Monyreak "Monty" Oum (//; June 22, 1981 – February 1, 2015) was an American web-based animator and writer. A self-taught animator, he scripted and produced several crossover fighting video series, drawing the attention of internet production company Rooster Teeth, who hired him. There, he provided custom animations for Red vs. Blue, and created the original animated series RWBY.
Oum attracted attention within the gaming community after releasing the hit video Haloid in 2007 on GameTrailers, which a Destructoid article called "the most interesting Halo-related fan movie in existence". The video has received more than 4 million views and is the most watched user-created content on the site. In October of the same year, he released the first video in his Dead Fantasy fan series which, like Haloid, featured fantastical combat sequences between characters from two different established games series (this time Dead or Alive and Final Fantasy). He released five episodes of Dead Fantasy, a preview of an additional episode and two music videos featuring the heroines of the series. After Oum announced that he had started working for Rooster Teeth, the series was put on hold.
Oum suffered a severe allergic reaction during a medical procedure and fell into a coma on January 22, 2015. He died on February 1, 2015.
Oum was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1981. According to Oum, he was "Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese." Oum married Sheena Duquette on May 10, 2014. He had four older brothers and two older sisters. One of his brothers, Neath, replaced him as the voice of Lie Ren in RWBY following his death.
Fan videos and other early independent work
Oum dropped out of high school and began putting together fan videos as early as 2002. In January 2007, he discovered some reverse engineering techniques online that allowed him to extract models from Halo 2 and, utilizing assets from Super Smash Bros. Melee, created the "ultimate showdown" between a SPARTAN (Halo) and Samus Aran (Metroid) in Haloid, a portmanteau of their respective franchises. In the years following Haloid, Oum released a number of similar mash-up combat videos in which characters from the Final Fantasy franchise fought against others from the Dead or Alive franchise of fighting games, under the title Dead Fantasy. In total, five full videos in this series were produced, along with two music videos in which various of the series' heroines dancing to pop music—a preview of an additional episode that was never completed was later leaked online but never officially released by Oum.
Two months after the premiere of Haloid, Oum was hired by Midway Games as a Combat Designer. In 2008 he was hired by Namco Bandai Games as a combat designer and animator for Afro Samurai. In 2009, Oum met Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns at a panel during San Diego Comic-Con International and the two discussed the possibility of Monty working for the company, but it wasn't until PAX East 2010 that it was announced that Oum had been hired as an animator for the company's long-running web series Red vs. Blue; previously Red vs. Blue, despite its military science fiction setting, had been light on combat, emphasizing humour and storytelling, but with Oum's involvement, the series began to feature elaborately choreographed fight sequences similar to the content of Oum's fan videos. This trend continued through the completion of the 10th season of the show in 2012.
Previous to the conclusion of season 10 of Red vs. Blue, Oum had pitched an idea for a series of his own; anxious to see the production deadline for Red vs. Blue met, Burns told Oum that if he could complete work on season 10 of Red vs. Blue on schedule, Oum would be given the opportunity to make his series. At PAX East, that new series was announced as RWBY with Oum serving as lead animator and over-all creative director for the project. Like his previous work, RWBY featured highly involved and fantastical combat sequences between super-powered characters that garnered strong fan and critical praise. However, unlike all the series that Oum had worked on previously, the show had no thematic or stylistic links to an existing game franchise. Instead, the show featured characters and storylines of Oum's own design, which he chose to base upon existing fairytales and folklore from both western and eastern cultures. In the lead-up to the release of RWBY's first season, Oum and Rooster Teeth generated buzz for the show through the release of four trailers, each of which featured one of the show's main four female protagonists. The show itself premiered in July 2013, available for free viewing on Rooster Teeth's website and on YouTube.
RWBY was fairly well received, being a commercial success for Rooster Teeth and garnering Oum his greatest mainstream recognition yet. The series was popular with Rooster Teeth's existing fanbase, but being a coming-of-age story featuring four young female protagonists, the show also proved popular with a younger female demographic. Two seasons of the show were produced, with a third in production at the time of Oum's death in early 2015. Despite Oum's key roles in several aspects of RWBY's development, Rooster Teeth announced on March 9, 2015 that the show would remain in production and that work on a third volume was already underway. The company stated that Oum had shared much of his vision for the future of the story with the rest of the production staff and that these ideas would remain the basis for future work on the show. A video game adaptation, which was in development six months prior to Oum's death, will also go ahead as planned.
Oum's animation was noted for both extensive detail in character design and for the frenetically fast-paced nature of his combat sequences, which were a major component of his work. A dancer, a martial artist and a cinemaphile, Oum himself claimed to adapt the style of his animation from a wide variety of sources, citing classical action and martial arts films (particularly Hong Kong action films), video game combat and various forms of animation as all having had an influence on his own work. RWBY featured characters with generally normal human body proportions, but occasionally featured exaggerated features for comic effect (similar to conventions often found in anime) as well as other visual humor. Numerous of Oum's co-workers at Rooster Teeth referenced him as having an obsessive work ethic with regard to his art and projects, with numerous Rooster Teeth podcasts (a weekly segment giving insight in the company's inner workings) making reference to his "machine-like" qualities with regard to his work.
On January 22, 2015, Oum was hospitalized following a severe allergic reaction during a routine medical procedure that rendered him comatose. On January 30, Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns stated that Oum was "in critical care and it is not known if he will recover". A donation page was set up for the medical expenses on GoFundMe; the goal of $50,000 was reached within three hours, with the fundraiser reaching $100,000 in four hours, $150,000 within 24 hours, and $243,000 within 12 days. On February 1, 2015 at 4:34 PM, Oum died as a result of the allergic reaction. His funeral was held on February 7.
A tribute podcast to Oum took place the day after his death. An episode of the popular series Death Battle – whose animator and cast were heavily influenced by Oum – dedicated the episode "Boba Fett vs Samus Remastered" to him and also had an animated dance sequence that paid tribute to his work, though the song used ("Real Emotion" from the Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack) was removed due to copyright violations some weeks after.
A tribute to Oum was included in the intro to Volume 3 of RWBY. It contains a piano-ballad with a rose petal falling from the sky. When it reaches the ground, his name appears. Also, the opening scene in that volume shows the main character, Ruby Rose, speaking at the grave of her dead mother. When she leaves to join her dad, a flock of birds flies into the sun, recreating Oum's signature.
The YouTube channel RocketJump also made a tribute out to Oum in a video entitled "Keep off the Grass"
The Team Four Star abridged version of Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks begins with a dedication to Oum.
|2007||Haloid||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Producer, cinematographer, editor, visual effects|
|2009||Afro Samurai||Yes||Additional designer|
|2010–12||Red vs. Blue||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Cinematographer|
|Year||Award||Category||Title of work||Result|
|2014||Streamy Awards||Best Animated (Channel, Show or Series)||RWBY||Won|
|2014||International Academy of Web Television||Best Animated Series||RWBY||Won|
|2012||Producers Guild of America||Outstanding Digital Series||Red vs. Blue||Nominated|