor continued, “And he’s an extremely empathic person, and the film is so unique at this time right now when I just feel like as a planet, we’re struggling with our capacity for empathy and understanding each other as human beings. And to have that connection to this character who was experiencing grief, this little girl who was experiencing the greatest grief you could possibly imagine, for me that’s the experience of watching this movie and having participated in a small way. It was an exercise in understanding our common humanity.”
“Over the Moon” hits Netflix this fall.