The Wachowski Siblings conceived and produced The Animatrix (2003), an anthology of nine original animated short films, as a companion piece to their Matrix trilogy and a tribute to Japanese anime, one of their visual inspirations.
The best pieces are short stories in the Matrix-verse concocted by the Japanese animation veterans: Beyond, a fanciful Miyazaki-in-Matrixland story of ragamuffins finding magic in a programming glitch by Robot Carnival creator Koji Morimoto, and the B&W retro-sci-fi noir A Detective Story by Shinichirô Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), who creates hazy graphic textures you can almost feel through the screen. The Final Flight of Icarus, the completely CGI prequel to Matrix Reloaded directed by Andy Jones (the animation director of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), is the least inventive and most literal of the collection. The technology is impressive and the gadgetry and landscapes stunning, but CGI actors still can’t act.
The Wachowskis penned that one themselves, along with the fact-packed introduction The Second Renaissance (a whirlwind tour through the history of the fatal relations between mankind and machinekind from now to Matrix directed by Mahiro Maeda) and Kid’s Story (directed with a pencil sketch raggedness by Watanabe), all of which have a direct connection to the series. The rest merely float through the Matrix-verse with unique takes on the place and highly stylized graphic approaches: Program (written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri), World Record (directed by Takeshi Koike), and Matriculated, an AI acid trip written and directed by American animator Peter Chung, creator of Aeon Flux. They’re fun and inventive and short enough that they don’t wear out their welcome.