Netflix Original ‘Over the Moon‘ is an endearing tale and musical adventure. If you haven’t already read my classic review of the film from yesterday, I encourage you to do so. This post however, sort of grew in the process of making it. The songs are an integral part to ‘Over the Moon’ and it felt necessary to highlight them.

However, my opinion on the songs are very much like my opinion on the movie as a whole. The songs are catchy, energetic, fun, and functional; but I don’t know if it’s as memorable or effective as some of the songs from other animated tales. A great way to demonstrate is to compare and contrast the songs from ‘Over the Moon’ and similar songs from other films. In doing so this post has become a rather interesting piece on animated musicals and how visual/audio components, narrative purpose, and storytelling devices can come together to make an effective song and overall movie. Let’s blast off and see where this ride takes us. (slight spoilers, because I will be talking about all the songs throughout the film…but like none of them reveal too much typical spoiler things.)

On The Moon Above

A simple and cute exposition song. The song literally beautifully illustrates the myth of Chang’e. I think this was a visual stunning and perfect way to ensure the audience has the perfect amount of backstory and setup for who the Moon Goddess is. It also does a fantastic job of introducing to us Fei’s philosophy. She believes in true love and that loves last for eternity. Capturing this well through the message of the song, but in how the character reacts and interjects with it.

I wish I could find a comparison that also does a different stylistic story, but I find this one comparable to Mulan’s ‘Honor To Us All’. It’s no one’s favorite, it’s a dare I say forgotten song but it is a perfect introduction for Mulan. Below is the French version which hopefully you can agree that the instrumentals are somewhat similar between the two songs. If you pay attention, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Mulan. She’s smart and she’s kind. While she’s trying her best she’s not like the rest, and I admire the detail of watching her slightly uncomfortable and out of sync the whole time.

I think these are both fine intro songs that plant seeds that emphasis pieces later to come. I think the details that went into ‘Honor to Us All’, elevates and bring so much more power to moments like ‘Reflection’. I think that’s the difference between delivering a moment and letting us indulge in a moment. ‘On the Moon Above’ is an enjoyable number it’s just a tad brief. Where ‘Honor to Us All’ packs so much exposition, set up, and characterization and it does a lot of it outside of telling us lyrically.

Ultraluminary

This song is a K-Pop inspired introduction to the Goddess Chang’e. It comes as a bit of a surprise, as the “sorrowful true-love moon Goddess” revels in such an ostentatious display. ‘Ultraluminary’ serves as a solid introduction to the idea that this isn’t your Grandma’s Chang’e and she might not be exactly what Fei Fei was expecting. Listening to this song, you can’t deny that the singer has got pipes. Then you realize that it’s Phillipa Soo, good old Eliza Hamilton herself and can’t help but react like this:

It’s very comparable to “Not Evil” from The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Both are a grandiose show stopper that serves as a great introduction to an eccentric character. While both are vibrant, colorful, and full of energy I would maybe give the edge to The Lego Movie 2. ‘Ultraluminary’ has the superior singer, a variety of visual changes, and some nice lyrics that expand on the lore of the plot.

Despite all that, “Not Evil” just has greater intent behind the directing and composing. The way they’re able to characterize Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi so vividly and in some cleverly humorous lyrics is rather remarkable. I wish ‘Ultraluminary’ also, gave better reaction from the other characters, give us a chance to see their personalities shine through being confronted my this figure instead of getting lost in it. I don’t know, this song in The Lego Movie 2 is the catalyst for why some characters are suspicious of the queen or entranced with her antics. Despite Chang’e having such an over the top number, none of the characters seemed phased by it. ‘Ultraluminary’ for as great as it is, I can’t help but feel that it’s only here because it seemed like a fun idea to do, and not how this helps convey a part of our story.

Rocket To the Moon

Cathy Ang can hit a note. Honestly, I might have to call up the Academy. With the lack of movies out this year, can we get an Oscar Nomination for this beautiful song? Cathy Ang and Phillipa Soo duetting “Rocket to the Moon” would seem like a nice feel good moment.

It’s an almost Disney troupe to have what I’m going to call the “catharsis song”. The protagonist has been ostracized by society or has some inner turmoil that they just got to burst out in song to address it. They are almost like emotional anthems, and that triumph over adversity is why these are some of the most memorable songs. From Hunchback’s “Out There“, to Frozen’s “Let it Go” these songs represent the conflict of the movie and what our protagonist desires.

For the comparison I think the Disney movie that feels the most like Over the Moon is Moana. “How Far I’ll Go” is another catharsis song and I’d argue a great one. Auli’i Cravalho has a beautiful voice and she carries the steady build up of this song well. What really makes this song is how much visual storytelling and extra components that are going on throughout.

There’s so much going on, there’s a ton of location changes and the scenery is constantly changing. There’s a great sonic landscape, under the song there’s the sound of the ocean, and the people going by and the geysers going off. There’s clever moments of the visuals and the music going well together, when the drum hits and she ascends the mountain to the build up. They also sneak in some cool visual storytelling, watching Moana race past the Chieftain headwear is a nice symbolic gesture.

“Rocket to the Moon” is a great song, and it does a lot of nice things as well. It’s an enjoyable number but, it just does things like imitate the Elsa hair pushback that sometimes I don’t know if it has as much thought and detail instead of being imitative.

Mooncakes

This is probably the most forgettable song in the entire movie. It does the nice little cliché of a child grown up song. It’s a nice little number about making mooncakes but it lacks the substance I think that it’s trying to go for. Yeah it’s a nice way to signal the importance of cooking and food to the family unit and what significance they’ll have on this plot. However, what French song am I going to compare it to?

Obviously, Disney’s most iconic glow up song. A strange choice, but I think it illustrates an important point. This is also a song centered around something silly, “what does Hakuna Matata” mean? However, I think the song better answers who is Timon and Pumbaa and more importantly who is Timon and Pumbaa to Simba.

The mooncake song is a huge deal in deepening the connection Fei Fei has with her mother, and one that doesn’t come through as clearly. Yes, it shows how gentle and caring her mom was, but it doesn’t leave that much of a clear impression. Meanwhile little interjections of dialogue clearly demonstrate how Simba is influenced and growing a relationship with the two comic relief characters. I feel ‘Hakuna Matata’ alone gives you great characterization of the characters and a idea of the relationship they have. The ‘Mooncake’ song is more so piggybacking off prior scenes.

Hey Boy

I have to appreciate that Chang’e is serving looks. Chang’e making feel a way that Wii Fit Trainer do… feeling excited to exercise and get fit. When Chang’e wants her vague gift, and Chin interested in getting a photo for his sister do the two end up getting into a game of Ping-Pong. Of course a Goddess plays by her own rules.

Nothing special, but it’s an enjoyable song. It’s a visually stunting at times and overall and nice back and forth. I don’t know why Chin got to roast her like that though, but dang one of those lines probably hurt (maybe took it a little too far). It’s a little confusing as to why Chang’e is the worst cheater ever, how does she rig the game so much…and still lose? Of course for a comparison I had to find a song that followed suite with the competitive spirit. I went off the rails to get it.

Yeah, remember when Total Drama made their third a musical and it was actually a lot of fun and unexpectedly not that cringe. (If you haven’t Total Drama is actually a fun rift on survivor and is a fun series….for the most part). Isn’t the best Total Drama song, or exactly a match but it’s another example of some good back and forth in the heat of competition.

I actually want to give Over the Moon some credit here, because they delivered. I think Chang’e is the perfect balance of addressing a child, yet a little irked by the difficulty to achieve her ulterior motives. I feel like people expect me to be commenting on how they’re such a deeper conflict and intensity found between Alejandro and Heather from TDWT. While that’s true, it’s kind of an unjust comparison.

Of course the couple that was developing a rivalry across a whole season, and was in a more direct conflict with on another would be a drastically different odds than the playful banter of ‘Hey Boy’. I mean both songs achieve what they’re trying to achieve really well. I think both do a good job of doing some visual pizzazz. It’s nice to give Chin something to do, as he was greatly sidelined most of the movie. Which was odd since the whole point of him being their was to strengthen their bond…which the do completely separate of one another.

Wonderful

Holy Smokes, they gave Ken Jeong a song! It’s actually not half bad either. I don’t like that it was the first time I noticed his disguising Pangolin mucus scales, but that’s a small deterrent to an otherwise peppy song. Though I have to agree with Chang’e if I wasn’t in the mood I’d probably banished him too. An optimistic green creature sings a joyful song with some slightly somber undertones presenting facts about life? Can you guess where this one is going to go?

I’d argue that there isn’t enough songs about rainbows. As much as I enjoy ‘Wonderful’, it’s lyrically kind of surface value. ‘Rainbow Connection’ on the other hand is so rich and poetic that I could probably have a whole post dissecting it. It a good comparison to compare instrumentation of a song. The Ukulele feels a little uninspired at this point… it has a nice sound, but it’s the sound of a coffee shop. I mean you can still create nice music with the Uke, but consider how distinct the Banjo of ‘Rainbow Connection’ sounds. As much as I’ve talked up visual flare, sometimes it’s not for the best. Rainbow Connection is so stripped down to just some nice swamp scenery, and eventually Kermit on a log. However, it puts all emphasis on the song, and when you’re ‘Rainbow Connection’ you certainly get away with it.

What do you think, let me know what your favorite song in Over the Moon, or maybe one of the ones I brought up? This was interesting to over-analyze just the music parts of a movie and really get into the nitty gritty of why things are iconic, or effective, or endearing filmmaking. If you haven’t read my prior post, go check out Over the Moon. It’s a fun flick, spectacular cast and has some good moments to it even if I have my fair share of critiques to give.

Thanks for stopping by, and maybe we can find a wonderful rainbow connection somewhere over the moon next time, here at the movies!

5 thoughts on “‘Over the Moon’ and How to Make an Animated Musical

  1. Interesting comparisons between the different songs. You can really see the formula over there. That is so crazy that Philippa Soo was in that production. I sure hope that Netflix doesn’t trademark mooncakes to make the comparison even more obvious (you KNEW I was going to make a joke about that). That’s cool how they got some talented people for the music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I mean you never know what Netflix could do next! Yeah Philippa Soo is great so I’m glad she got another prominent role in something decently popular. I think it was interesting thing to kind of investigate, the different songs you could find and how the musical interludes do function narratively. It was neat for me at least to get into the nitty gritty and look at a lot of details and how to appreciate some overlooked nuances to make each moment effective and efficient with screen time. I’m glad you found it interesting, thanks for commenting and checking them out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, you never know. Trust me, I’d call out Netflix and possibly cancel my subscription if they tried that. Anyways, that’s great how she landed another prominent role. I haven’t done so as much with musical works even though some formulas do stick out to me, but I do notice various motifs in certain genres or film scenes.

        No problem, K!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed and I mean I would rather have a film that’s a little bumpy that you got to appreciate warts and all, but has the earnest emotion to it that a well-executed souless one so… I did like this one. Glad you did as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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