By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Available on Apple TV Plus
Joe Mateo’s computer animated short film, Blush, is definitely his most personal to date. After working on high-profile movies like Meet the Robinsons and Big Hero 6 in varying capacities, to see him direct is a win. In the former, he wrote the story about a boy getting a glimpse of the future, but is facing abandonment issues (he was left at an orphanage), and the latter, about a teen who loses his big brother and fears he has no one close to be with ever again.
The theme of loss is common for this storyteller, and he ups it another notch by exploring what it’s like to lose hope when a spaceship crashes on a desolate dry planet, and there’s no way to call for help. He’s somewhere in the boon dogs of space, and the small planetoid he lands on is bereft of life.
He’s lost in space, and when an attractive female alien crashes here, she’s like a breath of life–literally. This astronaut is most likely on a mission to find new worlds to colonize. All the plants he cares for on his ship are enough for him to terraform one planet, and when this other alien can help give these plant that essence to flourish, the bond they make together is not just about the two simply surviving.
Their meeting is sweet and adorable. It’s everything one would expect from puppy love between two kids, especially often blushing after the most innocent of acts. The title is about their growing affection for each other. It’s perhaps also reflective on how Joe met his wife, because we see all that innocence play out until it grows to true love. The super deformed style character design gives us a sense that these two are young, and they have the rest of their life to enjoy together. And they do on this planetoid since it’s impossible to salvage parts from one spaceship to repair the other. They turn the bits into a home, and soon enough, the dry world becomes as rich and alive as Earth.
But since this planet has seasons, the inevitable must come where they grow old. They’ve never tried making a rescue beacon–a staple for many a science fiction type show–and instead just want to live out their lives in bliss. Mateo’s goal is not to offer a story of survival, but a tale about memories.
My big question is if this storyteller is now a full-time director, and will he remain with Disney or is he freelancing between studios? His debut work is produced at Skydance Animation and he may opt to continue working here. This talent’s directorial style tugs at the heart strings as effectively as a PIXAR film (namely “Up”), and I can’t wait to catch what he’ll develop next!
5 Stars out of 5