Over the Moon: Taking Imagination and Science to New Heights

Over the MoonBy Tab Olsen

Netflix’s animated adventure Over the Moon is about a 12-year-old Chinese-American girl named Fei Fei who’s struggling to make sense of life and the legends she heard as a child. She uses her creativity, STEM skills, and sheer determination to build a rocket ship so she can blast off to the moon on a mission to prove the existence of a mythical Moon Goddess. There she ends up on an unexpected quest, and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures.

Over the Moon is geared to kids and teens who have a passion for science and a vivid imagination. The main character is a solid and strong female role model. I love Fei Fei’s adorable pet bunny, Bungee, and her mischievous little brother. The overall message is family-centric and positive. But the subject matter involving the loss of a family member is a bit heavy for young children. And if you’re emotionally sensitive, especially if there has been death or remarriage in your family, the raw feelings are likely to come flooding back. So if you’re looking for a fun uplifting movie night, this may not be the one for you.

That being said, even the sad parts of this movie contain positive lessons (letting go of grief, moving on). I like how Over the Moon blends science and folklore; i.e. the legend of the Moon Goddess. I found the authentic representation of Chinese culture really interesting. I love the way they designed the house and the village, and the traditional Chinese costumes, keeping with the key visual styles and traditions of the Chinese people. Not to mention this movie features an entirely Asian-American voice cast!

But the movie lost me when it suddenly turned into a pop musical set in a colorful fantasy world. The first thing that turned me off was the lady singing about how great she is. “I’m so spectacular… extraordinary… revel in the glory of my beauty.” Seriously? And while the animation is amazing and visually impressive, it was too far-fetched for my taste with all the illogical, psychedelic stuff. Chickens on motorbikes, flying Imperial lions, giant neon toads? But maybe that’s just me; I never liked the cartoon penguin sequence in Mary Poppins either

So anyway, let’s get back down to earth. Over the Moon became available to stream on Netflix starting on October 23, 2020. Which was a little late for the actual Chinese Moon Festival, but that’s okay. The mid-autumn festival is held when the moon is at its roundest and brightest. This year the full harvest moon occurred on October 1st. The Moon Festival is celebrated when “people and the moon reunite to form a full circle,” as an old saying goes.

The most important Asian holiday after Chinese New Year, the Moon Festival is when Asian families around the world gather to spend time together while moon watching and eating mooncakes, a traditional Chinese pastry. And yes, the legend of moon goddess Chang’e is a big part of it. The moon rabbit or moon hare is also a mythical figure that lives on the moon in Far Eastern folklore.

This animated Netflix movie was directed by Oscar®-winning filmmaker and former Disney animator Glen Keane, so its style looks very Disney-ish. Over the Moon stars Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Robert G. Chiu, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Artt Butler, and Sandra Oh.

Looking for some educational activities based on the movie? Learn how to create a character like Fei Fei with a drawing tutorial from director Glen Keane—and solve complex problems like her, too, with moon-themed STEM lessons from Microsoft: https://www.microsoft.com/inculture/over-the-moon

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