The film's production designer reveals how he created the iconic visual featured in the franchise.

Abbey White
October 26, 2017

The production designer for The Matrix films has revealed how he cooked up the series of scrambled symbols known as the Matrix code, and its origins might surprise you.

The Matrix franchise is known for its deep metaphors and clever double entendres, with its signature artistic aesthetic garnering an almost unmatched cultural reverence. Visual elements like the “bullet time” sequence influenced an entire generation of fight cinematography and has been spoofed or imitated by everything from The Simpsons to Charlie’s Angels. Meanwhile, the film’s distinctive plot—that we are all just in a machine waiting to be woken up to the “real world”—as well as its questions about fate and purpose have permeated our culture’s larger consciousness, for better or for worse, since the film's release.

The first and perhaps most acclaimed film earned nearly half a billion worldwide at the box office and kicked off a series of cross-market promotions, including video games, comic books, animated series, and clothing. Much of that was defined by or included the distinctive luminescent streaming “code,” a green jumble of shifting and scrolling symbols that represented the computerized Matrix. In a recent interview with CNET, production designer Simon Whiteley revealed that the mysterious “green rain” was inspired by none other than his wife’s Japanese cookbooks.

"I like to tell everybody that The Matrix's code is made out of Japanese sushi recipes,"  Whiteley said.

According to the designer, who now works for Animal Logic, an animation and visual-effects studio based in Sydney, "Without that code, there is no Matrix.” So how did he do it? Apparently, the designer, originally from England and who has most recently worked on The Lego Ninjago Movie, scanned the characters from his wife’s many Japanese cookbooks and digitally manipulated them into the raining stream of information that reveals to the film’s heroes the inner workings and happenings of The Matrix.

Who would have thought that The Matrix franchise’s recipe for success was, in part, a literal recipe?