One beloved Chinese folk tale is being showcased, and the timing for this uplifting yet emotional tale couldn’t be any better. In Netflix’s latest animated film “Over the Moon,” directed by animation legend Glen Keane, the tale of the moon goddess Chung’e is explored in a brand new way. Those who know the ancient story know that Chung’e is human until she takes an immortality pill and ends up floating to the moon essentially leaving beyond a great love. In the new film, Chung’e is eternal and viewers get to see what happens to her after she’s on the moon, something the old tale has never tackled before. The story incorporates some new characters including the young Fei Fei, a spunky and determined girl who is on a quest to find Chung’e. “Over the Moon” is a beautiful look at what grief can do to a person, and also just a fantastic peek into a Chinese idol, tale and culture through animation and song.
Cathy Ang, who plays the lead Fei Fei, sat down with Metro to discuss more about how it was working on “Over the Moon.”
What was the initial intrigue to make you want to sign on with this project?
Originally, all I was approached with was the idea and all I knew was that it was going to be about a young Chinese girl who wanted to go to the moon to find the Moon Goddess Chung’e. I had grown up personally knowing about Chung’e because I went to Chinese school and learned this folklore, and I was just fascinated at how they were going to tell this story. I knew Glen Keane, this animation legend was going to be at the helm of it and I was so excited to share some of my family’s culture in a mainstream media project. Then of course, when I read the script I also fell in love with Fei Fei. I love science and space exploration as well, and she’s just so confident in herself, she’s so determined and I think that she’s a wonderful role model for people. The story itself is beautiful, her journey and feelings are so needed right now so everything about the script I just loved and wanted to be a part of.
What would you tell people who knew of the folktale to expect from the film?
We do a good job of setting her story up. There’s this really beautiful animation sequence which shows Chung’e in her traditional form with her lover and once we get to the moon, we get to experience her in a new way. We get to experience the rest of her story, so I think they should be expecting someone who feels very current but who is also continuing to be this goddess who is larger than life and a smart, loving and very confident woman who just needs help in her healing process. It’s a very beautiful story who honors who she is and was.
What did you do to get prepared for this role specifically?
For all acting roles, I try to do background for characters, I think what’s nice [though] is we’re meeting Fei Fei as a child and most of her story is laid out for me. I just experimented for voicing too, I hadn’t done a lot of animation before so I just made sure to have a lot of different voices prepared for the booth, I would read the script in a lot of different ways. But then when I got into the booth, Glen really just wanted me to be myself and so I threw a lot of it out the window. I brought a lot of my own excitement for science and space exploration into the character and I think when you have a good director who can paint the world for you, you just fall into it a lot of the time. I think the music is very helpful for me as well, I’ve been singing all my life and have done musical theater, so I think that helped me understand more of who Fei Fei is.
How was it working with Glen Keane?
Glen shaped my childhood in a lot of ways, he’s really brought out so many stories about strong young women and I think I was just awestruck when I met him at first. He’s just so sweet and so down to earth and his directing style is really wonderful because he knows exactly what he’s picturing and how to describe it to you so that you can be there with him. But, he also just has this childlike sense of imagination that allows you to play with him all of the time. He would act like a reader for a lot of our sessions as the other characters and he knows how to immerse himself into them as well. But also you can play, you can try things, you can fail and it’s all okay— he’ll take it all and be learning more about the character when we do that. So there’s really a sense of freedom when you’re working with him that you don’t always get.
What scene are you most excited for audiences to see come to fruition onscreen?
There’s a couple, but I think that Rocket to the Moon sequence is amazing and I think there’s something about watching this girl fail so many times but never give up that’s really inspiring and I just want to see kids everywhere covering this song and trying to be like Fei Fei. It’s a larger than life experience for sure that is going to make everyone want to get up off of their couches and start dancing.
Overall, what do you hope audiences take away from the film?
For one thing, I hope people get to enjoy seeing a different world. First, we get to see the Chinese landscape and some tidbits about Chinese culture and its people and I think it’s so beautiful. Hopefully, that will spark some interest with some of the traditions you’re seeing onscreen and also just the folklore about Chung’e. Everyone is going through some sort of loss right now in some form and I think that the world needs connection and is craving connection at all times. This story is really about connecting with another person and relying on them to help you move through your grief. It’s a story about healing and about lifting people up and making sure that you can properly feel your grief but also move forward with your life and continue to move forward with whatever you’ve lost and find new joy and new love. I think it’s actually really perfect for the current climate, it’s a hard time for everyone in the world and kids and families especially if they’re going through a lot, I think this is the perfect story for them to be watching.
‘Over the Moon’ is available to stream now on Netflix.