|Michael Arias is a producer of The Animatrix, a series of diverse animated short films based on The Matrix film trilogy (see "The Matrix: Anime-ted,").
The Animatrix, an encyclopedia of anime styles, offers a unique new way to expand a franchise
Q: Why did you decide to supplement The Matrix films with the nine short animations in The Animatrix rather than use more traditional approaches such as a television series?
A: Television production by its very nature does not allow for the degree of handcrafted quality that the Wachowskis [Larry and Andy, directors of The Matrix and supervisors of The Animatrix] were after. The idea was to get their favorite directors doing "theatrical quality" shorts. In fact, that was one of the incentives to get the directors involved in the project. Also, the reason that we used animation at all was simply because the Wachowskis love it.
Q: Why did you use so many different animators to expand The Matrix story?
A:This animated omnibus, or anthology, is a common format in Japanese theatrical animation. There are some great titles—"Memories" and "Manie Manie," for example—that boast similarly varied formats, although I don't think anyone has taken the concept this far yet. In any case, this approach seemed like a natural choice. The Wachowskis had already been doing Matrix comic anthologies, and I don't think anyone had the patience to wait for a full-length animated Matrix feature.
Q: How did you ensure that the shorts were complementary to the film series?
A: One guiding principal was that all of the stories had to fit into the Matrix universe. And of course we had several stories originated by Andy and Larry (including "Kid's Story," "Final Flight," and "Second Renaissance") that were great templates for work that would follow. And certainly none of the directors wanted to do anything too similar to each other. In fact, there was definitely an element of competition to the work.
Q:How will these animations generate revenue?
A:Through sales of a DVD of the shorts being released in the US and Japan in June. Also, there will be a limited theatrical release in certain territories.
Q:What has been the reception by audiences so far?
A:Fantastic. For many I think it has been their first taste of really good anime.
Q:How will The Animatrix benefit The Matrix films?
A:To be honest, I think The Animatrix will benefit much more from The Matrix than The Matrix will benefit from us. But in the larger sense, one cool thing is that the franchise—all three films, the games, the comics, and The Animatrix—is really an enormous interactive artwork. And that is quite exciting. The fact that you are seeing the same universe from all these different angles, as seen by many different artists sharing a particular vision—that's truly unique.
Q:What impact will this have on future films?
A:The impact of Japanese animation on films such as The Matrix series, The Terminator series, and so on is already significant. Several of our animators just completed animated sequences on Tarantino's new film, Kill Bill. I think The Animatrix will be extremely influential in this sense, since it is really an encyclopedia of styles and techniques.
Q:What impact will it have on gaming, television, and Web-based entertainment?
A:The degree of impact of a project like this will have will depend on its financial success. Animation is expensive. If it seems cheap, that's only because the Japanese animation industry has been artificially depressed—kind of a reverse economic bubble, if you will. I'm not really sure what kind of impact it might have, but I certainly hope that, beyond its impact on other media, that this project, being that it is the first of its kind, casts a long shadow for a while. ..