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Western Animation / Over the Moon

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Over the Moon is a 2020 animated musical film on Netflix, featuring Glen Keane in his directoral debut, animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks, and produced by Pearl Studio (Abominable).

Set in modern-day China, as a little girl, Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) was told the tragic love story of the goddess Chang'e (Phillipa Soo) and the archer Houyi by her mother, and how the lovers were separated when the potion that the goddess had consumed trapped her on the moon. Years after her mother's passing, Fei Fei is determined to build a rocket ship to fly to the moon and find Chang'e... but her destination isn't quite what she was expecting.

It was released on October 23, 2020.

Tropes in this film include:

  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • In-universe, Fei Fei's aunts debate that Chang'e was actually selfish and hoarded two doses of immortality to herself with a lie that she was "hiding them in her mouth" while Houyi was preoccupied. Fei Fei objects to this line of discussion, as it's contrary to the romantically ideal interpretation her late mother raised her on.
    • It's a bit of a Genius Bonus, as there are a lot of variations of the story, with varying degrees of sympathy for Chang'e and Houyi. Two of the most common are either that Chang'e drank the immortality potion out of selfishness, or out of selflessness, to prevent a cruel and evil man from getting his hands on it.
  • Ambiguously Related: Mrs. Zhong's relation to Houyi. While she jokes at the beginning that her family has blood relations to the man, she shares a lot of his philosophy, his color scheme, and the mooncake from her home town she gives to Fei Fei has The Gift hidden inside. It's entirely possible that Houyi really did move on and have descendants in Mrs. Zhong's area, but the answer is merely implied.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Chin, Fei Fei's little stepbrother-to-be. She thinks of him as not very bright, and it later turns out he snuck himself onto Fei Fei's rocket.
  • Art Shift: When Fei Fei's parents tell her the story about Chang'e and Houyi, the tale is presented in hand-drawn animation, in contrast to the movie's computer animated style.
  • Asian Lion Dogs: Chang'e has winged red and yellow stone lions at her command. They're the ones who rescue Fei Fei and Chin when the rocket malfunctions en route to the moon, and seemingly give them the ability to breathe in space.
  • Awful Wedded Life: One of Fei Fei's aunts expresses envy that Chang'e lives alone with Jade Rabbit when her husband makes a comment about it.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Fei Fei, Chin, and their pets almost suffocate on the surface of the Moon until some winged lions grant them the ability to breathe there. They suffer no other ill effects from being in space, however.
  • Blended Family Drama: The catalyst of the film's plot. Four years after her mother's death, Fei-Fei doesn't want to accept that her father is moving on with Mrs. Zhong, and hates her soon-to-be-stepbrother Chin, so she tries to build a rocket to the moon to meet Chang'e and show her father proof of eternal love.
  • Book Ends: One of the first scenes with a young Fei Fei and her parents shows them sitting by the pond with a bunny-shaped lantern. Later on, during the very last times Fei Fei could sit by the pond with both her father and ailing mother, her parents gift her an actual (baby) bunny.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Towards the beginning, Fei Fei has a debate with one of her aunts about Chang'e. Although her opinion that Chang'e enjoys living on the moon away from Houyi stems from her own terrible marriage, Fei Fei's aunt isn't wrong, considering that Chang'e's lunarian fans make her life up on the moon pretty bearable, to say the least. But Fei Fei's also right on the money about Chang'e still missing Houyi, even after all this time.
  • Casting Gag: Phillipa Soo playing a legendary woman who outlived her lover and some of her musical numbers are raps? Huh?
  • Central Theme: Learning to move on from the grief of losing those you love most and accepting new love into your life.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Played with; Chin's "superpower" never comes into play the way he intends, while at one point his championship ping pong skills help him win a bet against Chang'e. It comes up again when he breaks the barrier to save Fei Fei.
  • Chess with Death: Chin challenges Chang'e to a game of Ping Pong for Fei Fei's photo. After losing a few rounds, he gets the hang of the weird gravity and goes toe to toe with the goddess. Even though he wins, she refuses to hand over the only thing that's keeping Fei Fei searching for the gift and locks Chin in the interrogation room.
  • Child Prodigy: Fei Fei is a science whiz who creates a maglev-powered rocketship to the moon out of spare parts.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Chin for some reason believes he has the superpower of running through walls, even though he fails every time. He also takes Fei Fei snarking that he's "super annoying" as having another superpower.
  • Costume Porn: Chang'e has an incredible variety of outfits from her regal court gowns, to her neon performance skirt and sports clothes. All courtesy of world-renowned fashion designer, Guo Pei.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Both of Fei Fei's parents are shown to be kind and caring, but it's also shown that her mother had an untimely passing.
  • Disneyesque: As the movie was made by a Disney alum, this was pretty much unavoidable. The movie has the dead parent trope that Disney movies are famous for. It also has tons of musical numbers, lavish animation and colors, and themes of family. The movie even has Glen Keane's Creator Thumbprint of having a beautiful woman with long, flowing hair: Chang'e.
  • Dub Name Change: The name of Chin's frog, Croak, becomes the equivalent word in various dubs.
    • In the Chinese version, Ching is referred to as "Little Ching" because it's unusual to refer to someone by only one syllable in Chinese.
  • Emotional Powers: Owing to her being a Fisher Queen, Chang'e can cause meteor showers and a massive blackout with her sadness/anger.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Chang'e has one called the "Chamber of Exquisite Sadness" that she retreats into when her grief over Houyi peaks. It's a pocket dimension full of distant stars that others can usually only enter through having their own feelings of grief. Outsiders run the risk of being trapped forever as they see visions of their saddest moments. It's broken open not necessarily by force but by Chin's determination to retrieve his sister. Fei Fei and Chang'e both leave when they resolve to move on and love again.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Fei Fei has one in the middle of class when the teacher pins her sketch of a rocket up next to a poster of the maglev train, which gives her the idea of using the maglev rails to launch her rocket.
  • The Exile: Gobi has been exiled from Lunaria for a thousand years for singing a song to Chang'e about moving on from grief.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Fei Fei is introduced wearing her hair long, but after her mother's death she wears it messily cut short. A vision at one point in the movie shows she cut it in grief after her mother's passing, and she's kept it that way since.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: Subverted; Fei Fei gets a picture with Chang'e as proof of her existence, but Chang'e withholds it from her unless Fei Fei can bring her the "gift." Though Fei Fei succeeds, the picture burns upon reentry to Earth, but at that point, she's fine with it.
  • Faux Shadowing: The film’s intro makes it seem like the space dog will play a role in the story. It only shows up for real briefly at the end.
  • Fisher King: The city of Lunaria, and to some extent the moon in general, is impacted by the moods of Chang'e. When she's angry, she causes a meteor shower. When she's depressed, the city goes completely dark as its people blackout momentarily.
  • Food Porn: We are given a fantastic show of Chinese cuisine from Fei Fei's mother making moon cakes to her grandmother, and aunties, making the family moon festival feast.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Fei Fei goes through this throughout the movie, after meeting Mrs Zhong, Ba Ba asks her if she was lonely during the 4 years without her mom, she immediately denies it, also when Chin is about to say "married" Fei Fei shot him down telling him not to say that word (denial); she hates and even lashed out at Chin when she was going to find the gift, claiming he will never be her brother (anger). When hearing the news that her father is getting remarried, Fei Fei hopes that by finding proof of Chang'e, Ba Ba won't marry Zhong (Barganing). At the climax of the movie, Fei Fei enters the Chamber of Exquisite and sees a vision of mother causing her to enter a stage of anguish (Depression). Finally, when the main characters are going home, the picture Fei Fei got as proof of the moon goddess burns up but she is ok with this because she had moved on from the tragedy of her late mom (Acceptance)
  • Foreshadowing: The story Fei Fei's mother tells her of Chang'e and Houyi shows Chang'e's amulet breaking. Even in her popstar garb, the still-broken necklace is prominently displayed by the goddess. The Gift is the other half of the necklace, kept by Houyi's descendants.
    • Fei Fei's aunt suggests that perhaps Chang'e's reason for drinking the potion was selfish, a theory which Fei Fei does not agree with. This is meant to set up how Fei Fei is in for a rude awakening when she meets the diva that is the present day Chang'e.
  • Genre Mashup: The moon looks like how it does in real life… except hidden in the dark side of the moon is a cartoon alien city, which is home to a mythical Chinese goddess with magical powers and has also become a local popstar.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Fei Fei begins working at building a functional rocket ship when she resolves to prove Chang'e exists. After her teacher accidentally gives her an idea, it even gains its own song.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: Chang'e has "Ultraluminary," a vainglorious pop performance about how everyone looks up to her as the brightest thing in the skies above.
  • I Choose to Stay: Fei Fei's pet rabbit Bungee chooses to stay on the moon with Jade Rabbit, having fallen in love.
  • Idea Ding: "Rocket to the Moon" features this when Fei Fei decides to build her rocket.
  • It Was with You All Along: Chang'e tells Fei Fei this during the song "Love Someone New." What she needed wasn't to build a rocket and come to the Moon, but find the strength to move on from her mother passing, which she always had.
  • The Lonely Door: Doors on Lunaria don't need to be in line with their surroundings at all and can be summoned anywhere convenient, with their room being like a pocket dimension.
  • The Lost Lenore: Chang'e is dealing with the loss of her loved one, Houyi.
  • Lunarians: The movie is about a city, that's even called Lunaria, on the moon and so naturally has some as the supporting cast there. They're all vibrantly glowing, colorful beings modeled after various animals or objects like chickens and moon cake. Some are so non-distinct as to just be blobs with limbs.
  • Mirror Character: Fei Fei and Chang'e. One is but an ordinary Earth girl, the other is a moon goddess, but they are alike in many ways. They both have the same problem struggling with the loss of a loved one, and because of their grief, they push away their still-living loved ones and refuse to accept anything new. They both learn how to deal with their grief and move on in life.
  • Missing Mom: Fei Fei's mother dies early on in the movie, and it's what sets the plot in motion as Fei Fei thinks her father has forgotten her mother due to his new romance with Ms. Zhong.
  • Modernized God: In modern times, Chang'e has styled herself as an ultra-glamorous C-Pop idol.
  • Moon Rabbit: Fei Fei has a pet rabbit, Bungee, and in the first trailer, we see it looking up at the moon. Chang'e also has Jade, who works as her DJ and alchemist. In the end, the former decides to remain with the latter.
  • Moving Beyond Bereavement: The Central Theme. Fei Fei is estranged from her father for marrying another woman after her mother's untimely passing, and the lunar goddess Chang'e spent millennia constantly trying and failing to resurrect her husband Houyi.
  • The Musical: The movie has several musical numbers, all of which are sung by the characters.
  • Mystical Jade: Chang'e's desired "gift" turns out to be the other half of the jade necklace she shared with her long-dead true love Houyi. Once Fei Fei gives it to her, the jade necklace combined with the potion (created by the Moon Rabbit named Jade, for bonus points) is able to bring Houyi back to her for a few minutes. In this scene Chang'e is also decked head to toe in jade jewelry and a jade gown.
  • No Antagonist: The movie does not have an antagonist whatsoever. The closest thing are the Biker Chicks who betray Fei Fei by stealing her doll because they believe it to be the gift Chang'e wanted, and Chang'e, who is not necessarily evil — she's just hurting.
  • Overly-Long Tongue: Gobi has an extremely long tongue Fei Fei uses as a lasso more than once. He can tie himself up in it if he talks too fast.
  • Parent with New Paramour: The conflict begins when Fei Fei is introduced to Ms. Zhong as her father's new fiancée...which also happens to be literally the first time they ever meet. Naturally, it doesn't go well.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Had Chang'e been even slightly more patient with Fei Fei, Fei Fei could have explained to her that the gift would be on the crashed rocket and easily narrowed the search, possibly even using her ability to sense the gift to find it once in closer proximity. Instead, she's so incensed that the children don't know what she's talking about that she sends all of Lunaria looking for it and Fei Fei, the only person who knows where the crash site is other than Chin, is nearly left behind entirely.
  • The Power of Love: Jade Rabbit was having no luck recreating the immortality serum until Fei Fei's rabbit Bungee arrived and nuzzled his nose, creating a sparkling dust that was the final ingredient. Love also seems to be how Chin manages to break through the barrier keeping him from rescuing Fei Fei.
  • Replacement Goldfish: After Bungee stayed on the moon to be with Jade Rabbit, Fei Fei gets a puppy.
  • Scenery Porn: Lunaria is a surreal, neon glowing city shaped like a galaxy over a lake of still, reflective dark water.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lunaria's design was inspired by the cover to The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
    • Several times during Fei Fei's planning montage, her sketch of a rocket is shown taking off and crashing. The final time, after she has her "Eureka!" Moment, the rocket's trajectory ends at a poster of the moon, and a disgruntled face appears on the moon with the rocket sticking out of its eye, just like in the iconic image from A Trip to the Moon.
  • Shown Their Work: This video delves into the cultural details (both minor and major) that serve to place the film in an authentic modern Chinese setting, such as how Fei Fei's hometown is most likely a tourist town, as indicated by its particular architecture and the sign on her family's moon cake store.
  • Slower Than a Snail: At the end of "Rocket to the Moon (Reprise)", Fei Fei starts her rocket engine... only for her rocket to go backwards and bump the roadblock. A snail crawls past it as Fei Fei tries getting her rocket to take off.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Chang'e is a demanding diva with all the gravitas of a goddess, but she's just desperate to be reunited with the only man she'll ever love after thousands of years without him. When she sees Fei Fei suffering in grief with her, she expresses sincere concern and encourages her to let herself be open to love again or else she'll be trapped in grief forever.
  • Stepford Smiler: It becomes clear as the story unfolds that Chang'e took on a glamorous popstar persona to suppress her grief over being forever apart from Houyi.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Fei Fei's choppy hairstyle was borne from when she tried to cut her own hair out of grief. While movies often depict hair cut with household scissors as cleanly cut, we see here that's not actually the case.
  • Swiss-Army Tears: The tears of Chang'e spontaneously become glowing, living creatures, populating all of Lunaria.
  • Trapped in Another World: Fei Fei, her soon to be stepbrother Chin, and their pets end up in a fantastical city on the dark side of the Moon, and they're not allowed to leave unless they can produce "the gift." The only evidence they have of its existence ends up burning up upon reentry. The journey helps them grow closer as a family and helps Fei Fei move on from the death of her mother.
  • Toilet Humor:
    • Fei Fei packs her grandfather's diapers for her journey, just in case. Gobi later takes them for "moon pants."
    • Chin taunting Chang'e with fart noises in "Hey Boy."
  • Tragic Intangibility: Chang'e has seemingly managed to resurrect her deceased lover Houyi and they're happily reunited, but when he touches her face his hand becomes transluscent, with his entire body following suit. He explains that he can't come back to her and that she must move on. Chang'e refuses to accept this and attempts to embrace Houyi, begging him not to leave her again, only for her to fall through him and collapse to the ground.
  • Trip to the Moon Plot: Fei Fei builds a rocket to go to the moon and meet Chang'e.
  • Visual Pun: All the round doors that work like portals on Lunaria are moon gates.
  • Wham Shot: Fei Fei's rocket falls to the Earth and is then caught by a tractor beam, drawn to the moon's surface, as some winged lions curiously examine it.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The tragedy of the story of Chang'e is part of the central theme, as when she was made immortal, she was immediately separated from the mortal Houyi forever.