A Trip to the Moon is a satire in which the innate conservatism of the scientific community is overcome by the convictions of a lone charismatic figure (played by the filmmaker himself). This one-reel film spared no effect or expense in bringing to life Méliès's intensely personal vision. Astronauts prepare for a rocket-launching, take off, land on the moon (hitting it in the eye), and finally splash down back on earth.
Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to Méliès by his peers was the fact that, rather than attempting to duplicate the marvels contained in A Trip to the Moon, they simply stole it and released it under their own names, particularly in the United States. Méliès produced hundreds of films over the next decade. He had been a renowned magician and showman, who first became fascinated with projected images when he incorporated magic lanterns (early slide projectors) into his stage presentations at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin in Paris. Inspired by the work of the Lumière brothers, Méliès went on to build Europe's first true film studio, at Montreuil, and began to make films indoors in a stagelike space with artificial lighting. He produced action shorts, fictional tales, and spectacles; but he was most successful with his fantasy works, the most famous of which is A Trip to the Moon.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 49.