The narrator explains that in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Earth's first satellite Sputnik 1 into orbit. Four years later in 1961, when NASA was putting a monkey named Enos aboard Mercury Atlas 5, astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man on Earth to go to space. The Soviets were beating the Americans in every milestone off the planet. Feeling the sense of urgency to overtake the Soviets in the space race, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made a huge statement toward a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, stating that before the decade is out, he plans to launch a man to the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.
8 years later, in 1969, an 11-year-old fly named Nat and his two best friends, I.Q. and Scooter, build a “fly-sized” rocket in a field across from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where Apollo 11 sits on the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. From his earliest memory, Nat remembers his grandfather, Amos, telling him of his daring rescue of Amelia Earhart when she crossed the Atlantic Ocean on her historic flight in 1932. Wanting to be an adventurer like his grandpa, Nat knows what he has to do. Defying the notion that “Dreamers get swatted!” he tells his friends his plan to get aboard Apollo 11 and go to the moon. His buddies, with some reluctance, are in. The next morning, as their families realize they are missing, the three flies make it in to Mission Control. In their homemade space suits, Nat, I.Q. and Scooter manage to stow away inside the space helmets of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. As they blast off, our three tiny adventurers are about to make some history of their own.
Back on Earth, Grandpa, Mom and the others watch TV to get news of their offspring’s adventure. As the astronauts appear on camera, the heroic flies wave in the background, visible to other flies but barely seen by humans – except for the attentive NASA flight controller Steve Bales, who informs Armstrong that there appear to be “contaminants” on board. One other problem: in the far-away Soviet Union, there are other flies watching TV – Soviet flies who cannot tolerate the idea that American flies might get to the moon first. A Soviet plan is hatched and special operatives are enlisted to interfere with the American mission. The Soviet Union puts all its hopes of success on the back of one nasty operative named Yegor. Fortunately, a pretty Soviet fly named Nadia also sees the flies on board and hears Scooter calling out Grandpa’s real name, the very name of the fly Nadia met in Paris and loved so many years ago.
Back on board the space ship, as the burn cycle to enter the moon's Trans Lunar Injection orbit begins, the spacecraft is violently rocked. There’s a short circuit in the Service Module that must be fixed manually or the ship won’t be able to complete its mission. Nat and I.Q. fly through a maze of wires, find the problem and repair it just in time. Unaware of the flies’ aid, the ship enters orbit and all is well... or so they think. Just as they congratulate each other, the little flies are sprayed with a numbing aerosol and are captives in a test tube vial – contaminants indeed.
The flies manage to break the vial. Nat sneaks into Armstrong’s helmet just in the nick of time. The Lunar Module Eagle lands on Mare Tranquillitatis. From inside the helmet, Nat beams with every awe-inspiring historic step. I.Q. and Scooter join him on the surface inside Aldrin’s helmet. After a climatic rescue with Nat bringing Scooter back to the Columbia, the Eagle is jettisoned. Back on Earth, other plots are being set in motion. After more than 30 years apart, Nadia finds Grandpa, though the joy of their reunion is brief. She tells Grandpa and Nat’s Mom about the Soviet plot to divert the mission. Nat’s mom faints while Grandpa takes off with a renewed youthful vow to save his grandson. At Mission Control Center, the Soviet operatives have infiltrated and are preparing to alter the descent codes. Unaware of the potential danger looming, the astronauts and the little flies sit back and prepare to come back home as heroes.
Grandpa, Nat’s mother and Nadia join forces to stop Yegor and the Soviet plan as the Command Module Columbia hurtles closer and closer toward Earth's atmosphere. In a series of death-defying stunts, they crush the Soviet threat. After a short period of radio silence due to ionization blackout, the Columbia splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean, where it is recovered by the USS Hornet. Returning as heroes, the three little flies share a slogan embraced by all: “Adventure forever! Dreamers get swatted? Never!”
At the end the real Buzz Aldrin explains that no flies were on board during the historic flight, and it is scientifically impossible for a bug to go to space.
The total production budget of Fly Me to the Moon is €17.3 million (about $25.2 million). nWave financed about 75% of the budget itself. To raise the rest, investors could benefit from Belgium’s Tax Shelter system. The Flanders Audiovisual Fund contributed €100,000 ($146,100), 10% of its annual budget for animation.
Apart from the feature-length version, two further versions of the films exist. The 49-minute Attraction version was released across theme parks starting in the summer of 2007. Venues showing this version, which features added 4D effects, include Isla Magica in Spain, Mirabilandia in Italy, Bellewaerde in Belgium, Bakken and Planetariet in Denmark, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the UK, as well as the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and the Museum of Science in Boston. This version of the film omits the subplot about the attempt by Russian flies to sabotage the mission. The 13-minute Ride version is featured at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey and Six Flags Over Texas in Texas.
Fly Me to the Moon was distributed in the U.S. by Summit Entertainment and in the U.K. by Momentum Pictures. As IMAX 3-D films are usually less or around an hour, some scenes were cut and censored from the IMAX version. The IMAX version starts with the opening scene which shows the first monkey being launched to space. It then cuts to Nat sneaking out to meet his friends and sneak into the command centre, cutting out the scene with Nat and Amos, discussing Amelia Earhart. The IMAX version also cuts out the Soviet subplot.
Fly Me to the Moon was released on DVD in North America on 2 December 2008. Two versions were released, a standard 2-D version and a 3-D version of the film that includes two pairs of 3-D glasses. Bonus features on both version include an interactive game, production notes and more.
Fly Me to the Moon was released in 12 IMAX 3D theaters on 8 August 2008 in Canada and the United States, and in a further 18 on 15 August 2008. The film was released widely in 3D equipped theaters on 15 August 2008. It earned $704,000 on opening day in 452 theaters and $1,900,523 in its opening weekend, drawing in the number 12 spot. As of 4 November 2009, the film has grossed $41,412,008 worldwide.
A review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, calculated a rating of 19% with an average rating of 3.9/10, based on reviews from 80 critics. The site's consensus reads: "Flatly animated and indifferently scripted, Fly Me To the Moon offers little for audiences not comprised of very young children."