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Kid's Story
Length: 9:40
Story by: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Written1 and directed by: Shinichirô Watanabe
Animation and Production design by: Studio 4°C, Tokyo
Released June 3rd, 2003
Voices:

Clayton Watson as The Kid
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
John Demita as a teacher
Kevin M. Richardson as a cop
James Arnold Taylor as miscellaneous

"Kid's Story" is one of two animated shorts directed by Shinichirô Watanabe for The Animatrix.

The short is set in a high school which is very closely based on an actual American school, either Alameda High School in Alameda, California or Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California2. During their trip to scout out the school, they met with Clayton Watson, the voice of the main character, and video taped him acting out many bits of the script. Much of the character design and animation of the short were based upon these videos. This was a step that wasn't really taken for most of the other shorts, but since Clayton also plays the same character in The Matrix Reloaded, the animation had to resemble the actor.

Unshackled from the usual budget concerns of doing television3, Watanabe put a decent amount of time and effort into the look and feel of the short. The animation style of Kid's Story is definantly unique looking. It's a "hand drawn" or "sketch" style of animation. To achieve this, they used the original drawn animation without cleaning the sketch lines up to be solid lines. Additionally, since there wasn't solid, connected lines, adding the color in a traditional way wouldn't work. Instead, they created separate cells4 with the color only, which were combined with the sketches. The figures become distorted and deformed during some parts which gives the short an even more experimental feel.

The music used in the short fits well. Masters of the Universe by Juno Reactor is used to good effect during the bits that are heavy on the action. Who Am I? (Matrix Edit) by Peace Orchestra does an excellent job of setting the mood during the slower bits. A bit of the score was also done by Don Davis, but it's not terribly prominent or memorable.

Spoilers below this point to Matrix Reloaded, Kid's Story and The Final Flight of the Osiris.

The plot of the short is pretty concise. There's a high school kid who has some sort of relationship to Neo and Trinity. The kid gets a call from Neo during school, telling him to get out. Agents show up, the kid grabs his skateboard and the Agents give chase. The Agents scramble after the kid through the school and eventually corner him. He runs into a girl's restroom, gets a tampon thrown at him and climbs out the window and up to the roof. Once he gets to the top of the school, he's trapped so he takes a literal leap of faith. We see his funeral, then we see him waking up with Trinity and Neo hovering over him in "The Real World(TM)." Keanu Reeves does his best Laurence Fishburne impression and it's over.

My only real beef with this short has to do with its context. So the Wachowski brothers want to create a massive media universe with movies, animated shorts and a video game. That's great. But the tie-in here was not only gratuitous but annoying as well. The annoying kid in Matrix Reloaded that simpers and kisses Neo's ass? This is his story. But is the tie-in really worth it? In The Final Flight of the Osiris, the short tells the story of the ship that makes a discovery that is essential to the plot of the movie. The tie-in makes sense. Why blow ten or even five minutes of the movie explaining the fate of that ship when you can give the audience just enough information to follow what's going on in the movie and flesh it out in a side project? But I question the purpose of the kid in Reloaded outside of simply being a hook for the Animatrix DVD. They could have very easily left the kid out of Reloaded5 and not lost a thing. And the short stood very well on its own. Of course, that's simply my opinion.

Sources:
imdb.com
The Animatrix DVD.

1: The DVD credits and the IMDB entry disagree on this point. My impression is that The Brothers wrote a script which Watanabe changed around and added to.
2: Both schools are thanked in the credits, but Watanabe only refers to scouting one school, so I'm not entirely which it is based on. If anyone can confirm which of those schools (or possibly both) the location is based on, I'd love to know.
3: The estimated budget for the whole shebang is about $15 million for about 90 minutes, split into 9 shorts. So that's probably about $1.6 million per short. Source for budget guess: http://www.tribnet.com/24hour/entertainment/story/907114p-6317672c.html
4: OK, to be honest, I don't think they actually made separate cells in the plastic-sheet sense. More likely, they used something akin to a layer in photoshop. But why muddle this too much, right?
5: I should note that according to the IMDB, they did leave the actor out of The Matrix Revolutions.6
6: Ok, so they put him in. But he's still a damn punk.

Spoilers ahead.

An important plot point has been vastly overlooked by the current write up. Near the end of this short, we see through the eyes of the kid as he falls in slow motion towards the ground. It is at this point that he exits The Matrix of his own will. We know this because Neo and Trinity speak about "self-substantiation" as they hover over him in The Real World. In other words, this kid has broken free from the Matrix without outside help. Which is more than even Neo has done.

It's painfully obvious that this kid will play a crucial role in the next movie. What role he will play is still up in the air. It will probably have something to do with saving Neo or even resurrecting him from the coma he fell into at the end of The Matrix Reloaded.

The only things I have left to wonder about this short are why the kid thinks Neo has saved his life when it was truly his own doing, if the claims of self-substantiation are true. And exactly what relationship did this kid have with Neo and Trinity?

Time will tell.

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