This morning, animation legend Glen Keane was up before the sun and learned that he’d scored his first Oscar nom for Best Animated Feature Film, for his debut feature — Netflix musical fantasy, Over the Moon.
“It’s pretty exciting. I tend to get up around four o’clock anyway, but this was something to get up at four o’clock for,” says the director. “I am just so thankful that [the Academy] recognized the beauty of this movie. It was such a labor of love.”
In conversation with Deadline, Keane shared his feeling that the message of his film is “the right one for this year: healing and love.”
“There’s a moment in the movie where Fei Fei says, ‘I just wish things could go back to the way they were,’ but we don’t go backwards, as we’re finding out,” he added. “We go forward, and it’s through the challenges that we face that we grow and become stronger.”
For Keane, there were many highlights in crafting Over the Moon, including his collaboration with production designer Celine Desrumaux on its “remarkably beautiful” worlds.
Of particular note was the fact he was directing from a script by Audrey Wells, bringing to life the last story she wrote for the screen before passing away in October of 2018. “The story written by Audrey Wells, knowing that she would not live to see this movie, was really the heart for us all the way through. Anytime that we felt like we needed to find our way again through the story problems, we would go back to her script,” Keane said. “She really guided us all the way through this, and that was such an important thing, to realize that we were taking someone’s final, important message to the world and doing it justice.”
Another major takeaway stemmed from the idea of “creating something from the moment of discovery.”
“Discovering the Chinese culture was absolutely fantastic for me,” Keane said. “As an animator, I’ve spent my career living in the skin of other characters, and to experience Fei Fei, this girl who’s a combination of faith and science and math, it was great to really live this story through her.”
While Keane told Deadline recently about a “Mount Everest” type passion project he has in the works, he wasn’t ready to share further details this morning. What he could confirm was that his relationship with Netflix will be ongoing. “Our company, Glen Keane Productions, continues its relationship with Netflix, developing ideas,” he said, “and we have several ideas that we are developing.”
Produced by Pearl Studio and Netflix Animation, Over the Moon is the first animated feature distributed by a major Hollywood studio to center on an entirely Asian cast. Bringing splendid life to both modern-day China and a fantastical realm known as Lunaria, it centers on Fei Fei, a 14-year-old Chinese girl who has long been told the legend of the Moon goddess Chang’e. While struggling to cope with the loss of her mother, the teenager decides to journey into space to prove that the immortal being is real.
One of the most influential artists working in the medium of animation over the last half-century, Keane spent nearly four decades at Walt Disney Animation Studios prior to his departure in 2012. In 2018, he won his first Oscar for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, sharing the prize with the late NBA great Kobe Bryant. Keane shares today’s nomination with Over the Moon producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou.
This year, in the category of Best Animated Feature, Over the Moon’s competition includes Soul (Disney/Pixar), Onward (Disney/Pixar), A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix/Aardman Animations) and Wolfwalkers (Apple TV+).
Over the Moon’s trajectory toward an Oscar nom seemed a given, with all the awards and nominations it had already claimed this season. Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture- Animated, it was also recognized with six Annie Award nominations and more.