Emmy award-winning Filipino artist tells love story inspired by his late wife’s bout with breast cancer

After demonstrating his brilliance in popular animated films such as Zootopia, Mulan, and Big Hero 6, Emmy award-winning Filipino artist Joe Mateo is displaying his talents as both writer and director in his most personal project to date.


Mateo recently released an animated short film under Skydance Animation entitled Blush. The story revolves around an astronaut whose spaceship is hit by an asteroid, causing it to crash-land on a dwarf planet. In there, he meets the love of his life–a visitor that easily captivates him.

“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,” he explained on Variety. “When this visitor shows up, the music starts and we see this planet transform with color and vibrancy.”

The project was inspired by his late wife Mary Ann, who passed away after an 8-year fight against breast cancer. The film is rooted in their love story, which started when they crossed paths during their college years at the University of Santo Tomas.

Mateo recalled that when the couple was introduced to each other, Mary Ann turned and blushed. “I took it as a sign that she liked me,” he said. “But later I found out, it wasn’t the case. Mary Ann just naturally blushed often. Her nickname back then in high school was ‘Ketchup.’ That’s her thing.”

Fortunately, their friendship blossomed into something more. With two children the pair moved to the United States, where they ended up working for Disney. Mateo joined the Walt Disney Animation Studios, while his college sweetheart ended up working at Disney Art Classics and Disney Interactive for a decade.

The heartbreaking scene in the film wherein the main character wakes up from his sleep, gasping for air after losing his special someone–somehow shows how he felt after his wife’s death. “The idea came from me struggling to breathe, having a panic attack after I lost my wife. That’s something I didn’t experience before,” he recalled. “It came from there. Experiencing that for the first time and having difficulty breathing, I realized that my wife was my air.”

Blush is about 14 minutes long, and is now available on AppleTV+. There are even Filipino references in the short film you wouldn’t want to miss. Here’s the short film’s trailer to hype you up.

Art Daniella Sison

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