This writeup contains no spoilers, unless you have not seen the original 1999 Matrix
The Animatrix is a series of animated short stories set in the fantasy world of the Matrix.
The short stories are designed to illuminate sides of the Matrix universe that are untouched by the original 1999 motion picture The Matrix, the 2003 Matrix: Reloaded, the 2003 video game Enter the Matrix and the upcoming Matrix: Revolutions.
In the same style as Enter The Matrix, the Animatrix focuses on plot elements that aren't explored fully in the motion pictures. Granted, none of the stories in the Animatrix series are essential to an understanding of the Matrix films and / or the Enter the Matrix computer game, yet for the avid fan, the Animatrix allows a deeper insight in the small stories behind the Matrix.
The Animatrix is produced and written by Andy and Larry Wachowski, while the animation is done by different animation houses, in a variety of styles.
More than just an unrelated spinoff product, the Animatrix ties into the Matrix universe in several clever ways. For one thing, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss feature as voice artists in some of the Animatrix stories. It also does something else; It shows us how deep the rabbithole goes...
The Animatrix is Produced by Andy
and Larry Wachowski
. The various segments are produced by Michael Arias
, Hiroaki Kakeuchi
and Eiko Tanaka
. The guy who pulled it all together is Joel Silver
, who was helped by Steve Richards
. The music that is not credited to various bands was made by Don Davis
, while the casting (i.e the pitching of the Animatrix idea to various animation studios) was done by Jack Fletcher
The Short Stories
2003 Warner Brothers distribution (released both as theatrical short stories, shown either together or as separate short films, on Video and DVD) is best seen in separate parts, for the same reason that it is generally recommended to read short stories separately. Personally, I would advise seing the Matrix: Reloaded and playing Enter the Matrix before delving into the Animatrix.
The Final Flight of the Osiris details - in all its 3D rendered, motion captured and stunningly detailed glory - how the Osiris, one of the ships belonging to Zion, discoveres that the machines are planning to attack Zion. The animation contains a particularly stunning fight scene that is not only virtually perfect (it certainly rivals the fight scenes in the the Matrix films), but also strangely erotic and sensual. It further details how the information of the upcoming attack is relayed to Zion.
Final Flight of the Osiris (also see the excellent writeup on this segment here on E2) is directed by Andy Jones, written by the Wachowski brothers. The computer animation and design was done by Square USA Inc. This short story features a song by Juno Reactor ("Conga Fury").
The Second Renaissance, part 1 and part 2, is a manga-style dive in the archives of the Zion mainframe computer. It details how the tension rose between man and machine, how the machines started their own nation (01) and how the war broke out. It further describes the war between man and machine - the war that eventually led to the transformation of Humans into Energizer-bunny-power-sources. While not being essential to the understanding of the Matrix, this is probably the most informative of the Animatrix - it explains and pulls together quite a few loose threads from the history summaries that Morpheus presents Neo in the original The Matrix.
The Second Renaissance was written and directed by Mahiro Maeda, although the story is credited to the Wachowski brothers.It features music by Free Land ("Big Wednesday"), Photek ("Ren2"), Junkie XL ("Dark Moody"), Overseer ("Supermoves") and Meat Beat Manifesto ("Martemot Waves")
Kid's Story is a particularly compelling story, drawn in a manga-esque style with western influences. The story is strong and in many ways philosophical. Interestingly enough, this short story answers a question that many viewers asked themselves when they watched Matrix: Reloaded. A cool tie-in, combined with visual beauty and a particularly appealing topic leads to a proper mindfuck experience if you have seen the Matrix: Reloaded before watching Kid's Story.
Kid's Story is written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, with a story by the Wachowski brothers. It features the voices of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, music by Peace Orchestra ("Who Am I") and Juno Reactor ("Masters of the Universe").
World Record is an especially well-crafted cartoon-style short story. It is the story of an athlete who gains insight into what the Matrix is in an unorthodox way. The story is moving and entertaining, but fails to shed any new light on the Matrix universe, which makes it pale in comparison with some of the other Animatrix features.
World Record is directed by Takeshi Koike and written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. It features music by Satoshi Tommiie ("virus") and a classic Dorfmeister track performed by Tosca ("Suzuki").
Beyond is a story that touched me in a strong way. Its tie-in with the Matrix universe is seemingly coincidental (it is not related directly to the films), but its storyline is strong in its own right. Drawn in a somewhat crude yet colourful manga-style, Beyond shows the story of a girl who has lost her cat. In her search, she comes across a house which is said to be haunted. As it turns out, the house does not fully comply with the laws of physics that reign the rest of the Matrix universe. Despite being a creepy and somewhat disconcerning story, there is a powerful subplot of childhood dreams and fantasies coming true, but then being broken by "the real world". The subplot appealed to me, leaving this as the second best story of the Animatrix.
Beyond is written and directed by Koji Morimoto, and features music by Death in Vegas ("Hands around my Throat")
Matriculated is a short story that I could not fully come to grips with. Drawn in an extremely colourful computer-manga type style, the story seems like an impressionistic work of art more than anything else. While the visuals are nothing short of stunning, I couldn't make much sense of the message in the midst of the David Lynch-esque inferno of imagery and colours. because of this, I did not like the Matriculated initially. I do have the distinct feeling that this is a story that might grow on you, however, so I feel reluctant to write it off after only having seen it twice.
Matriculated is written and directed by Peter Chung.
Program is an interesting short story - it describes in some depth how the training procedure to be allowed into the matrix itself may happen. it also illuminates some of the alienation and fears of the people who are pulled out of the matrix. Although the Wachowski-brothers are uncredited, this short story still illustrates some of the parts of the Matrix in a very convincing way.
Program is written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, without any credited input from the Wachowski brothers, and no credited music.
Detective Story is by far my favourite story of all the Animatrix stories. The drawings - mostly in black and white or in subdued colours - are extremely refined, and reminded me of a high-contrast Film Noir. The story in Detective Story is not directly related to the story of any of the films, but it does incorporate some of its characters; Trinity and some Agents, to be exact. The storyline is that a private detective is hired to find Trinity. The detective finds that the job might be more difficult - and dangerous - than he ever expected, when he discovers that his three predecessors were dead, missing or insane, respectively. With a few cool references to the Matrix universe (particularly to Alice in Wonderland and a few quirks of Trinity's personality), combined with the strong mood in the artwork, Detective Story is a definite must-watch.
Detective Story is written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, and features the voice of Carrie-Anne Moss. Music by Layo and Bushwacka! ("Blind Tiger") and Supreme Beigns of Leisure (if that is a typo, then the credits on the Animatrix DVD contain a typo) ("Under the Gun")
Who should watch the Animatrix?
You, probably. If you are interested and / or fascinated by the Matrix universe, certainly. If you like cartoons or are interested in rendered graphics - definitely. And if you merely are looking for a few short stories, graphical pieces of poetry, to kick-start your creative juices? Well, you can't really go wrong with the Animatrix.
The Matrix Has You Too.