After years of helping deliver some of the more legendary Disney animated characters like Aladdin and The Beast, Over the Moon director Glen Keane knew early on he had found his next great animated character to help bring to life.
“Fei Fei was a character that immediately, I was drawn to,” Keane says during the Netflix panel for the animated film at Deadline’s Contenders Film awards-season event. “I felt like I wanted to animate what’s inside of her.”
Keane, appearing with star Cathy Ang and producers Peilin Chou and Gennie Rim, says he was taught to animate not what the “character is doing but what character is thinking and feeling,” which was the goal when it came to this young girl. The Oscar winner didn’t necessarily take guidance from some of his past characters when coming up with the film’s heroine, but rather Fei Fei’s parents who helped make up her personality.
“The dad is very practical … but the mom’s ability to see what others don’t see along with this imagination and her faith, you then see her make these decisions based on all of this, is the kind of animation I love,” Keane says. “That’s quite a challenge not only in the animation of it but also trying to find that voice in the character.”
Of course, no matter how good the animation is, finding the person to lend that voice is always a challenge, and Keane strongly believes Ang nails everything they wanted out of Fei Fei. “Everything was going to stand on the shoulders of that actor and fortunately we were able to find that actor because Cathy was the perfect Fei Fei,” Keane says.
The plot follows Fei Fei, a determined, bright young girl with a passion for science who builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess. There she ends up on an unexpected quest, and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures. Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Kimiko Glenn, Artt Butler, Sandra Oh and Robert G Chiu round out the cast.
Check out the panel video above.