SkyDance Animation formed a multi-year partnership with Ilion Animation Studios in March 2017. Less than half of a decade later, the collaborative giants would unleash Blush, an animated short film, at the Tribeca Film Festival. Produced by animation legend John Lasseter, SkyDance Animation unveiled the project to critical acclaim under the guidance of Joe Mateo, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker known for his work on projects such as Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Big Hero 6.
Welcome to the World of Blush
The Tribeca Film Festival is an annual event held in New York City that features a wide range of projects from film, music, art, and gaming. Tribeca was originally founded by Robert De Niro in collaboration with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff way back in 2002. Decades later, the festival is going strong with more than 600 screenings, 150,000 attendees, and 23 judged categories.
Premiering on June 13th at Tribeca, Blush was introduced as part of the Animated Shorts Curated by Whoopi G. The 11-minute short film focuses on a young and fresh-faced astronaut as his spaceship is kicked off course by a stray asteroid. After landing on a dwarf planet, the stranded astronaut is left with depleting oxygen resources and one lonely, little plant. Just as it looks like all may be lost for the young astronaut, a stranger with a face suffused in a deep pink hue, reminiscent of a blush, crosses his path.
The Inspiration Behind Blush
Ostensibly a simple story, Blush was borne out of an idea close to Mateo’s heart. Mateo wrote the story and was inspired by his wife, Mary Ann. Tragically, Mary Ann lost an eight-year battle with breast cancer in 2017. Mateo says, “After I lost Mary Ann, I suddenly couldn’t breathe.” Mateo goes on to say, “I realized that Mary Ann was my air.”
The story of Blush follows Mateo’s thoughts and struggles with grief translated through the lens of animation all too familiar to people like Joe Mateo and John Lasseter. Mateo points out that the core story idea behind Blush, involving exploration, came from his journey with Mary Ann from the Philippines to the United States, finding a place to live and then building their lives alongside one another.
Driven by his experience as a storyboard artist, Mateo crafted an 11-minute short where his focus was entirely on clarity. Mateo says, “There is not a lot of space for unnecessary scenes, no shoe leather.” Complications with the COVID-19 pandemic would also make production harder than it had to be. The team started on Blush just two months before the first wave of lockdowns.
In much the same way that the characters of Blush go on a journey of emotional mending, Mateo treated the production of Blush in the same way. Mateo says, “Waking up every morning looking forward to it provided me with a sense of normalcy.”
Apple and SkyDance Animation
As industry titans, both Apple and SkyDance Animation came to a multi-year content partnership this past year. The agreement was retroactive to include Luck and Spellbound, two projects which Apple bills as its “first-ever theatrical quality animated television series.” The series will be exclusive to Apple TV Plus Subscribers. The new contract would mark the first time that John Lasseter and Holly Edwards have worked together since Lasseter founded Pixar opposite of Steve Jobs.
After just more than a year officially going live, Apple Originals have earned 242 award nominations with an additional 66 wins. These honors come from the Critics Choice Awards, Daytime and Primetime Emmy Awards, the NAACP Image Award, and much more.