Who was Monty? Monty was the personification of motivation, determination and resolve. He was the man who never slowed down, who always wanted his life to be efficient, quick and as productive as possible. To those of you that never knew Monty, it might be hard to imagine to what extent of this I mean. Imagine a man who would literally microwave food by hitting random numbers, then pull it out the second it was ready, to rush off to an 18 hour work day where his uniform was a suite adorned with ping pong balls. Imagine a man who opted to have a work space right next to a motion capture stage because it was the most efficient location. Imagine a man who operated his computer entirely via keyboard shortcuts, hardly ever needing to touch the mouse, frequently breaking his keyboard keys from the break neck speed he worked. This was Monty, a literal Bruce Lee of animation. He would slow down for nothing more than his amazing wife Sheena.
I first met Monty in 2009 at Anime-Expo, the second time I’d been to the United States. I walked up to his tiny little table at the convention where he was promoting his series Dead Fantasy by giving out free DVDs. I was dressed as the sniper from TF2, as my friends were doing a group cosplay and wanted me on board as I still had my Australian accent. We started talking shop as we were both animators and through this we became quick friends. After the convention he came back to a friends apartment where I was staying and we hung out the entire time he was still in town. Here he showed me parts of Dead Fantasy that he was working on and I got the first look at how fast he was able to work, it was awe inspiring. At the time Monty was living in San Fransisco working at Namco Bandai as a combat designer for the Afro Samurai game, so obviously he had obligations he needed to return to.
He went home and I went on with the rest of my trip, until Comic-Con 2009 where we ran into him again. Here I attended a panel he was on about creating content online, it was interesting to listen to him talk about how he never wasted any time in his day and was all about constantly moving and always working. I quickly found myself looking up to Monty and I think some of my friends even jokingly teased me about it, but he deserved any to all admiration he recieved.
After Comic-Con I was coming to the end of my trip, as my travel visa was running out and my flight home was quickly approaching. My friends took me to a Korean BBQ to wish me a safe trip home, I was rather upset that I had to leave as I was becoming quite fond of all my friends in the US. Then I learn Monty is flying down from San Fransisco to join us. He literally flew down to Los Angeles to come to my going away party so he could wish me a safe trip home. It was then I knew that this guy was something special and a really good friend.
From here I was obsessed with the idea of living and working in the US, so I tried to see how possible it was but always hit walls. In 2010 Monty was finally working at Rooster Teeth, a place that had been constantly trying to get him to come work for them. He was working incredibly hard on Red vs Blue and he needed all the help he could get. He asked me if I’d be interested in coming to the US to work with him on RvB, I was so thrilled by the idea. I told him that if he could make it happen I would absolutely be down to work with him.
Time passed and Monty eventually had to tell me that he had been talking to Burnie and the other high ups at Rooster Teeth, they had told him it wasn’t possible to hire me and get me into the country. Apparently they had been having problems getting someone else into the country to work at Rooster Teeth who lived in the UK. So because of this, I never ended up working at Rooster Teeth. I of course later learned that this person from the UK was Gavin. How funny it is that people constantly compare me to him and we both went through the exact same thing, I’ve also still never met the guy!
Time passes and myself and Monty run into each other again at Comic-Con in 2011. Here he we manage to squeeze in 1 night to talk to each other about what we’re working on. I don’t have much to share other than I want to possibly reboot my old series “Gameoverse”. I believe I told him I had been slacking off playing video games, to which he responded “game developers are going to be fine without you, they have plenty of people to play their games. You don’t have time for that, you need to be animating”. He seemed eager to share what he was working on, as apparently he was wrapping up on Red vs Blue and wanted to shift focus into a series of his own. This night he explained the entire concept of RWBY, it was a lot to take in but I was thrilled to hear it. The weapons and characters he envisioned just sounded so much like something he would make, I remember a lot about that conversation. He even tried to see if maybe both me and Arin wanted to come work on the show.. While it was tempting I had to decline because moving to Texas didn’t work for either of us and we had other projects going on. The next year, exactly as he said he would.. RWBY rolled out in full force. It was everything he said it was going to be.
Fast forward and I’m now working as a part of the Game Grumps channel and making many convention apperances. I was taking every one I could to catch up with Monty, who was generally at the same events with Rooster Teeth. Every time we hung out he would constantly nag me about Gameoverse and my other personal projects, which I always felt lazy for not having done anything with, whilst he had conquered his own. But I know he just wanted me to be the best I could be.
2014 rolls around and it’s our first time every appearing at the Rooster Teeth convention “RTX”. We were thrilled to be going as guests and I was very excited to spend time with Monty. I went to all his panels I could and spent as much time with him as possible, it was great. Back stage after one of his panels I was introduced to the CEO of Rooster Teeth, Matt Hullum. Monty said to him “remember that Australian kid I wanted to hire to work with me and we couldn’t do it?” then he proudly pointed at me, I was damn flattered. Here I am years later as a guest of Rooster Teeth, it was kind of funny to think how these things work out. After Matt left, I spent a while talking to Monty who wanted to know more about the series I wanted to make, I told him literally everything. He seemed to like it, but was curious why I hadn’t started. I told him “I’m not totally confident on the first episodes script, I feel like it needs a lot of work and polish and–…” he stopped me and told me “Ross, it doesn’t matter if the show you want to create isn’t amazing at the beginning, the important thing is that you start it. Eventually down the line, it will be what you want it be.. That might be season 2, it might even be season 5.. But it WILL get there”. This stuck with me, he was totally right.
Later that year Monty and his wife Sheena came by and visited the under construction Game Grumps office with our mutual friend Jason. I think he was really proud of us for getting to this point and according to Burnie (which we learned from later) he had an infactuation with our desks? Apparently he thought we had great desks. I was so happy that Monty was seemingly proud of what we were achieving, being a person who knew me when I was struggling to get by in this crazy world.
MAGfest 2015 I’m doing our Game Grumps panel and mid-way through I recieve a call from Monty’s number. You can audibly hear me say in a recording of the panel “Monty Oum is calling me for some reason??”. Thankfully I didn’t pick up, because it was obviously the bad news that he had been hospitilized and was in a coma. Sheena contacted my wife Holly with the bad news and she held out on telling me till after the Game Grumps signing.. I’m glad she did because I was on the balcony at MAGfest crying for what felt like an hour. I kept up appearances for fans for the rest of the convention, but I was incredibly distraught and barely able to think about anything else.
The following week I left for Texas to see Monty in hospital and to support everyone he loved. I’m going to keep details about this very minimal, as it’s intensely personal. But saying goodbye to Monty in the hospital was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The rest of the weekend I spent with our friends at Rooster Teeth trying to lift everyones mood by hanging out playing games, watching cartoons, playing laser tag and eating Texas BBQ. We were all feeling it, but I’m glad we were all there for each other. I even took the opportunity to take a set of RWBY action figures for the Grumps office, something that Monty always promised us but kept forgetting.
On the way to the airport we drove past Monty’s hospital. I whispered to myself “goodbye Monty”, minutes later I get a call from Jason to inform me that Monty had just passed. I took it pretty well, I don’t think it would’ve been humanly possible to have anymore closure than I had recieved. As we were getting our tickets in the airport, a airport employee came up to us and asked “hey are those some anime figures?” looking directly at the RWBY toys.. I said “yes, yes they are”. Monty thought it was so silly when people would say RWBY wasn’t anime, I had to agree. I mean for gods sake, a japanese company was localizing his cartoon and it was never a conversation as to if RWBY wasn’t anime or not, it just was.
What I took away from this final goodbye is that I needed to honor Monty by creating something great. This year I want to start making an animated series, I feel like that’s what Monty would want me to do. It’s what Monty would want YOU to do. Go out there and create art. Music, animation, movies.. Anything your heart desires. Honor Monty by creating your art. I’ll end this with some great quotes from his personal blog.
“I believe that the human spirit is indomitable. If you endeavor to achieve, it will happen given enough resolve. It may not be immediate, and often your greater dreams is something you will not achieve within your own lifetime. The effort you put forth to anything transcends yourself, for there is no futility even in death.”
“Can you match my resolve? If so then you will succeed”
I’m afraid that Monty will be forgotten. I’m afraid that people will start watching RT and not know who he was. I’m afraid that someone will think RvB and RWBY were produced by whomever is taking over the projects. I’m afraid that every fic he’s been written into, someone will read and think he’s an OC. I’m afraid that he won’t be remembered.
I see a lot of people who are grieving for Monty Oum, Rooster Teeth and for RWBY, which is understandable; more power to the people who manage to produce their own characters in animations, novels, etc and get recognition for it, BUT…
I feel like a lot of people are missing what really made Monty special: his unyielding efforts.
This might be because I’m an animator myself but, the work that Monty did and has always done has been absolutely immense. And what is most powerful about it is that he did it all on his own with no education, little to no help, and no industry experience. He learnt everything for fun. Haloid and Dead Fantasy were for fun, they were like his portfolio works, what he was proud of and happy to work on. Even the 2D works he made before hand, before he really hit it off, were so he could learn and just get better. They are the works that made him, that had people recognise him for his talent and amazing storytelling ability.
Do you guys even know how hard animation is? And that its actually really a giant chain of jobs? And Monty, with no training, did 90% of the work on his own? Even with training, what he achieved with his animations is fucking difficult as hell. And he learnt all on his own and for fun. The amount of planning that had to go into those animations was fucking insane and truly above and beyond. Animation is all about planning and shortcuts - and Monty took it to the next level, grabbed it in his hands and made it his own. He was constantly improving and refining his talents and abilities.
And then after his immense dedication and successes, the companies came to him. First Namco for the Afro Samurai video game, where he was the combat designer and animator. And then Rooster Teeth, for Red vs Blue and eventually he had the hard-and-well-earned opportunity to produce his own, completely original works with RWBY. He got there, man. He lived the dream - he produced his original works and people loved it.
We are talking about a man here who’s family had fled severe hardship and struggle, and had so very little - but Monty made so very much out of his circumstance. Monty had perhaps the most dedicated heart I have ever seen in any artist, but especially a modern animator. And I feel like so many are forgetting it right now, perhaps in shock, or perhaps they did not know of Monty very much before he came to Rooster Teeth.
If there is anything you all can take away from him passing on, its do not ever for one fucking second stop working on what you love. Do not ever give up or say “it’s too hard”. Don’t stop refining your work. You keep chipping at it until it’s done. And then you do it again, but this time, better, and with what you have learnt in the process. You work on that shit until it’s fucking perfect, until people recognise you for your skills, your talent and your heart.
Please don’t forget that Monty’s story is not only about his achievements and success, but about his immense willpower, unyielding dedication and the incredible journey that got him there.
"I hate updates… and I can see shortcuts disappearing one at a time! If I could snapshot the level of technology I had four years ago, I could work with that for the next 20 years. I’m in a race to do something new with the tools I had.“
you can rest now monty, you will forever be missed.
When someone passes away. It doesnt matter if you knew them personally or not. Knowing what they did, what they created and if that affected you. If it inspired you. If it changed your life. You have every right to mourn for them. You may have not met them, ever. But you knew them for what they did, and they affected you. That is more than enough.