The creativity of many Filipinos has long been reflected in many fields around the world. For one, Filipinos play a big part in the success of many animated movies and series shown on the big screen and on major online streaming services these days.
But probably one of the biggest wins is having the chance to tell even the personal stories of what these Filipinos have gone through. Just like the case with the recently released short film on Apple TV+ titled Blush – a fictional scifi of the Disney animation vet, Joe Mateo, who lost his wife to cancer in 2017.
The Filipino animator and storyboard artist who’s now based in the United States has made great contributions to the success of Meet the Robinsons, which he co-wrote, and Big Hero 6, where he was the head of the story. Blush is his directorial debut, which tells the story of a horticulturist-astronaut who crashlands on an abandoned dwarf planet. The story further brings the audience to the gravity-defying romance of the astronaut and the bright pink extraterrestrial creature who appears on the planet’s terrain.
Some Fun Facts About Blush
As per Mateo in an interview with Variety: “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 the visitor shows up, the music starts and we see this planet transform with color and vibrancy.”
Working for 25 years with Disney (he worked for Mulan and Pocahontas!), Mateo was able to smoothly inject an allegory of his experience with his wife of moving from the Philippines to America and how he grappled with the loss of his wife, Mary Ann, who passed away due to breast cancer. “It’s already a dream come true to make this love letter to my wife. But to be seen globally through the Apply TV+, sometimes, I have to punch myself.”
Bringing all the Filipino in him, Blush on Apple TV+ comes with a lot of Filipino Easter egg elements – from the looks, design, and even the little details that can be observed in the short film. If you look closely at the trailer, you will notice that the main character’s spacesuit resembles the colors of the Philippine flag. There’s also the mango tree, the favorite fruit of Mateo’s wife. According to the animation supervisor, Yuriko Senoo, aside from it being intentional, it also represents growth and life in the movie.
The bright pink-haired character in the short film represents Mateo’s wife – all bright and energetic, who blushes a lot. As shared by the Filipino animator, he first met his wife at the University of Santo Tomas. On their first week of college, he first noticed her laughter which filled up the room. Mateo then bravely introduced himself to the girl who immediately blushed after such an introduction. Later on, the two moved to the US to pursue the Filipino American dream.
In 2010, Joe Mateo bagged an Emmy for his amazing work as the storyboard artist for the short film series, Prep & Landing. He then moved to Skydance Animation — headed by former Disney and Pixar executive John Lasseter — where he made his debut with Blush for Apple TV+.
May Mateo’s success not only inspires the young generation to pursue their dreams but pushes them forward to make a feature-length film that will soon follow the culture and life of Filipinos.