Only 33, Oum was an inspiration for a generation of fans, gamers, and would-be animators. Oum honed his craft making acclaimed fan videos before going on to work on iconic series like Red vs Blue and Afro Samurai. In August, his series RWBY became the first U.S. anime in history to be exported to anime fans in Japan.
Across the Internet after Monday’s announcement, fans expressed their grief in outpourings of support and fanart.
Across the Internet fans described having been deeply inspired by Oum, who dropped out of high school and eschewed traditional animation training in favor of making a name online. He became a notoriously hard worker who occasionally broke his keyboard keys from working so furiously.
“[Y]ou were my inspiration to become an animator and you will never be forgotten,” wrote one fan on Oum’s Facebook. Such comments were typical:
Dear monty, you inspired me to animate, you gave me hope, and now thanks to you, the skills i have learned have gotten me into art school, thank you Monty”
Fans drew the four main characters of RWBY in various memorial scenes.
And made impromptu memorials:
Colleagues who knew Oum professionally and personally also shared in the grief. Arin Hanson, animator and co-founder of web series Game Grumps, wrote on his Tumblr that Oum was constantly encouraging and warm. He followed it up with a moving plea to all of the fans who’d been sharing their art as a show of support over the last few days:
I wish I could have told him how much, even in the little time we’ve spent together, that he changed my life and my outlook on work and creativity, on being a good person and a good friend. I think it’s true that most people don’t really examine that sort of thing until it’s too late, but I would give up a whole lot just to let him know how I felt about him, and then hear him say something like “that’s great to hear, but what are you wasting your time telling me this for? Get back to work!”
If you’re an artist and you’re struggling with the thought that you’re not good enough to pull off what you want, don’t wait. Just do it. Do it now. Make time for it. Nobody cares that you got 8 hours of sleep instead of 6 when you’re gone. Nobody cares that you kept up to date on your Facebook feed every day when you’re gone. What transcends you is your work and the impression you left behind. I met so many people this past weekend who wept for Monty because of what he meant to them, and every single one shared what an inspiration he was for them. He was taken way too early, but I don’t feel like he would have any regrets about the things he has or hasn’t accomplished. That was how he lived his life. He didn’t wait for the next day to get something done, and he didn’t wait until it was the right moment let someone know he cared. He just did it.
In the words of Oum’s own blog, which fans quoted extensively in the days following the news, “The effort you put forth to anything transcends yourself, for there is no futility even in death.”
Correction: A previous version of this story gave incorrect attribution to a video tribute to Oum. It was created by Rooster Teeth.
Illustration by akemi-homurad/Tumblr