Animated sci-fi short film Blush was inspired by Disney veteran Joe Mateo’s experience of losing his wife to breast cancer.
They say your best work comes when you are inspired or base them on your own experiences. Artists and creatives take real-world situations, whether it be their own happiness or observed, and turn them into art. For animator Joe Mateo, he turned an extremely personal story and a heartbreaking tragedy into his latest work, the animated short film, Blush. And the end result is a film that will tug at your heartstrings with its tender story of love, romance, and loss.
BLUSH, A LOVE STORY INSPIRED BY A TRAGIC LOSE
Blush follows the story of a horticulturalist-astronaut (a horticulturalist is basically someone who studies and grows plants). One day, while out in space, his rocket ship is hit by an asteroid and crash lands on a desolate dwarf planet. Alone, it looks as if the astronaut will die a lonely death, but a pink spaceship crash lands on the planet. He then meets a pink ethereal visitor with the ability to give things life. The two soon cultivate the planet and form a friendship that turns romantic.
Blush was written and directed by Joe Mateo under Skydance Animation. Joe is a veteran of the Disney animation scene. Some of the films this Emmy-award-winning animator has worked on include Ralph Breaks the Internet, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, Tangled, and Meet the Robinsons. The personal project bore out of the loss of his late wife Mary Ann Mateo, who died after an eight-year battle with breast cancer. Joe and Mary first met when they were in college at the University of Santo Tomas. The two, along with their two daughters, soon moved to the US. Mateo then worked for the Walt Disney Animation Studios while Mary worked at Disney Art Classics and Disney Interactive.
Following the loss of his wife, Mateo struggled to get back to work. He turned to doing this project as a way for him to heal. “We started with this planet that looks barren and boring. When the astronaut lands, there’s nothing there and he has a very limited supply of oxygen. When this visitor shows up, the music starts and we see this planet transform with color and vibrancy,” said Joe in an interview for Variety.
Aside from the tender story of the astronaut and the alien, Blush also includes elements of Filipino culture. One major prop used in the film is the mango tree and the mango, which was Mary’s favorite fruit. “We started talking about Filipino mangoes and the mango tree is a symbol for growth and life in the movie,” said animation supervisor Yuriko Senoo who helped work on the film. The visitor also has a tendency to blush, which is something Mary was known for.
While losing a loved one is never easy, Blush is here to remind people that there is hope. This was a message he wanted to deliver with the movie. At around 10 minutes long and featuring no dialogue, Blush is not as ambitious as some of his previous work. But Mateo said that he wanted to “keep this universally themed.”
You can catch Blush on Apple TV+.