At New York Comic-Con 2013, Samurai Beat Radio had the pleasure of interviewing Monty Oum, the creator of Rooster Teeth’s heavily popular anime-influenced series, RWBY. Alongside fellow writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross, Monty talked about the process behind RWBY, a possible expansion of the series, and shared tips for aspiring anime/manga artists wanting to break in.
Q: What were your inspirations for creating RWBY?
Monty: It’s a show we always wanted to do. I mean, we were finishing up Red vs. Blue Season 10. There were a lot of late nights, so while on multiple computer screens, I’ll play anime. And then I noticed that Kerry was playing anime. Then I went up to Kerry and I was like “Hey, you like anime. Let’s work on an anime, right!?”
Kerry: I was like “Absolutely! Let’s do that! Sounds great!”
Q: Really? (laughs)
Kerry: This kind of actually happened.
Monty: Yeah, it really did. I mean, I think we all would want to make something of our own and anime felt really natural. Once we finished up Season 10, near the last half of it, Miles and I have been working together a lot. Just coming up with scenes. Well, Miles really made them. (laughs) Especally the really important ones where there was really important writing. He and I were very familiar with Red vs. Blue, so I’ll go “Hey, Miles! This should happen!” Probably one sentence. “Miles, we should do this!” And Miles is like “OK!” (laughs) And then a week later, we got this huge team.
Miles: It was a lot of fun!
Monty: So I took that and that model became our team.
Everyone: Team MMK (Monty, Miles, Kerry)!
Q: Did you draw a lot of ideas for RWBY from video games? I notice there’s some elements from the Final Fantasy series. Maybe that’s just my view.
Monty: You can tell I’m a Final Fantasy fan. Final Fantasy was part of my childhood. VIII was one of my favorites. It did happen to have a Gunblade. (laughs) I think if you put a Gunblade against a sniper scythe, I think we’d know who would win. We got way more ridiculously obnoxious weapons coming. We’ll give Final Fantasy a run for its money and maybe they’ll get interested one day and be like “Hey, this is pretty cool!” (laughs)
Q: Who would you say is your favorite character from RWBY?
Monty: It’s hard for me to say.
Kerry: It’s definitely something we’ve noticed, whether it comes to writing or animating. Whoever we’re working with that day is the favorite character. If we’re writing a scene with Yang, that’s our favorite character. If Miles is animating a scene with Weiss, that’s his favorite character.
Monty: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. But at the same time, if I had to pick one absolutely, you haven’t met her yet. Or maybe you have. You just don’t know what her name is. (laughs)
Miles: For Kerry and I, we decided Nora (Valkyrie) is our favorite. Just with the way that she was created and just how bubbly and energetic she is. She’s just a little firecracker.
Q: When you started developing RWBY, did you have a team of people you wanted to work with in mind or it just happened?
Monty: That’s kind of how we do it. The answer is both. It just happened that we had a team. The right people were there. First thing we do is that instead of planning, we get to it and work. I started making the first trailer, all while talking to the guys about what we could do, and it just progressed from therefore and the team grew from that. So yeah, it just happened that we had a team.
Kerry: He (Monty) was very excited to work with Einlee (aka Eileen Chang, RWBY character designer) on the concepts. She was someone he was very looking forward to work with.
Monty: Yeah, I do keep an eye out on a lot of artwork from all around the web. I’ve played around in deviantART, which was my first network, for years. Einlee was an artist I admired for 5 years. I looked at her designs and said that I would really love to work with her someday. So I contacted her and said, “How would you like to see something you made be put into motion?”
Q: This question is directed towards Monty. You’re noted to be a workaholic among your colleagues and peers. Where does your energy come from?
Monty: You know, desperation. Essentially, I just work and work and work because we’ve got deadlines and there’s no time to stop. But it’s become a habit now where if I have a break, I don’t know how to take it. I just go back to what I do and I keep working.
Q: Monty, this question is about your involvement with video games. You got your start with “Haloid” and you worked in the video games industry for a while. You decided to pursue animation a few years later. What was the biggest challenge in going from video games to making animation or was there any challenge?
Monty: Since I started with movies and that made its way to combat design, the progression back to movies wasn’t so hard. It was just going back to what I’ve always been doing. I was making Dead Fantasy while I was working in games anyway, so I applied the things I was always doing. It was really more of the technical side of having a job. The game job was paid the bills and I was moving from different states all around the U.S. The decision to come and live with Texas with these guys and Rooster Teeth was really the only choice I had to make and it was an easy choice to make.
Q: Did you ever see RWBY ever becoming popular or was it something you wanted to do, regardless of whether it’s popular or not?
Monty: We just did it because it was something we liked.
Miles: Yeah, I don’t think any of us could have predicted how big this would be.
Kerry: There’s definitely a part of me inside that thought, “Ok, the Red Trailer came out. It was huge online. It’s gonna dwindle.” And it absolutely did the opposite of that. It was crazy.
Monty: Every time we released a new character, the hype got bigger and bigger. And then the show happened. It happened at our own con (RTX 2013), when we had 7,000 people in our room. If you look out right now, there’s a giant line wrapping around our booth. It’s pretty crazy.
Q: How do you feel about the reception right now?
Miles: Overwhelmingly positive.
Kerry: It’s wonderful.
Miles: You know, it’s like, you put it out and people either love it or hate it. No matter what, we’re going to do it because we want to. It’s fun, man.
Kerry: We love what we’re doing and there’s absolutely people that also love what we’re doing that we want to keep doing it.
Miles: We’re very fortunate.
Q: There are many fans here in the U.S. that love anime and manga and want to create works using those styles. What would you like to say to those who want to make anime/manga-inspired works in the West?
Monty: I’ve been following so many artists and I know that all of us are doing it all over the world. There’s nothing really stopping you. We get criticism about that sometimes, like “We shouldn’t be allowed to make this.” Honestly, everyone’s been doing it and everyone’s wanted to do it. We’re just the ones that took it to the next step and putting it in motion. If you want to do it, you already know what you want. You got characters, you got a story you want to tell. Take that step up. Sure, there’s probably an animator that’s got the same ideas. Just get things into motion because that’s what I did. If you’re an artist, chances are maybe someone’s looking at your designs because that’s what I did. I looked at an artist and I said “I want to take your work and make it a moving character.” So it’s really a case of making things happen. Just do it.
Q: Once you’re finished with RWBY, what kind of series would you like to do next? Would you consider making another anime series or will it be a non-anime series?
Miles: Man, when RWBY’s over…that seems like a long way away. Hopefully. We got big ideas. I don’t know. I’d always love to do another cartoon. I know Kerry and I would love to write something together. Man, the sky’s the limit.
Monty: Yeah, we have really long stories we want to tell for the RWBY characters. So it feels like forever from now. But even if we do finish and it might be even before we finish, I engineered the systems in which RWBY gets delivered; I feel that the system itself can deliver more stories. So I said to Miles that it’s not far from us to have two or three shows being done in the RWBY system. So why not have more shows? Animation resonates with everyone. We can do it in a much more different style, but the fact is we can still tell a story (with animation).
Q: What final words do you have for our audience?
Monty: We love you all. We love making RWBY because it’s the funnest thing to make. The characters are made from a labor of love. We’ll continue animating and writing them.
Miles: Thank you, thank you so much for supporting us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to keep doing what we love doing.
Kerry: You guys are the best! We love you so much!
The first season of RWBY is now available in DVD and Blu-Ray. You can purchase Volume 1 at the Rooster Teeth Store. You can also catch RWBY at Rooster Teeth’s official page for the series or at Crunchyroll.