Lately, I’ve been feeling like curling up on my sofa and watching comfort movies. Lockdown has come upon us in Europe, and I highly need escapism. Always late to the party, I have discovered the delightful Netflix original ‘Over the Moon’ and thought I’d tell you guys about it, as it immediately reached a special spot in my heart.
Growing up, I remember looking for Asian role models all around me. My grandmum is Vietnamese, and it always puzzled me how little representation Asians were getting. Thankfully, since I was born in the 1990s, more and more children’s movies got main characters of colour. From then on, my favourites were of course Jasmine, Esmeralda, and Pocahontas. I can still remember the sheer joy when we went and saw Mulan in the theatres for the first time. An East Asian badass woman got her own Disney movie. That was something.
More than 20 years after this, Disney veteran Glen Keane (Tangled, Aladdin, the Little Mermaid …) has joined forces with Chinese Pearl studios. The result is Over the Moon, a movie that not only takes places in China, but also revolves around the legend of Chang’e and Hou Yi. For the ones who may have missed our first ever post, you will find a short version of their legendary love story here.
Over the Moon takes place in an imaginary town in China. Fei Fei and her loving parents live a peaceful life, making and selling mooncakes for a living. Every year, they gather for the Mid Autumn festival and Fei Fei’s mum tells her the story of Chang’e and Hou Yi’s eternal love. Unfortunately for them, Fei Fei’s mother passes away, leaving her husband and daughter behind. As, years later, her father announces that he would like to remarry, Fei Fei decides to go on a trip to the moon and prove that the goddess Chang’e and her eternal love really exists.
A good step for more Asian representation
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Asian representation. Over the Moon is essentially a tale that teaches children about Chinese culture in a fun way. There are some shortcuts, I remember frowning at Chin being a ping pong player. However, the ensemble is good overall, especially since the main target are children. The fictional Chinese city Fei Fei lives in even has a Maglev, the magnetic levitation super speed train. One character seems a colourful Kpop singer, and as you know, I cannot hate that.
We are family
Over the Moon, like many Disney and children’s cartoons, is about family, but it also is articulated around loss in modern times, and this is what makes the difference. Fei Fei’s struggles revolve around letting a new family in. This is (almost) a universal story, and can be adapted to many households in modern days. I was also pleased to see that there is no love interest, which I often find annoying when talking to smaller children. Fei Fei is bright without a doubt, and her male counterpart is the brother-to-be she won’t let in. On a more technical side, the characters’ expressions are perfect and help empathize with their joys and griefs.
It is not all songs and games … But it kind of is
It would have been very surprising, coming from a Disney veteran, for the movie not to have songs. Fear not, as Over the Moon does include songs for you to sing along. I am not one for songs usually, but I mostly enjoyed them, and loved the Mooncakes one, of course.
In short, I am overall convinced by this animated movie, and can only hope for more Asian representation in cartoons to come. In that hope, I am leaving you fellows with the trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, set to come out in 2021.
Over the Moon is now available on Netflix.