Over the Moon: 8 Questions We Have After Watching Netflix’s China Focused Animation

Dept. of Mooncakes & Madness


After the cultural missteps of Disney’s Mulan, Netflix is hoping to enchant Chinese audiences worldwide (seeing how Netflix isn’t officially available China) with Over the Moon, the story of a young Chinese girl who flies to the moon, to prove to her father that you should never forget your one true love.

While Disney’s attempt to cater to Chinese audiences backfired at the box office there, it also missed the mark culturally, as hilariously documented in this twitter thread by Chinese writer Xiran Jay Zhao.

Despite a pair of western directors at the helm, Glen Keane and John Kahrs, and a script by a western writer, the late Audrey Wells, (with additional screenplay material by Jennifer Yee McDevitt) Over the Moon is packed with enough Chinese cultural touchstones to avoid the pitfalls that befell both versions of Mulan. That doesn’t necessarily make for an animated classic, and it wasn’t quite enough to win over 2 out of 3 Gogglers on this week’s podcast. With that said we still have a number of burning questions after watching Over the Moon.


1. Why was this movie released after the mid autumn festival?

Considering the film is all about the lunar goddess Chang’e, who is celebrated at the mid autumn festival, why is Over the Moon coming out after the festival has passed? That’s like releasing a Christmas movie in January!?

Only Shane Black would be so crazy to attempt such a thing!

2. What the heck is the deal with the Lunarians?

See all that yellow, that’s PEOPLE.

When Fei Fei arrives on the moon she encounters the colourful city of Lunaria and it’s varied Lunarian inhabitants. This part of the film is so different to what came before, it can be quite jarring (my girlfriend “noped” right out of the movie at this point). Even if the filmmakers were aiming to contrast the Lunar and Earthly sections in a similar fashion to The Wizard of Oz, with its black and white Kansas section and Technicolor Oz, the designs are slightly off putting. Having vastly different designs for parts of your film isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just look at how striking H.R. Giger’s alien creature is against Ron Cobb’s spaceship design in Ridley Scott’s Alien. Most of Lunaria and the Lunarians themselves are just plain weird.


In an easily missed line that Chang’e sings, she explains that the moon was empty when she and Jade Rabbit arrived there, and that Jade Rabbit used a potion to bring her tears to life. Ok, we can get on board with that. She was lonely. But why are some of the Lunarians amorphous blobs, while others are mooncakes, and yet others still are a BIKER CHICKENS FROM THE MOON!!!???


Biker “Chicks.” Geddit?

When one of the Lunarians gets crushed late in the film it turns into multiple happy, smaller ones. Is this supposed to be funny? It’s kind of horrifying. Is that first big one dead? Are the small ones its babies? Did the giant space frogs choose to become giant space frogs or are they the horrific results of Jade Rabbit’s initial experiments with the Moon Goddess’ tears?

3. How did Zhong get the amulet?

This is something we missed the first time we watched Over the Moon but in a fleeting line at a bustling family dinner, Zhong mentions in passing that her family might be related to Houyi, Chang’e’s true love from myth. That doesn’t explain how she got an ancient Chinese artifact. Or why she thought it would be a good idea to hide it in baked goods before giving it to her boyfriend’s openly hostile daughter. Didn’t she notice when said hostile daughter never mentioned the ancient family heirloom ever again?

Is she some kind of demigod?

4. Why is there a giant frickin’ laser beam cutting through Lunaria?

From Uma’s interview with director Glen Keane, it seems a major inspiration for Lunaria was the cover of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. In that video, Glen Keane also highlights the concept that the China based scenes would feature reflected light, while Lunaria would be a source of light. The Moon being thought of as a source of light bugs me enough I could fill another separate article, but sure, I’ll can get on board with the idea of a Pink Floyd reference. As Fei Fei and Chin enter Lunaria the film establishes this white Pink Floyd laser beam, cutting through blobs to make houses. (Wait, are the houses made of Chang’e’s tears as well? Are they alive too?)

While I have to give the movie props for establishing this early, and I get that it’s used for construction, or whatever, but why why leave it on all the time? It’s a health and safety nightmare! The real reason behind this is, of course, because the filmmakers need it to be here for a bit of peril in the third act.

All of this feels a little perfunctory.

5. Why are there so many sidekicks?

Give the frog his own damn movie

I know that you can’t have an animated movie for kids without trying to get in on some on that sweet sweet Minions merchandising money, by having some cute sidekicks, but why does Over the Moon have so many. Fei Fei and Chin already have their pet rabbit Bungee and amazingly sarcastic pet frog Croak, but then adds in the dog/sonic the hedgehog/lizard thing Gobi, the Lunette’s and those aforementioned “biker chicks.” It’s all a bit much.


We never really get to know any of them, so much so that when one decides to stay on the Moon at the end of the movie it barely registers. Likewise, introducing a new companion that the audience is supposed to fall in love with, over halfway through the movie, is difficult to pull off. It hardly leaves enough time to build any connection with them. Any emotion that’s supposed to result from fond farewells in the climax then feels unearned.

To be honest, I’m not sure why they didn’t just have the animals talk on the Moon, because of… um… Moon magic? It would have made about as much sense as anything else that happens. (I’m looking at you biker “chicks.”)

6. Why split up the kids!?

One of the major themes of the movie is supposed to be Fei Fei coming to terms with the loss of her Mother and learning to move on. To embrace her new family. So why does it split up Fei Fei and Chin for most of the movie, in favour of those “biker chicks” and Gobi? Surely going on an adventure together, together, should bring them closer, but it’s difficult to buy that when they spend so much time apart.

7. Who thought it was a good idea, in a kids movie, to have Chin repeatedly run into walls, head first?

Kids are funny. They believe all sorts of things, like thinking they can phase though solid matter by running at it. Head first. At this point you may have gathered that I wasn’t in love with the movie, but if it’s focused at kids, isn’t it a little irresponsible to have a character, and a human one at that, repeatedly banging their head into things?

I can buy a robot or a monster with a thick skull not being emulated. but a human child?

8. Why does Fei Fei’s father put a glass light bulb IN HIS POCKET?

While hanging up lanterns near the beginning of the film, Fei Fei hands her father an old fashioned light bulb that no longer works. Instead of disposing of the fragile, glass bulb safely, he sticks it in his pocket!!! What the hell man? Does he want a crotch full of glass!?! It’s a good thing that the bulb disappears in the next shot!

Okay. Okay. If you’ve made it this far you may think this whole article is asking far too much of a kids movie, but 1) that’s my job m’am, and 2) it’s disappointing  when a film tries to be culturally relevant as well as enjoyable for all ages, but fails to do so.


Not learning from what has gone before is one of my biggest cinematic bugbears, and films like Moana, Coco, Kubo and the two Strings, along with pretty much everything Sudio Ghibli puts out, manage to enthrall wide audiences because of the specificity of their storytelling, not in spite of it.

Over The Moon, didn’t quite do it for me, despite attempting to update to an ancient legend in an interesting way. As we discussed on this week’s podcast, this movie had the potential for a heady mix of science and myth that sadly goes unexplored in favour of less satisfying hijinks. But who knows, maybe your kids will love it.

Over the Moon
95 mins
Directors: Glen Keane and John Kahrs
Writers: Audrey Wells, (with additional screenplay material by Jennifer Yee McDevitt)
Cast: Cathy Ang, Robert G. Chiu, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Sandra Oh, and Ruthie Ann Miles

Over the Moon is now streaming on Netflix.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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