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Deeper into the Animatrix

Want to know even more about the upcoming Animatrix series? J. Paul Peszko continues with a Q & A with series producer Michael Arias.

Want to know even more about the upcoming Animatrix series? J. Paul Peszko continues with a Q & A with series producer Michael Arias.

J. Paul Peszko: So once you had the individual artists/directors lined up, what about the story lines? How were they plotted and arranged?

The Second Renaissance  Part 1, written by the Wachowski brothers, was the first episode to be shown on the Animatrix Website.

The Second Renaissance Part 1, written by the Wachowski brothers, was the first episode to be shown on the Animatrix Website.

Michael Arias: One of the great things about these films is that there is no overall story line. Except for Second Renaissance, a two-parter, none of the episodes have anything in common except for their 'Matrix-ness.' Seven different directors, nine films, lots of different styles. It really gives a good sense of the breadth of tastes at work in animation.

JPP: How difficult was that in the beginning, trying to coordinate the different directors, the different styles and the different story lines?

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Arias had to coordinate creative details between seven directors, translators, screenwriters and the Wachowskis. Above, from left to right, are: directors Takeshi Koike (World Record), Mahiro Maeda (The Second Renaissance Parts 1 and 2) and writer/director Peter Chung (Matriculated).

MA: There was a great deal of back and forth with the Brothers, particularly on some of the early episodes. I worked with each director as well as a crew of translators and a screenwriter to massage each idea into a state that was pleasing to both the Wachowskis and the storys originator. And then from there, it was straight on to the design work of the film in question: storyboarding, character and set design, layout, etc.

JPP: Were there any treatments or were all the segments plotted from scratch?

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MA: Some of the episodes The Second Renaissance Parts 1 and 2, Kids Story and Osiris had treatments written by Andy and Larry. This is pretty much what we started with, and we used these treatments as well as The Matrix Web comics as a template for each succeeding episode. For the episodes that Andy and Larry didnt write we just asked the other directors to submit their own original treatments. In some cases Andy and Larry rejected submissions outright, in other cases they requested modifications, and in other cases, they had only positive comments.  

The Second Renaissance  Part 2 gives viewers the backstory on how the Matrix came to be.

The Second Renaissance Part 2 gives viewers the backstory on how the Matrix came to be.

JPP: Do any of the segments tie into or overlap the feature films?

MA: Some of the episodes Osiris and Kids Story actually fill in gaps between the films, providing backstory related to a particular event or character depicted there. Others have a less direct relationship to the films. That is to say that some of the episodes simply inhabit the same universe without actually overlapping with the features.

JPP: And now a word from the sponsorHow did Warner Bros. feel about shelling out all this extra dough to produce nine animated short features?

MA: I think that Andy and Larry really just wanted to do something cool something that they knew they would enjoy themselves. And Warner Bros., for their part, are working on the one hand to please the Wachowskis, and on the other hand to see how far anime can go in the U.S. Thats actually a pretty bold move for a big studio (as bold as making a film like The Matrix was). Before The Animatrix, the only animation of this quality available to American audiences was either the kiddie epics that Disney and DreamWorks specialized in, or stuff imported from Japan, which is only viewed by a small audience anyway. Theres never been a project like this one, not in the U.S., so most Americans have never been exposed to sophisticated storytelling through animation.

Kids Story introduces a new character who is featured in The Matrix Reloaded.

Kids Story introduces a new character who is featured in The Matrix Reloaded.

JPP: What about you, was there any particular point you were trying to achieve in producing this series?

MA: One point that I think we're trying to make here, is that while animation is often perceived as a sort of second-tier medium in the U.S., as not really suitable for serious or adult material, it doesn't have to be that way. That's the great message, in a sense, that anime has to convey to people in America, where animation has been so dominated by companies like Disney, that we've gotten used to thinking of it as a medium that's just for kids.

One of the great things about The Matrix was that with its strong anime influence, it established once and for all that these two mediums are really one and the same, and that there's a strong continuity between them. With The Animatrix, we are simply making the same point in a different way. Closing the circle, if you will.

J. Paul Peszko is a freelance writer and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He writes feature articles, interviews and reviews as well as short fiction. He currently has a feature comedy in development and has just completed his second novel. When he isn't writing, he teaches communications courses.

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