I'm “Over the Moon” About This New Animated Film From Pearl Studio


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Co-directed by a dream team of animators, Over the Moon was a wonderful retelling of a Chinese myth, with a lovely story surrounding the mythological aspects. Co-director Glen Keane has worked on many classic films before, including Tarzan, Tangled, and probably most legendary, Beauty and the Beast. Co-Director John Kahrs has an equally impressive resume, having worked on Frozen, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles. Bringing both of them together for Pearl Studio’s second film (following 2019’s Abominable) brought the energy of Pixar and Dream works to a new animation studio.

The story begins when Fei-Fei’s (voiced young by Brycen Halls, and four years later by Cathy Ang) mother (Ruthie Ann Miles) tells her the Chinese myth of the moon goddess Chang’e before passing away. In the film, Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) had two immortality pills, intending to give one to her husband Houyi (Conrad Ricamora). However, she accidently swallowed both when she was forced to hide the pills in her mouth to keep them safe from bandits. By swallowing both pills, she floated up to the heavens and landed on the moon where she sits alone forever.

The actual myth is very similar in form. Chang’e’s husband, Yi in the original story, was an archer who shot 9 suns out of the sky leaving only one. For his service, he was given two doses of the immortality potion, as he couldn’t bear to be immortal without his wife. There are other versions of the myth as well, where Yi was a horrible tyrant and Chang’e took both pills to spare the world from his cruelty. These variations in the story are explored in the film. During a family gathering on the night of the Moon Festival, Fei-Fei’s family brings up some different versions of the story. Since Fei-Fei’s connection to her mother is rooted in this myth, she finds it hard to accept that there are accounts of the myth different from the one her mother shared with her.

The story picks up in earnest four years after her mother’s death, when her father introduces Fei-Fei to Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), who he intends on marrying. Fei-Fei decides to build a rocket and travel to the moon to meet the moon goddess. She wants to spite her family, who all tell her the story is just a myth, and she wants to prove to her father that love never dies in an attempt to keep him from remarrying.

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This film was exuding serious Pixar vibes, not in small part due to the songs. The quality of the songs was excellent, and varied through the film. Some of the more melancholy songs were reminiscent of Stephen Universe, while the songs that Chang’e sang had a more K-Pop quality to them. Steven Price, who took home the academy award for the soundtrack to Gravity, was the films primary composer. The original songs were mostly handled by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park. Duffield and Park worked together on KPOP the Musical, and were most likely the team that brought the K-Pop quality to the score. The songs were well integrated into the plot, often serving to cover long stretches of time and to fill in moments in the film where the action dips.

Bringing even more Pixar vibes to the film was the excellent animation. It reminded me of Coco in some aspects, as there was the mundane world that was causing the protagonist problems, and the fantasy world heavily influenced by tradition and mythology that they escape into. The main marvel in the film was the City of Lunaria, where Chang’e resides on the moon. The animation of the city was influenced by the album cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, as well as the surrealist paintings of Joan Miró. It was above all a joy to watch.

This is also a movie primarily about overcoming grief, and accepting the loss of a loved one. Chang’e was unable to overcome the death of her husband, and her grief turned her into a self-absorbed diva, who was only interested in finding a way to bring him back. Fei-Fei is also struggling with overcoming her mother’s death. She cannot understand why her father is able to move on when she cannot let go of this tragedy. This deeper message is woven throughout the film, and provides depth beyond the animation and music. This film’s success in portraying complex emotions, and even drawing some tears at the end, bring it into a higher category. I have no doubt it will be a film I remember for a long time.

-Patrick Bernas