Blush: interview with Joe Mateo, creator of the short film

Blush: interview with Joe Mateo, creator of the short film


Blush is the new short film available for streaming on Apple TV Plus from October 1st. Produced by the American animation studio Skydance Animation, it was written and directed by Joe Mateo. In addition to having had the pleasure of previewing it (you can find our review here), we were also invited to interview the creator of Blush.

Joe Mateo is a Disney veteran. In over 25 years of career, he has been able to work on some of the greatest classics of the most famous animation house in the world: starting from Pocahontas (his first film) Mateo has managed to be part of a significant slice of Disney history, working on some of the best known and most appreciated films. Among these, he can include Mulan and The Emperor's Follies, in which he held minor roles in the art department, later becoming an illustrator for titles such as Bolt, Rapunzel, and the recent Raya and the last dragon, up to Big Hero. 6 of which he was the director of animation.

In short, a working life spent forging the imagination of the little ones, making them have fun and creating a magical world for them. This commitment continues even now that it has become part of Skydance Animation, a new division within the Skydance production house. But what prompted him to accept this proposal?

Well you see, I have many friends at the Skydance studio, friends with whom I have worked in the past, who I have loved very much and with whom I would have liked to work again . And a part of me also wanted to create and bring my stories to life, not just work on those of others. And that's a bit like what happened with John Lasseter.

Before deciding to work together, in fact, Mateo tells us a little timidly that he met him and simply talked to him about his idea, but without sharing any details. Focusing more on his need to tell that story and his motivations for doing so, Mateo was therefore able to convince John Lasseter, who agreed to create Blush with him.

The plot of the film, sees as the protagonist a astronaut horticulturist who travels in space taking care of his own plants, until an asteroid hits him and ends up on a small desert planet. Sure of not being able to survive due to the hostile conditions of that world, the astronaut will have to change his mind when another spaceship crashes to the ground and its sweet and all pink pilot will create thick vegetation thanks to the plants of the land traveler. Together with her, the man will discover the joy of building a new life and a new family, while facing an unexpected tragedy.

If at first superficial glance the story of Blush may seem almost banal, the short film has a much deeper meaning and can be found in the details. We are therefore able to notice small details scattered here and there in the story concerning the creator of the film and his family. The astronaut is therefore of Filipino origin, with the alien he had two daughters and the illness of the Earth's companion symbolizes the cancer that Mateo's wife had to face. Seeing how personal Blush was, we asked him why he decided to tell his story.

I lost Mary Ann four years ago to breast cancer and that same night I had to breathe. I was scared and only later found out I was having panic attacks. I had never had any so I was really scared. But luckily I had my daughters with me, they helped me overcome it but I was still struggling to get back to work. Animation has always been my outlet and trying to work on it, start creating that story ... being able to breathe again, that's where it was all a succession of things. I kept adding details and thinking about this project helped me get back to working on Raya (and the last dragon). It was really therapeutic.

After a moment of silence, Mateo asks us if he has actually answered our question, and we reassuring him, we can only think of the care and delicacy with which he managed to tell his story, making himself totally vulnerable to the eyes of anyone who watches the film. Every detail in Blush leads to his life and even the title (which means blushing) reminds him of a very intimate detail of his wife that he decides to share with us, being moved.

The word itself, Blush and blushing are ephemeral things. You know, no? These things happen in a flash, fast and I thought that actually Mary Ann… Well she was exactly like that. And I know we've had a long life together, but it's been short for me nonetheless. Mary Ann was famous for almost always blushing. The first time we met, during our first week in college, I heard laughter coming from the back of the classroom so I walked over. It was there that I saw her. She was standing but she was still the smallest in the class so I introduced myself. And when she turned around she went totally red as a pepper! So I thought she liked you, for me it was love at first sight! I soon found out that it wasn't really like that and it was completely normal for her to blush, she just didn't like me. She thinks her nickname in high school was Ketchup because she was famous for blushing and changing her face! So here… this is why Blush is the title. I can't think of a better or more appropriate one than that. It represents it.

Mateo seems to have melted now, letting himself go to some happy memories of his wife. And it is these little things that he has decided to include in the short film, to make it so special and intimate. The planet itself, so small and collected, is a symbol of this private sphere in which the viewer enters while looking at Blush. Joe Mateo makes us participate in what everyday life was for him, also explaining the creative process that led him to represent himself as an astronaut and to set the story in space.

So, I believe that everything came from … Proceed in reverse, thinking about what Mary Ann loved to do. She loved succulents, you know? That's why there are so many on the planet! Me for example, what most represents us is the mango. Here is the little map represents my artistic skills, the fact that I know how to draw. Ever since I was a child, a pencil and paper were enough for me to be happy. But going to college, I was good but I didn't know what to do with this ability. It was when I met Mary Ann, the fact that we shared a passion for art and animation ... it was at that moment that I actually exploited it. I really think it was Mary Ann who helped me develop it.

This parallelism is also present in other moments of Blush, when the little and sweet alien takes the astronaut's dying plant and, with her magical power, transforms it until it becomes a beautiful tree . Mateo also confides in us that it is precisely starting from those panic attacks of his that he had the idea of ​​representing himself as an astronaut. We humans need oxygen to live and Mary Ann was just that to him, as were his daughters once his wife was lost.

But despite this sad note in Blush, the message Mateo wants giving with his short film is that of hope and healing. His intent is to help people who are going through or have gone through what he has been through, in understanding that by surrounding oneself with the people we love it is possible to overcome these moments. But there is one last question we want to ask him before we leave him and it concerns what the astronaut sees at the end of the short film.

For each of us it can be different - he says smiling - but I think it's more than anything else hope for the future. Our loved ones will always be in our hearts and will always be part of us. For example, I see Mary Ann in my daughters, but I think mainly that ending is more a message of hope and the fact that it's okay to go further does not mean that we will forget them.

And with the hope of having a new opportunity to interview him for a future animated film, we can only recommend you to watch his short film Blush, on Apple TV Plus from October 1st.

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