We got the incredible chance to interview the one and only Joe Mateo, the creative mind behind some of animation’s best films. Not only that, but Mateo’s short film, Blush, releases today (October 1st, 2021), and he shared with us his experiences in filmmaking, the loss of his wife, Mary Ann, and the journey he has been on creating the short.

Joe Mateo / Picture Credit: Alex Berliner

Joe Mateo / Picture Credit: Alex Berliner

Joe Mateo was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States in 1992, where he met his wife, Mary Ann. From then, he got his first role in animation in 1995, working on Pocahontas.

Since then, Joe has won an Emmy Award for his artistry, and has worked on a great number of animated classics, such as Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Treasure Planet; not to mention Bolt, Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Big Hero 6.

Blush will be Skydance Animation’s, the company who helped create the short, first animation.

When we sat down with Joe (via Zoom), he immediately created a comfortable, positive environment for us to chat in, which helped immensely as the short, the thing we would be discussing, focuses on the story of his late wife’s passing.

Joe began by telling us how Blush was always intended to be a short film, “It’s always been a short film... there’s just something pure and challenging about that medium, about that format.”

Since Blush is around 14 minutes long, the impact of what occurred within was definitely felt within such a short run time, and we adored the to-the-point, yet impactful story.

When asked why his short included amazing visuals, but no dialogue, Joe explained that he supposed it “came from just wanting it to be universal”, as everyone can understand what transpires within Blush, with no words needed.

Blush / Picture Credit: Apple TV+
Blush / Picture Credit: Apple TV+

He went on to say that the film’s lack of spoken words came from his “love of telling stories visually”, as he told us that “many of my favourite films don’t have dialogue... the impact of it is different.”

Joe has already had a brilliant career in filmmaking, as he was Head of Story for Big Hero 6, and worked on 1995’s Pocahontas, and he says that “all my years in the animation industry... helped me prepare to do Blush.

“From when I started as a clean-up artist,” Joe continued, “2D animator, then to storyboard artist...” Every stage in Joe’s life taught him something pivotal, but perhaps nothing more important than what he learned from his wife, Mary Ann.

“Our first week in college – this is in the Philippines – I heard this laughter,” Joe says when recalling how he met his wife. “... I walked over there and saw where it’s coming from; she’s like the tiniest person.”

Joe proceeded to tell us how the name of the short, Blush, came about; “I introduced myself and when she turned around, she blushed, she changed colour completely.

“She already had this darker complexion, but she turned red... it was a little concerning!”

“I came to find out,” Joe continued, “her nickname in high school was ketchup... but it was too late; I was already charmed by it, and ended up pursuing her.”

Within Blush, Joe included things like mangoes and succulents in the story due to Mary Ann’s love for them, and says that another thing he included for his wife was “a pond... Mary Ann loved swimming. Both our daughters are competitive swimmers...

Blush / Picture Credit: Apple TV+
Blush / Picture Credit: Apple TV+

“Mary Ann used to say that,” laughs Joe, “’In my past life, I think I was an Olympian swimmer!’” Joe chuckles once more and grins, remembering the incredible and free spirit Mary Ann was.

With Blush being such a beautiful, meaningful project, Joe was asked how he thought the short would resonate with audiences; “I know there’s a part there that’s really sad, but I hope that the thing that resonates with our viewers is the message of hope and healing...

“... a way to help you get over it,” Joe told us, “you just surround yourself with people you love. I think that’s really important.”

Joe told us that he began creating Blush to tell the story of how his wife changed his life, as the planet the astronaut lands on in the short “started out really barren and kind of sad, when he gets there alone, and if it wasn’t for her showing up, he’s going to be like that plant that was dying.”

Joe made Blush, in short, to “tell how special Mary Ann was. To fill the planet with her gifts was the idea.”

Blush more than showed both how wonderful Mary Ann was, but also showed how strong her and Joe’s love was – still is.

Despite her passing away, Mary Ann will always be in Joe and his children’s hearts and minds, which is the very premise of Blush; to have this kind of love is a thing of beauty, and something to be remembered, and the short is the perfect way to capture this idea.

Blush releases today (October 1st, 2021), so head to Apple TV+ and watch this beautiful story unfold.

Watch the trailer for Blush below:

Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal