‘Blush’ director Joe Mateo on being inspired by personal tragedy

For his animated short film, “Blush,” director Joe Mateo drew from a devastating experience as the basis for the story. “I lost my wife, Mary Ann, to breast cancer four-and-a-half years ago,” he tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: Film Animation panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). He even started having panic attacks after it happened, but as time went on and he started work on this short, the process actually helped him cope with the loss. “I was inspired to share this message as a way to overcome great loss. It was actually very therapeutic.”

“Blush” is a short animated film that is currently streaming on Apple TV+. It centers on a horticulturalist/astronaut whose spaceship crash lands on a strange planet. His fortunes change when an alien spaceship also crashes on the planet and the two fall in love and help to bring plants to life on the small planet.

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One of the things that Mateo enjoyed incorporating into the short were different aspects of his Filipino heritage such as the shared experience of eating a mango in a very specific way. “I remember my grandma would peel it right from the top so we can hold it so we don’t have to get messy.” He even found a way to blend it into the main character’s space suit. “The astronaut’s chest—it’s very subtle and I have to point it out to some friends of mine—it represents the Filipino flag.”

Mateo is not a stranger to the award’s experience as he won an Emmy for his storyboarding work on “Disney’s Prep & Landing” in 2010, which he didn’t even know he had been submitted for. “I just remember that moment, I think I was walking down the hallway and then they told me that I won and not realizing that ‘Prep & Landing’ was going to be a TV show.” He also remembers the way Mary Ann made the whole experience more memorable. “It provided a really great moment when I shared that with Mary Ann because she’s super into going on to the red carpet and it’s great that I had that experience with her.”

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