A Tribute to Monty Oum

(originally posted February 6th 2015)

Earlier this week on February 1st, infamous online animator Monty Oum tragically passed away. His death was sudden and shocking; even as I write this, I still find it hard to believe that he’s gone. I never met him but it’s clear that he touched a lot of people; the fact that even complete strangers on the Internet mourn his passing shows how much of an impact he left on his family, friends, co-workers, fans and anyone who was familiar with his work. I’ve been seeing a lot of tributes to him over the last few days (mostly artwork) so I thought that I should probably do something too. So, I hope you’ll all join me as I reminisce over some of Monty’s past work. And if you’ve never seen his stuff before, prepare to be surprised.

Haloid

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I can’t quite remember how I first found out about Haloid; I think I just stumbled across it during my early days with the Internet. I was barely familiar with either Metroid or Halo, but I don’t think I had ever seen anything like it.

The idea itself is a simple one – Master Chief VS Samus. There have probably been several fanfics based on that, but there’s a huge difference between reading about a fight between two bad-ass space warriors and watching it, especially since Monty’s interpretation of this fight could not be put into words.

In their respective games, Master Chief and Samus were restricted to what they could do and how they could move. Not here. Monty took them at their strongest and just went all out; in fact, he made them even more powerful with borderline superhuman feats. It was insane and my mind was blown on my first viewing. It was just fun too, since the fight ended with the two teaming up to fight the Covenant and a surprise twist that I shan’t spoil in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Haloid left its mark and pretty much made Monty’s name on the web, but little did we know he wasn’t done yet.

Dead Fantasy

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Haloid was awesome; that’s pretty much fact. But where do you go from a one-on-one fight? Simple. Get even more people involved. And then keep adding more.

Dead Fantasy was, again, pretty much fanfic: take the female fighters of Dead or Alive and have them fight some of the female characters from Final Fantasy. But could it be pulled off? Oh yes.

Despite my lack of knowledge of either franchise, Dead Fantasy was just too exciting and engaging for that to worry me. There was no plot, no rhyme or reason as to why these two teams were duking it out. They just were and it was awesome. I’d say it was even better than Haloid; the reason for that being how creative it was.

With more than two fighters involved, it meant Monty had to get even more in-depth with the details. Who would fight who? How would they react to each other’s fighting styles? What would the other fighters be doing at the same time? How would teammates complement each other? How would the environment factor into it? How would the Final Fantasy ladies use their magic? Again, it’s very hard to put into words; you have to witness it all for yourself, especially since each episode (yes, he did more than one) had something different about it.

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Episode 1 laid the foundation as to how the fights would work, Episode 2 involved a free-fall battle and ended with a whopping nine combatants, Episode 3 was a simple one-on-one between two of the hardest hitters, Hitomi and Tifa, Episode 4 saw an army of Kasumi’s take on Yuna’s many summons and Episode 5 was just brutal and bloody.

I don’t know where Monty had planned to go with the rest of the series considering he introduced plot elements at the end of Episode 3 and there were teasers for future episodes but he had other priorities; namely, a job at Namco Bandai where he worked as a Combat Designer/Animator for Afro Samurai.

It was around this point he kind of vanished (to me, at least) and I promptly forgot about him, assuming Dead Fantasy would be lost to the winds. Then…

Red vs Blue

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I was a fan of RvB since midway through Season 5 after a friend introduced me to it (the same friend who showed me Dead Fantasy). Though I wasn’t a fan of Halo, I loved it purely for how funny it was. When it seemingly ended with Episode 100, I assumed that that was it and promptly stopped paying attention to the Rooster Teeth website. Then about a year later, I found out there was a Season 6 and jumped straight in… only to be met with a surprisingly more serious tone. The comedy was still there, but it was apparent that RvB had become a very different show, and I loved it.

Cut to the summer of 2010. I had just got back home after a long holiday when I remembered that Season 8 had started while I was gone. I immediately jumped to Rooster Teeth’s website and found three episodes were already up. I was excited; I mean Season 7 ended on such a cliffhanger. I couldn’t wait to see what happened.

I quickly caught up to Episode 3; Sarge had returned to Valhalla and former ally Washington had him at gunpoint. Sarge starts yelling ‘shotgun’ at the nearby wall, confusing both Wash and me. I began to hear the sound of a revving engine. I stared at the screen, expecting something to drop down the wall or something. There’s only so much they can do using the game engine. Then the Warthog crashed through the wall.

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My jaw dropped. I could barely register what happened after that. All this stuff that should not have happened was happening. “How?” I cried. “How are they doing this?” After rewatching it, I soon realised how familiar it all felt. A quick bit of research later and sure enough, Monty Oum had been hired by Rooster Teeth. I was more excited than ever now.

With Monty on board, RvB underwent another change. It suddenly had the capacity to do even more; not just with action but also visual humour (Grif punting Epsilon-Church like a football was certainly a highlight). Surprise seems too little a word to explain what this was to me and everything Monty brought to RvB was almost pure gold. Even after he stopped working on it, I’m sure he left his influence on the new animation team brought on for Season 12. Which leads us to…

RWBY

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I wrote a whole article about the first volume of Monty’s pet project and while I still stand by what I said, (both what I liked and what I didn’t) I can certainly admire Monty for what he was doing.

He had been given a chance to create something of his own and he was taking it by the horns. It seems like he loved what he was doing and had so many ideas for the show, always eager to share it with people and equally eager to bring people on board to help him make it be the best it could be.

Despite my problems with it, I can’t deny how creative RWBY is in some of its aspects, particularly its fights. Monty’s fights have always been my favourite part of anything, not just because of how over-the-top they were but how creative they were. It wasn’t just random punches and kicks and gunfire. I don’t know if he planned them out or just made them up as they went but the amount of detail that went into how everybody moved and fought was just phenomenal. And the fact they all happened so quickly meant that you could always learn a new detail about it each time you watched it. Not to mention every action moment had something unique to call its own. The fights between the Nevermore in the first volume and Torchwick’s mech in the second are similar in some regards but each still had a different feel about them and weren’t just a blatant copy of each other.

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Even though he always looked like he was half-asleep, Monty was undoubtedly one of the most hardworking people you’d ever meet. Despite some of the setbacks he encountered in his life, he never saw them as an excuse to give up. He just kept working. I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say this but he really was an inspiration; always encouraging people to do their best and keep at what they do.

He may have been taken far too soon but let’s not forget that he still achieved a lot and his work will always be there to help us remember him. I know I’m not the only one who is grateful to have even known of him, let alone actually know him personally. Part of me wishes I could have met him at least once, just to let him know how amazing he was and how much I loved what he did but I think it’s safe to say he knew he was awesome. And he made the rest of us want to be awesome too. I’d call that an achievement.

Rest in peace Monty.

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