When Glen Keane first read the script for “Over the Moon,” he didn’t realize that Audrey Wells had written her own terminal illness into the main character’s mother. “I didn’t know when I first met her… that she knew she would not live to see this movie. This was really being written for her daughter, helping her move past the grief that she would experience,” he tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: Film Animation panel (watch above). Even though she died in the middle of production, Keane always remembered a conversation they had about this film and “The Wizard of Oz” and how Wells was insistent that the events that transpired in both films were real and not some sort of dream. “She had this incredible, fierce look in her eyes and for her there had to be real roots of sincerity, depth and truth to this story.”
“Over the Moon,” which is streaming on Netflix, focuses on a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang). Several years after her passes away from a terminal illness, her father gets engaged to another woman, much to Fei Fei’s chagrin. When her father reveals that he no longer believes in the story of the Moon goddess, Chang’e (which she first learned about from her late mother), Fei Fei builds a rocket to fly to the moon and prove that Chang’e is real. The film also stars Sandra Oh, Phillipa Soo, John Cho and Ken Jeong. Keane is already an Oscar winner, having shared the 2017 award for Best Animated Short Film with Kobe Bryant for “Dear Basketball.”
After working in animation for over 40 years (including “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin”), “Over the Moon” marks Keane’s feature directorial debut. The opportunity to direct the movie presented itself after he gave a talk in 2017. “I didn’t realize that I was actually auditioning for directing this movie. In the audience was Peilin Chou and Melissa Cobb and they had this script in their hand.” Keane elaborates, “I talked about the thing that always calls to me as an animator is characters that believe that the impossible is possible, so I crawl into their skin and that’s where I live. As I was talking about this, they both said to each other, ‘That guy has to direct this movie.’”
Keane also revealed that the film was not originally intended to be a musical, but while reading the script, he kept hearing a voice in his head suggesting otherwise. “In the back of my head, all I could hear was Howard Ashman saying, ‘This is a song. If you make this a song, it’s going to be this powerful super-thruster that’s going to move the story forward in music.’” He believed that using music would be able to help to the heavy aspects of the story while also lifting the material up. “After reading through the script, the first thing I said to Peilin and Audrey was that I felt like this was a musical. Their eyes just lit up and they said, ‘Yes!,’ because they were both huge fans of musicals.”
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