Blush, the first short from Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation, took its first bow at the Tribeca Film Festival in June. This inaugural release from a multi-year partnership between the two studios premiered at Tribeca as part of its showcase of animated short films curated by Whoopi Goldberg. The animated short is produced by Heather Schmidt Feng Yanu of “Toy Story” and the “Cars” trilogy, who is also director of inclusion at Skydance. Executive producers are Dana Goldberg, David Ellison, and the legendary John Lasseter of “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Cars” fame.
The 11-minute film opens with a young horticulturist-astronaut whose ship collides with an asteroid that knocks it off course. He crash-lands on an uninhabited dwarf planet, a cold, hard, gray rock. The space-faring botanist desperately hopes to create just a tiny bit of oxygen by growing a plant he took on board, but it withers and dies.
Just as the protagonist is running out of air, another spaceship careens into the planet. Out of it steps a comely alien astronaut, whose dark pink face seems to have a permanent blush. She saves the botanist and gives him a new life.
“Blush” will be released on Apple TV+. It is shot in 3-D, but it has, “Variety” reports, “quaint, natural pictorial tones of 2D, yoked with Hollywood’s frequent focus on core human relations.”
Skydance did graphics for the film in the U.S. and Spain.
The film was directed by Joe Mateo, who lost his wife Mary Ann after her 8-year battle with breast cancer in 2017.
Mateo said that losing his wife inspired the direction of the film.
Mateo told Variety “After I lost Mary Ann, I suddenly couldn’t breathe, it was a scary moment. I had to call a friend who is a doctor and ask him: ‘What is going on with me?’ He said: ‘Joe, you are having a panic attack.’ I realized that Mary Ann was my air. I was struggling to breathe because I lost my air.”
Love is the oxygen of life became the central conceit of the film. Mateo chose to set the film on a tiny planet because, as he said, “I just loved setting it on something intimate and small, to capture the intimacy of the story, to contain it and focus on the characters.”
John Lasseter gave the go-ahead for the production of this short message of healing and hope a couple of months before the lockdown in 2020. No one, of course, expected the pandemic to happen in the middle of producing it.
Producing the film, studio executives have told the press, gave everyone involved a sense of normalcy, something to look forward to when getting up every morning. Now, Mateo says, releasing the film is about getting the animated short to the widest audience possible when people need it most. Says director Mateo, “It will be great if it can be a source of hope and healing for a lot of people.”
“Blush” is the inaugural release for Executive Producer John Lasseter at Skydance. Lasseter brings his reputation as an “industry visionary” from his years as Chief Creative Officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, where he broke new ground for family entertainment with “WALL-E,” “Toy Story 3,” “Ratatouille,” and “Up.” With Blush, Lasseter continues to demonstrate the revitalization of the animation business and shows the dramatic potential of the genre.