Renowned animator Monty Oum tragically passes due to surgical infection

Monty Oum, courtesy of The Austin Chronicle

Monty Oum, courtesy of The Austin Chronicle

Lead animator for Red vs. Blue and creator of the animated series RWBY died on February 1st after succumbing to an allergic reaction during a minor medical procedure. This left him comatose for a week and he succumbed to the infection. He was 33 years old and is survived by his wife Sheena.

Oum’s work has long been cause for fanfare by those that followed it. He first began posting work to various online video game websites in 2007 during the infancy of machinima. Machinima is most commonly a short film made using video game assets that are produced, usually by a single person, who manipulates characters and environments either by hand or direct control. These days there are tools and programs that make it easy for anyone interested to make machinima. Back when Oum first started doing it, he was part of an elite few pioneers who dared to push a medium forward.

After the success of Haloid, a ten minute short where Master Chief fought in hand to hand combat with Samus Aran, and a short series called Dead Fantasy which was based on the game series Final Fantasy, Oum garnered the attention of production company Rooster Teeth. Most well known for their machinima series Red vs. Blue, a fan work based on the world of the game Halo, Rooster Teeth had been looking to branch out into new avenues of entertainment. After a few years of trying to get Oum to join the crew, he made an official announcement in 2009 that he had begun working on Red vs. Blue in secret for its series 7 finale. Oum continued working on this series while drawing plans for a totally original work behind closed doors. However it wasn’t until the end of the 10th series of Red vs. Blue that plans to expand Oum’s role within the company were realized.

Once Oum pitched his idea for what would become RWBY, Rooster Teeth got behind him and production started almost immediately. Initially, the show was released in small vignette-style episodes. Eventually, these were compiled into Volumes 1 and 2 which each had a run time of about 90 minutes. The entire production was done in house at Rooster Teeth with a very small crew, but utilized others within the company for voice acting work including Oum himself. Those used to being behind microphones and in front of cameras for shows on the now expanded Rooster Teeth network, as well as others who were only behind the scenes before, got their chance to bring Oum’s vision to life.

After his passing, Rooster Teeth hosted a live stream show on February 2nd where those that knew him best reminisced about his life and experiences with the Rooster Teeth crew. “[He] was always so meticulous about his appearance. He never wore the same thing twice to my mind,” commented his colleague Burnie Burns. “He was so dedicated to his work that that’s how he wanted to impress people.” Burns continued, “He once actually ran into Russell Simmons [the hip-hop producer]. He said ‘I think I know that guy!’ and ran up to this world famous producer and said ‘Hi.” Russell just looked and said “What?” and then gave a little nod.” The live stream closed with a very touching short with clips of Oum over the years as he spoke about making the most of time and always looking forward, two of his most prominent mantras.

Something that continued to come up during the live stream by each person participating was Oum’s obsessions with efficiency and time. There was always some way to improve and make things work better and faster. Oum believed that his creativity stemmed from this work ethic, and Rooster Teeth’s statement on his passing asks for those that wish to honor him to, “…simply do something creative. Use your imagination to make the world a better place in any way you can.” Another of his friends, animator Ross O’Donovan, issued a statement on the 2nd detailing the time he spent with Oum. At one point O’Donovan was living on a temporary visa in the United States having come from Australia. During the final week of his visa, “My friends took me to a Korean BBQ to wish me a safe trip home…Then I learn Monty is flying down from San Fransisco [sic] to join us. He literally flew down to Los Angeles to come to my going away party…It was then I knew that this guy was something special and a really good friend.”

It seems that those kinds of stories came from Oum’s life because he was a genuinely kind, outgoing, and studious person. Stories of his life affecting those closest and others farther away seem like very positive experiences all around. Truly, Oum was an inspiration for people around the world. He will be sorely missed.