Archives for : April2015

Toon-In-Talk Episode 06: Interview with Mathew Klickstein

Hello and welcome to sixth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  If you grew up in the 1990s, you most likely watched Nickelodeon and were a fan of their Nick Toons.  The 1990s have become known as the Golden Age of Nickelodeon Studios and nostalgia always comes into play when that decade is mentioned.  Mathew Klickstein felt the same way, so he wrote Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age chronicling the adventures of cast, crew, and other cool people from the “only kid’s network.”

Episode 6

Show Notes

• Whitney tells Matt she had been searching Nickelodeon’s history herself. He tells her that a lot of people told him they wanted to write a book on Nick, but they never got around to it. He affirms there are a lot more stories to tell about “the only kid’s network.”
• He recommends reading the academic book Nickelodeon Nation by Heather Hendershot.
• Matt discusses details about how it was published and why he decided to write an oral history of Nickelodeon.
• Whitney asks questions about why Matt formatted the book the way he did, especially when it comes to information about his interviewees.
• Matt interviewed over 250 people for the book. He also had to leave out a lot of material.
• To track people down, it was actually the easiest getting Melissa Joan Hart, Kenan Thompson, and others. It was extremely difficulty getting people who worked on only one show, like Richard Price.
• Six degrees really comes into play for rounding up the interviewees.
• Slimed was more like producing a documentary than writing a book. Matt loves oral history, but he wants his next book to be in prose.
• In the early days, Nickelodeon licensed cartoons to air on the station. Nickelodeon made Looney Tunes popular again. When the licensing came up again, Warner Brothers wanted more money from Nickelodeon.
• We can thank the FCC for putting an end to 30 minute long toy commercials. Networks were also finally allowed to produce their own cartoons.
• The original three cartoons were: Doug, Ren and Stimpy, and Rugrats.
• Nickelodeon found six shows they made pilots for. They found potential shows by literary going to animator’s garage.
• Whitney mentions the yearly Nickelodeon writing and animation contest. Both discuss how Nick has changed its content and yet remained the same.
• Whitney brings up Ren and Stimpy and Matt discusses its heated history.
• The creator John Kricfalusi had an ill reputation, though he is a creative genius.
• Whitney and Matt talk about making something new and original. Neither wants to repeat the creative past.
• Money is a necessary evil. Whitney mentions some of her hopes before she got her book contract. Matt recommends people use a publisher and gives his advice about self-publishing and YouTube.
• Matt’s favorite NickToon is Ren and Stimpy and Whitney’s is Aah! Real Monsters.
• Matt declares the episode over!



Old Animation Interviews Episodes

Many of the Toon-In Talk’s fine listeners were already fans of Whitney when she worked with the Rotoscopes on the Animation Interviews. While that show is now defunct, Whitney has uploaded the old interviews in this shareable link:

Whitney does plan on reusing these interviews for future episodes of Toon-In Talk, so when they are reused they will be taken out of the folder.

Interview With Margaret Kerry-The Original Tinkerbell

Before Whitney started podcasting, she interviewed people the old-fashioned way: over the phone and took notes. The first interview Whitney ever did still leaves her starstruck to this day. It was with Margaret Kerry, the woman who served as the live action model for Disney’s 1953 classic Peter Pan.  Margaret Kerry is a sweet woman with an illustrious movie and voice over career.  Whitney first published this interview at Animated Views.  Here for you reading pleasure is the same interview.


During the era of Disney sequels, one of the few to receive a theatrical release was Peter Pan II: Return to Neverland. The animation was better quality than other sequels, but the story was lackluster compared to the original. The soundtrack, however, had several decent songs. The movie begins with this number, “The second star to right/ shines in the light for you / To tell you that the dreams you plan / Really can come true.”KErry-225

These opening lyrics echoed through my head after I had the privilege of interviewing a Disney legend whose past is entwined with Peter Pan and Disney’s spokesfairy, Tinker Bell. I am writing about the gentle-voiced and notable Margaret Kerry, the reference model for the spunky pixie.

When Margaret and I spoke, I was first struck by how to she welcomed me into what she calls a pixie-dusted life. What follows is a conversation she and I had as she discusses her acting career, her time at the Walt Disney Company, and her voice-acting days as the female lead in Clutch Cargo and Space Angel.

Whitney Grace (WG): I first wanted to say Ms. Kerry what an honor it is speaking with a Disney Legend and thank you for taking the time for an interview.

Margaret Kerry (MK): Not at all, but please call me Margaret.

WG: All right, Ms. Kerry…Margaret. Sorry, it’s a reflex for me to be former when I’m excited.

MK: Very well, Ms. Grace. That’s a beautiful name by the way.

WG: Thank you. I think so too. So let’s start.

MK: I need to first begin this interview by saying what a blessing it has been to be part of Disney. When you work with the Walt Disney Company, it’s like magic. Anything related to them can only be described as “wow!” It was and is a wonderful time and I was so glad to be there.

WG: I can only imagine what it is like working for Disney during its golden age. Had you ever worked for Disney prior to posing for Tinker Bell?

MK: No, nothing. I did have an active career well before Peter Pan.   I was in experimental pictures, thirty-six major films, but I preferred to work in television.

WG: How did your acting career start?

MK: I was four years old when my parents took me to auditions. I starred in many commercials during the Depression, many of which I don’t remember. One, however, I clearly remember, at least, my line: “Now kids make sure to keep those dogs away from those trees we’re planting to make America beautiful.” I took dancing lessons for many year and my teacher was Nico Charise, Cyd Charisse’s husband.

WG: Wait…the Cyd Charisse?

MK: Yes, she was a gorgeous dancer.

WG: Oh, wow! Did you ever get the practice or even dance with her?

MK: Yes, several times. Nico Charise was a choreographer and a wonderful teacher. Cyd was very dear and encouraging. I loved working with both of them.

WG: I bet so many people wish they could have had that very opportunity. So you continued to take dancing lessons and act, what do you consider to be your big break?

MK: I had many, many jobs from the time I was small, but when I was a teenager I was cast in the film If You Knew Susie. It was a musical comedy and I was working with Eddie Cantor. He was well known for his blackface comedies and he also worked for the Ziegfeld Follies. He was a very famous at the time and he was paid well.   I know that when he was in the Ziegfeld Follies he earned $10,000/week.

WG: That’s still a lot by today’s standards and went further back then.

MK: He’s the one who actually gave me my name.

WG: What’s that story?

MK: My part in If You Knew Susie took eight weeks to film and I also graduated high school during filming. When the production finished, Eddie asked me how I wanted my name to appear on the credits. I did not have a stage name, so I used my real name, Peggy Lynch. Peggy is a nickname for Margaret and everyone called me that. He told me about the actress Peggy Wood and how she was tired of being referred to as “Peggy” at the age of sixty. The same thing could happen to me, so he wanted to know if I liked my first name. I told him yes and agreed to use my full name. He didn’t like “Lynch” either. Eddie had a friend named Norman Kerry, whose family came from County Kerry in Ireland. It turned out that my own family came from that same area, so I assumed “Kerry” as my last name. When the credits rolled in the movie, I was billed as Margaret Kerry.

WG: Cool. How did you land an audition for Disney?

MK: I was an assistant dance director on the movie I’ll Get By, when my agent called me about an audition at Disney. He asked if I was free on Tuesday and, of course, I said yes. Using a forty-five record, I choreographed a pantomime routine where I was fixing breakfast to prepare for the audition. When the day arrived, I took my player to Disney Studios and got on the lot, then I immediately got lost.

WG: Did you get anxious?

MK: I was worried that I wouldn’t get to the audition on time, but thankfully a man came up to me and asked if I needed help. I told him I was looking for Marc Davis—lead animator for Tinker Bell. He pointed to an open door and said, “He’s in there.” Later I learned the man who helped me was Ollie Johnston.

WG: Ollie Johnsgon and you didn’t have any idea who he was? He was just walking around the studio and you bumped into him?

MK: Not until later. Back when Walt Disney was at the studios, animators came and went as they pleased.

WG: After you found the right room, how did the audition go?

MK: I needed a plug for my portable record player and Marc Davis and the other people at the audition were non-plussed that I needed one. After I found a plug, I started the record and went through my preparing breakfast routine. When I was done, they asked me to pretend I was standing on a giant looking glass and I noticed the size of my hips.

WG: How did you interpret that?

MK: For this scene, I imagined that Tinker Bell had never seen her reflection before and she was quite pleased with what she saw. She preened and was happy, until she saw her hips and did a double take. I placed my hands on my hips and slowly lifted them up, aghast that at their size. Then I stomped my foot and marched off.

WG: And that landed you the job?

MK: I was asked if I could come back the next Tuesday. They never asked if it was convenient for me, but I made it work. Marc and the other animators liked what they saw in me. It was mainly my personality that attracted Disney and I was told point blank that they wanted Tinker Bell to be me.

WG: How long did you work on Peter Pan?

MK: It took nine months, off and on, to complete my work as Tinker Bell.

WG: Were you under contract?

MK: Only as an independent contractor. Every actor that Disney hired was an independent contractor, because it was cheaper for them. There were a few who had exclusive contracts. Kathryn Beaumont (voice of Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy) was one and Bobby Driscoll (voice of Peter Pan) was another.

WG: Did you ever work for Disney after you completed the reference modeling?

MK: No, but I had another part in Peter Pan as the redheaded mermaid. I had one line, “We just want to drown her.” Later when Disney was working on The Little Mermaid, they went back in the archives and studied the mermaids.

WG: Are you alluding that you were also the inspiration for Ariel?

MK: It had to come from somewhere.

WG: Did you enjoy voice-over work?

MK: I was amazed by it. I came in without doing my hair and make-up, I said my lines and two hours later I was done. There weren’t any 6:30 AM mornings, so it was very relaxed compared to my prior work.

WG: Can I ask you few questions about Tinker Bell herself?

MK: Please do.

WG: There’s an urban legend that Tinker Bell was modeled after Marilyn Monroe. How did that rumor start?

MK: No one can really agree on it. I worked with Marilyn before and she was a lovely woman, but she definitely was not Tinker Bell. I am. The conjecture is that there was some publicity for Peter Pan and Disney Land and someone from the studio was interviewed. That person said she was the first femme fatale Disney lead, not a simpering heroine like in past films. It was also mentioned how Tinker Bell had curves and that was compared to Marilyn Monroe. Someone picked it up and thought the character was actually based off her. Anything related to Marilyn is big stuff, so that is why it has endured.

WG: Ouch!

MK: One of those trivia games was released and it asked the question, “What famous actress was the basis for Tinker Bell’s character design?” The answer was mistakenly Marilyn Monroe. My kids were sick of the constant mess up, so they contacted Dave Smith, head of Disney Archives.

WG: What happened next?

MK: He simply said he would take care of it and the game was corrected.

WG: What do you think of the relationship between Peter, Wendy, and Tinker Bell? Do you consider it to be a love triangle?

MK: No, I don’t. I played Tinker Bell as a naive eleven-year-old thing, who only wanted to adventure and to see everything in the world. She did a double take with the mirror, because she had never seen one before. She’s not in love, she’s more of a groupie. She’s afraid that Peter will take the big-ugly girl on adventures with him and forget all about her. She’s not an eleven-year-old girl with a crush on a twelve-year-old boy.

WG: If that’s so, why is there such emphasis on a love triangle between the characters?

MK: Everything is sexual now. It’s the culture today. I remember when I was at FOX, some friends of mine, a man and a woman and relatively famous, spent some time together. They would eat dinner together and visit each other. Look magazine caught wind of this and wrote an article stating they were dating.   They were actually too busy to even consider a relationship, because both were involved with a movie.

WG: It’s hard to ignore when every new movie based on Peter Pan eludes to romance between Wendy and Peter.

MK: But in the original play it wasn’t like that.

WG: You’re right. J.M. Barrie had Wendy more interested in love than Peter, who was only interested in a mother.

MK: Exactly! When Wendy says to Peter, “I can be a mother,” he gets a crafty look in his eye. He only wanted Wendy to go to Neverland to tell him stories and make pockets. He wanted her to work for him.

WG: Barrie was obsessed with mothers because he was neglected by his in childhood. He projected his emotions onto Peter, but this is often forgotten by modern audiences.

MK: Peter Pan is a story about the wonders of being a child and Tinker Bell personifies that feeling. Her childlike personality is why we love her so much. It’s like that first breath you hold when you visit Disney Land or Disney World for the first time—you’re transformed back into a child. I just want to stop this crudeness kids these days are seeing.

WG: Your comment reminds me about how many people, scholars and historians among them, believe he was a pedophile and/or homosexual. They see Peter Pan as an expression of these theories, which destroys the story’s innocence.

MK: That is what happens when adults get too analytical. They take a fun and magical world and ruin it. But Tinker Bell fights this.

WG: Tinker Bell especially does this in the Disney Fairies product line. What do you think of the books that continue Tinker Bell’s adventures?

MK: They are wonderful. Gail Carson Levine wrote the first book that all the others are based on. She had Tinker Bell break her leg and sit with Mother Dove during a climatic point in the book. Her publishers didn’t like this, thinking it was too violent and they asked her to change it. She refused. Levine said that she had creative control over her story and if they wanted to argue they could read her contract.

WG: And Tinker Bell’s spunkiness lives on in those who write her adventures. Moving on from Tinker Bell, what did you do after Peter Pan?

MK: June Foray, voice actress of Rocky and Natasha Fatale from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and I worked on Stan Freeberg Presents The United States and St. George and the Dragon. I played the maiden in the latter one.

WG: You did more voice acting in Clutch Cargo and Space Angel, correct? Would you explain you work and what those series were?

MK: Yes, Clutch Cargo was the first color, action, syndicated TV show produced by Cambria Productions. It had limited animation with real human lips superimposed over the characters mouths. It was called the Syncro-Vox system. We had a limited budget, but we produced 52 episodes at four minutes each. I voiced Spinner, Paddlefoot, and the other female characters on the show. After Clutch Cargo, I worked on Captain Fathom and Space Angel.

WG: Did Space Angel use the Syncro-Vox system?

MK: It did use the same technique. I played Crystal and all the other female roles too. I played these in many different dialects. Hal Smith, who played Otis the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show, played the Scottish engineer. That character was actually Gene Roddenberry’s inspiration for Scottie on Star Trek.

WG: What were the recording sessions like for Clutch Cargo and Space Angel?

MK: They were a joy! We had group recordings, where we would all huddle around the microphone and do the voices.   We actually wrote the episodes as we recorded. Each episode was four minutes and cost $3,600 to make. They were syndicated around the country in twenty-two minute blocks, usually five episodes with commercials between each one.

WG: What did you think about the animation style?

MK: The artwork was beautiful for our limited budget! Not having to animate the mouths made it easy for both the artists and voice actors.

WG: Did you work on any other cartoons at Cambria Productions?

MK: Yes, I also filmed 156 episodes of The New Three Stooges with the original Larry, Moe, and Curly.

WG: Moving onto Cambria Productions as a business, didn’t they have legal problems?

MK: The studio was actually stolen by C.G. Aberhalin. We sued multiple times and always won, but he never paid us the money we were owed.

WG: Prior to my interview with you, I did some research on Wikipedia and IMDB to familiarize myself with your career. You mentioned some projects, like Captain Fathom that weren’t mentioned at all on these pages. What was that show about?

MK: It was an animated adventure about a submarine akin to The Hunt for Red October. I played a French girl on the sub. That’s all I remember on that, but I have to ask am I really on IMDB and Wikipedia?

WG: Yes.

MK: I wasn’t aware of that. I don’t even know who wrote those and posted them on the Internet.

WG: Possibly a dedicated fan and/or a movie buff.

MK: When you say that it reminds about why I say I have a pixie-dusted life, because no one did anything rude or mean in my presence. I was always treated like a lady and if someone cursed, they would immediately apologize. My career has been a joy and everyone I have met were wonderful to me.

WG: Not many people in the business can say that, but that ties in to how you want people to view Tinker Bell as someone who makes them happy. That reminds me, how did Tinker Bell become Disney’s mascot?

MK: When Walt Disney was creating Disneyland, he was advised to not use Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck as promotional items in case the park failed. The characters would inadvertently fail as well and Walt Disney Studios’ main properties would lose value. At that time, there weren’t any further projects for Tinker Bell. Once Peter Pan was complete she was no longer needed. When the park was planned, Disney decided to use Tinker Bell and Jiminey Cricket as the mascots, so if the park didn’t work, these one-movie characters would take the blow. On opening day, Disneyland, of course, was a success and everywhere you looked there was Tinker Bell. Her role as Disney’s mascot has helped her endure all these years.

WG: And you with her. Margaret, I hae run out of questions for you. Is there anything you would like to add before we finish the interview?

MK: Let me say a two of my favorite quotes: “The bet dreams are those when they are awake,” said by Walt Disney and “Memories are God’s gift of roses in December” from J.M. Barrie. I want people to read these quotes and remember their good memories and look forward to creating new ones.

WG: That’s powerful and inspiring stuff. They’ve worked on me already. One last thing, you are writing a biography, any news on the release date?

MK: It’s almost finished, but my website www.Tinker will hWGe the lastest news on it.

WG: Margaret, thank you so much for your time.

MK: My pleasure.



Toon-In-Talk Episode 05: Interview with Monty Oum

Hello and welcome to fifth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  In December 2014, I had the honor of interviewing the animator Monty Oum of Rooster Teeth.  Monty Oum was one of the creative leads for the American anime RWBY.   He was an entirely self-taught animator, specializing in online cartoons  and videogames.  This interview was originally meant to air in the same month, but the sound quality was very poor.  In January 2015, Monty Oum had a severe allergic reaction to a medical procedure and he passed away in February.  Please join Whitney as she honors Monty’s memory.

Episode 5

Show Notes

  • Monty is a self-taught animator and never formerly attended a school.
  • When he was a kid, he used to watch cartoons, mostly anime, and he loved to count frames and learn animation tricks.
  • He describes RWBY as an emulation of an emulation.  It emulates anime and anime emulates early Disney cartoons.  Ironically, Monty’s career more or less started when he made fan videos based off Final Fantasy and Dead or Alive.
  • All stories are copies of copies.  There are originally ideas, but they are usually inspired by something else.  The creator takes the inspiration and makes something new.
  • Whitney is curious about the Rooster Teeth animation process and Monty explains how coding is involved, how they use skeletons, and how there’s a lot of copying involved.
  • They both geeked out over Pixar’s The Incredibles and discuss Universal Man.
  • RWBY is about a group of four girls who are fighters and how they attend a school to become stronger warriors.  They discuss more about the world of RWBY.
  • Whitney confuses stop motion for motion capture, but she’s still impressed that Rooster Teeth is using it.
  • Whitney gushes over RWBY’s fighting scenes, which was Monty’s main speciality.
  • Most of RWBY’s characters are female, in order to animate their feminine qualities they sometimes have women put on the motion capture suit or they male animators have been known to wear heels.
  • Monty equated fashion and high heels with powers.
  • He also points out that having actually items to hold when you’re in a motion capture suit makes it a whole lot easier to animate later.
  • In season three of RWBY, expect the characters to grow physically and mentally.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Monty never watched Dragon Ball Z, but he was still a large fan of tournament arcs in anime.
  • Rooster Teeth has many other new projects in mind and they’re dedicated to making great cartoons.




Whitney Grace (WG): Please introduce yourself and explain why you’re a perfect guest to appear on Animation Interviews.

Monty Oum (MO): My name is Monty Oum and I’m an animator for Rooster Teeth.   I’ve worked on the popular shows Red vs. Blue and RWBY.

WG: I like asking my guests to explain more about their background, education, and interest in animation. Would you mind giving me a few details about that?

MO: I’ve been interested in animation as far back as I remember. I used to draw little flipbooks as far back as age seven, maybe five. I was supposed to be reading books, but instead I was drawing in books and making little fight sequences in them. I went to school like any normal kid, until I decided to drop out. I never went to college for animation, but I took whatever classes I could when I was in high school, like fundamentals of flash. I remember starting off in Director which was a macromedia program from back then.

I kept working on my animation skills for fourteen years or so, then the Internet came around. I started making my own videos and that caught the attention of many people. I started getting job offers from videogame companies as well as eventually Rooster Teeth. I’d been a fan of Rooster Teeth for a long time. Red vs. Blue was one of my favorite shows, because it was really good.

WG: So you say you’re a self-taught animator, which is a first for me on this show when it comes to Web animation. When you talk about the Internet, we’re dealing with about thirty years. When did you enter the Web animation phase?

MO: I started using flash animation as early as 2006. I saw people making really cool things and I realized I could be doing that too. Prior to that I thought, I can’t be doing that animation is hard, even though I had been doing it a long time. I only started doing it seriously when I was twenty-two or so, when I realized it was something I could potentially be doing with my life. I kept at it and trying and trying, which led me somewhere,

WG: Let’s get back to traditional animation for a moment. What cartoons were you raised on?

MO: I watched cartoons all throughout my childhood. I loved Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and stuff. Eventually I discovered anime and one of the series I watched a lot of was Dangaioh, which was a mech anime, and also Ninja Scroll. I encountered a lot of Studio Ghibli’s stuff along the way. You know when you start watching these things you get an eye for it and start counting frames, how often they reuse animation, and what angles they’re going to chop something off. I became really interested in finding the shortcuts and when they simulated animation, so the animators wouldn’t have to do as much work.

I used to rush home every day after school to watch this one show called The Bots Master. During the fight sequences, someone would yell, “It’s laser time boys” which signaled you to put on 3D glasses to watch the scenes. I began to notice where they reused animation, which made me realize that animation is so much work and you have to be smart about how it’s used, especially in 3D animation. Since I’m primarily a 3D animator, I know what the advantages are compared to traditional animation that requires a tremendous amount of work.

WG: Describing how you’re see what goes on behind the animation reminds me of how I do something similar when I watch TV, read a book, or see a movie. I can identify when they’re using this cliché or that archetype. It’s neat to see how there’s different, but related tool sets for writing and animation.

MO: Yeah. When you’re in a trade it’s great to be so familiar with how something is done that you feel like you know the person behind the process, you see yourself in someone else’s work, or you can see how you emulated someone. With me, because I watch so much anime, I emulate it in my work. Even though I’m a 3D animator, one of the things I tell people is that they should think in 2D and animate in 3D.

WG: You’re the first animator I’ve ever spoken to in America, who has mentioned that anime was their biggest influence. Every one I’ve spoken with says Disney or DreamWorks. What I find interesting is how you’re more or less making an anime in the US. I, myself, and many other otaku dreamed of going to Japan to create anime, but in the back of our heads we know that’s never going to happen. You, however, have accomplished that dream. In your experience, what differences, aesthetics wise, do you find between western animation and anime?

MO: I would say the things you try to honor in terms of storytelling and character, especially in stylization. The story goes even farther back, because anime originally tried to emulate [Disney], until they realized they didn’t have the budget. It was an economic fallout with the studios. They tried to start up [their studios] and realized they couldn’t afford the animators. They were trying to set up a Disney of Japan back then and the animators had to move into making television anime, but then they realized the economy wasn’t doing so well, they essentially had to adopt a more economical version of animation, which is what anime is. Anime, in fact, is often a lack of animation, but it more so lives in your mind. You often know that the story you have in your head, when you see something happens in parallel to what you’re making or watching. And so when you watch animation, you may see three frames implying six, but in your head it blows up to something even bigger. So that’s one of the stylization of anime, with the larger eyes, larger movements, and such extreme emotions they go through all lives up to what you have in your head. So when I say anime has a lack of animation, because they do with what little they have larger.

My show happens to be an emulation of an emulation, because I like anime, but I will make my version of anime. Anime artists from the eighties and seventies were trying to make Disney and then they realized they would just do their own thing and they would make their own genre and statement. We currently call RWBY an anime, because it’s the closest thing we can call it. We can also say web anime or 3D anime or something, but you know you won’t go to a Japanese anime artist and they won’t say their stuff is better than Disney. He’ll just say, “It’s mine” or Japan will say, “This is our thing.” Well, RWBY is our thing and it was trying to be one thing, but as it discovers itself it will be its own thing. You also try not to forgot what your were honoring originally, so anime was trying to be Disney and now it is its own thing. RWBY will be its own thing at some point, but it is still inspired.

WG: You know it is so good to hear you say that, because in the anime community I always hear people saying I want to pick up this manga or I want to write for this anime. I’m like no, create your own…read that stuff, write your fanficiton, draw your fanart, but do your own stuff and create something that is new.

MO: I got my career started by essentially doing animated fanfics, because I made Dead Fantasy. It was stuff I’d done where I like Final Fantasy, I like Dead or Alive, [animation] let me put this together and make my own thing. Even though I still took the characters from another show, it had a jumping point. Back when I made a Halo/Metroid video, as an artist I was like I’m kind of selling out using other people’s property and creating fanart. But if you think about it in comparison, I would say fanart is its own form of apprenticeship, where you take inspiration, you research as to know what you’re working with and you become the best student you can of the thing you’re trying to make. So the same thing where I have theories on Evangalion, whether or not they’re actually true, I can take those theories and put them into my story, because they came off what I liked about the [anime]. I’m not retelling Evangelion, I have theories about what the angels are and they’re probably wrong, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take that. I have theories about Metal Gear Solid, regardless of whether or not it’s right, it still fuels your character and your ability to tell a story.

WG: You actually just gave away one of the biggest secrets in any sort of entertainment. Everything is…I believe that there are original stories out there, but they are only original, because they’ve taken an old idea and told it in a new way.

MO: You’ll find out eventually as you go to retell what you’ve become inspired off of is that it does become its own thing without you even realizing it. In a subtle sense, that is way more natural.

WG: So how long have you been animating?

MO: I say I’ve been seriously animating since I was twenty-two and I’m thirty-three now, so about eleven years. I dabbled it when I was in high school and when I was younger with flash, but I never sat down with it and said I’m going to make this my career until I was twenty-two years old. It’s been about eleven years now and I didn’t see much success until I was twenty-seven or so.

WG: How much coding is involved in the animation you do? Is it a lot or are you just manipulating the program?

MO: It’s surprising actually how much there is, because if you go…and it also depends on who you ask. I myself, personally, since I do a little of the post production, I also do a little of the coding that is involved. I could copy and paste something right now with words, weird jargon, deltas, and value pads. It’s like, “Wow” this is bizarre looking and when you look at the ones and zeros it’s only the bristles of the brush. It’s there and sometimes I have to go in and weave those tools together, but at the end of the day I’m making those tools to make an artistic thing with it.

Sometimes I’m still there with the brackets, ones, and zeroes, and I’m writing this stuff down, and then I take that piece and put on a suit with dots on it and then I act it out and make the strokes (hopefully) of what the implication of a human being is. It’s a lot, but surprisingly only for me and one or two other guys who are involved in tool creation, because we create all the tools we use in the 3D animation process.

WG: Do you use a lot of open source?

MO: No, it really is if you’ve taken a scene file I’ve made and just open it up in Notepad, then you see the guts and pieces of, I’ll go, “Okay this person was using that image and their arm is rotating this many degrees.” I don’t do a lot of animation in the code, but I do a lot of the rigging and tool design with the code itself. I work very closely with our technical director, so he can make scripts to automate stuff . The other animators can hit a button and make that stuff happen.

WG: I’ve coded with basic HTML in Notepad and when you try do to the more complex stuff in there, you always mess stuff up.

MO: We’re at the end of season two and currently in the R&D for season three, I have some new characters I want to build. There was one character who was going to have this many body parts and hair and he shares a similar silhouette with another character, so I want to transfer this person’s bones into the new person. Instead of going into the interface, I actually go into the XML and I say to grab these bones and transplant them into this character through the coding. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot lately.

WG: So you’re kind of copying yourself and creating something new.

MO: Yeah, so the way to make it not screw up or break is to use the parts that you know work.

WG: I find that extremely funny. I don’t know why, but it is. Yeah, don’t fix what’s not broke.

MO: Yeah, I’ve been using similar skeletons for the last seven years…It helps that the program we use has prebuilt skeletons, so I just drop them in and refine them as I go. It wasn’t broken from day one, but it did need work. Seven, ten years later I’m still using the same skeletons.

WG: Wow, same skeletons. It’s kind of like they’re altered…maybe this comparison is wrong, but they’re kind of like the Universal Man at Pixar?

MO: From The Incredibles?

WG: Yeah!

MO: I watch every behind the scenes thing from Pixar I can get my hands on. It’s the only reason why I buy the Blu-Ray these days. Watching the ETS on The Incredibles helped me a lot. In fact, all the characters if you look, there are only two: man and woman. All the characters are built off universal male and universal female. I could have gone further with that. I remember watching that ETS and I thought I could actually use this for a system, because it’s modular and like the same thing they built Wall-E, they had a universal robot system.

WG: They stopped using Universal Man, because it was too cumbersome.

MO: Yeah, I do feel their pain. I guarantee you when they were building Underminer, he was loosely based off Universal Man, but obviously he looked nothing like Universal Man. These are days when you’re building a character and it may be more work than it’s worth to fit the skeleton, so I can understand that. Fortunately, for now all of our characters are of the same build, gauge, and height where they’re all human so far. I have actually tried to cram a human skeleton into our bear and wolf models, because I wanted to be able to motion capture it. But then the hands do weird things where the wolf model has arms twice as long as human arms and they just don’t look good when I go on the ground and do this.

WG: So let’s talk about why we are here. You’ve worked on RWBYRWBY in all essence is an American anime. It fits all the styles, it has some of the tropes, but it’s not. It’s completely foreign. What I love is how you’ve gotten rid of some of the anime clichés which have gotten tired. It’s a fresh clean perspective on it. Can you please tell me what RWBY is about, the world, the characters, and what makes it a good series to watch?

MO: Like you said, it’s inspired off anime so we try to honor the things that you typically see in anime. Also myself am I lifetime anime fan, so I see a lot of what it does and how far the story can go. Some of my favorite animes are Ghost in the ShellRWBY itself as an American anime, we try to take, the writers and me are all fans of anime, so we take the things we’ve seen in anime and work them in a way that is more universal. It’s worked so far, which we’re grateful for.

It’s about these four girls who go to a school very Harry Potter-esque, very anime-esque, where they train to battle in the certain way the school teaches. That is directly influenced off, “Okay, I need to have a show. What is the easiest thing I can do to populate the scene? Uniforms.” If everyone has to be in uniforms, then you only have to change the hair and so far it’s like we have a school anime. There are a lot of animes I like that are journey animes or it follows the typical anime trope of you have school children training to be warriors, heroes, and stuff. It’s actually driven by the technological limitation of we don’t want to model sixty new characters in the background. In my lifetime of watching anime, I’ve watched plenty of high school anime and it’s just a row of plaid skirts and high school uniforms and stuff. They only change the hairstyles. The scope of anime facial structures are pretty universal, like generic, literally based off that technical limitation. That being said, it doesn’t limit us story wise, because we still have these very unique characters who come from different backgrounds and they gather at this school to train to become masters of this trade, ultimately to safe the world. It’s done in a way meant to honor that original trope of high school anime and also do things like American hero cartoons. I’m watching Justice League right now.

WG: Yah!

MO: Young Justice.

WG: Yah!

MO: I love so much of what they do and all the characters are unique. I’m like if I wanted to make this show, they would need to be in high school, because I don’t want to have to make all these unique outfits. It’s essentially that, like many high school animes where they train to be good at something and eventually discover themselves as they go along.

WG: The world that they’re in, they’re training to be a master fighter of some kind. Can you explain what this world is like, what are some of the rules we’re dealing with, and also is it magic or is it science fiction, and what is this dust?

MO: I’m a big Final Fantasy fan, so Final Fantasy to me has always had this magic tech. What’s the word? Where it’s always full of magic and technology. Where you have airships, cars, buildings, and planes, but you also have this giant world. You know my favorite moment in Final Fantasy VII, it was my first Final Fantasy, you’re in this city and it’s a steampunk looking city, then you get to the world with this giant green field. It’s such a contrast be so great. It made me want as a fourteen year old be like, “I want to go on an adventure!”

The world [RWBY] is similar to me like we’re centralized in this one country right now and they’re studying in this school, but eventually they’re going to journey out into the world. The world, itself, is where its similarly populated by monsters so if you wander the plains you may get attacked. You may be sleeping in a tent one day and the next a hotel or maybe someday they might get an airship or get in a boat, it’s various things. Essentially the type of journey I’d like to tell.

WG: Say I’m one of the four girls and I go out and fight a monster, but there’s always a bad guy. Who is the bad guy? Are they fighting to save the world, are they fighting to save it from darkness? Can you give us a few more details on that?

MO: It’s not a truly black and white story of good and evil, but we have a set of bad guys as they appear to have motivations that make them antagonists. It’s something we’ll discover as the story goes along. Currently, they’re set up to where they want to cause chaos and anarchy and topple certain people who are in charge. It’s a mystery mostly because with the journey we want to take, the bad guys are meant to complement them and we’re figuring out where we need to go with them as well.

WG: RWBY is very character driven. If I didn’t like the characters, I wouldn’t be watching it. Can you tell me who each of the four main characters are and a little about their personalities?

MO: Sure. RWBY the main character is younger than the rest, because in some ways she is a prodigy and was admitted to the school because she proved herself in combat. She wields a giant…for one of the original pitches of the show I went to our CEO and I went, “Hey I got an idea for a show: Little Red Riding Hood-like girl fights with a giant scythe and it’s also a sniper rifle. When she pulls out the scythe on a monster and fires the gun, this giant fifty-caliber rifle that kills. He said that sounds great. For me, to combine holistic weapons with guns is for me a vehicle for coolness and fun. Ruby, herself, fights with this, but as we get to discover her character we were like okay, she was obviously very proficient in using this weapon from the start so what does she need as a character to tell a story that’s more than running/spinning around slicing things. She was a very awkward teenage girl, kind of out of her element, because she’s good at fighting, but there’s more to life than fighting and there’s also teamwork, working together, and stuff. Being appointed leader of the team, is a little out of her element, because she was okay being by herself for a while and now she’s leader of this team.

The first mission they went on, animation wise I’ll often sit down or rather get up with the suit and act out a character and then I’d realize that you would think with a show as stylized as this that it would need stylized moves as well. That is very true about animation, like you watch The Clone Wars and the squash and stretch is there and evident in the animation. I often talk to allot my animators and get them in the suit to show them how little head nodding they need.

From the previous seasons of Red vs. Blue, you couldn’t see their faces but they needed to be visibly talking. From the years I watched Power Rangers, there is a lot of talking without mouth movement. They act with their neck. Very often I’ve told my animators to get into the suit and say even though your eyes aren’t being motion captured I want you to act the scene with your eyes and not your head. So there will be scenes where I say look up and it adds a touch of subtlety to make it feel more real and you’d think given the art style it’s not supposed to be real. But if you watch Clone Wars and the scenes where they’re acting with together, where they’re talking , they probably spend the most time animating the eyes than anything else. It’s because that’s where you read a character. We don’t mo-cap the eyes, but we mo-cap how the eyes influence the head and everything from there. We try not to shuffle or act with our hands, because it would be like Power Rangers, because it was essentially characters without faces. It’s found it’s way further up the line as we make the show. We get guys who put the suit on and when you’re in a mo-cap suit you’re standing and thinking “Okay, I’m in this scene, but…” I’m very self aware of motion capture and a lot of they very good animators on this team will take footage of themselves or have a mirror and spend a lot more time on the facial than just acting it out from the neck down. That’s why the motion capture can only take it so far. You really have to spend time and give it a touch of hand animation and spend time watching facial expressions. That touch of realism is there in the dialogue, the emotion is there in the camera work. Even though animation is stylized, it needs to have it’s additional groove.

WG: Oh my gosh! You guys are doing stop motion! I did not know that Rooster Teeth did such high tech stuff. Can you tell me a bit more about the animation process and how you guys are using this motion capture, because I did not know that so I’m astounded.

MO: When I got hired at this company, the first thing I said was (prior to working here I’d never used motion capture) buy this motion capture set. It was a very economical motion capture set, six camera for $6,000. I think we bought the twelve-camera version and now we’re up to the twenty-four-camera version. My office is actually right next to it. We set up our studio so I’m sitting next to the motion capture so I could get up and use it. We used to have it where it was right behind me.

We implement motion capture to essentially save the work, because no pen in hand and it’s engineered to make our lives easier. It doesn’t substitute the art, it supplements the art. When we do motion capture, it gives us the first level we need. It’s very jittery and requires a lot of clean up. Very often I’ve gone in, mo-caped a scene, got my data back, and striped out so much. It’s akin to most animators, who don’t have motion capture. I know what the scene is and I might have dials and knobs in front of me, but I’m going to stand up and act it out first, then I’m going to animate it. It takes that stand up and act process and puts it in the computer, then you polish it there. That being said it is very technical and you can both augment the process. It helps, but at the end of the day it doesn’t take away from animation. It’s additive. It cuts a layer out, the busy work. Base level motion capture still looks like base level hand animation. You’re cutting out one of the steps, one of the bigger, tedious steps, but it helps.

WG: How is the animation process? Can you describe how the RWBY animation process is? I mean, if someone saw it they would say it’s been churned out on a cheap Korean animation belt, but if you look closer you can see it’s nicer than that. Can you explain that please?

MO: It depends on the scene. I focus primarily on the fight scenes, which I’ve done…

WG: Stop right there! Let me…oh my gosh! You mention building weapons and stuff, then these fight scenes. I mean, I can definitely see how you’ve played a lot of videogames, but I’ve watched so much anime and read so much manga that sometimes I can’t figure out how they move. I complement you, because it’s so beautiful the way you do it. It just like real.

MO: In the animes where they spend a lot of time going at it and screaming. Then you know we talked about counting frames and how the fighting stuff in anime is difficult, because they have so much movement and only have so many frames. You know because I have 3D animation it can supplement the missing frames. I’ve been doing fight animation from day one before I had mo-cap. It’s handled differently from the acting. When you say we have motion capture, most people go to that’s what you use for punching and kicking. Motion capture is more effective for the acting, because there’s only so many ways you can throw a punch. There’s a million ways you can perform a scene. Very often when I go in to perform a fight scene I’ll pull up a library of kicks and punches I either made by hand or recorded myself and polished, whole scenes I’ve stitched together that I use pieces of. You can only kick so many ways. The motion capture is for performance. Essentially what is the character feeling? Are they nodding? Are they angry or are they sad, excited? It adds a lot more than it says and you get thousands upon thousand of frames very quickly.

For fight scenes, I got in and craft very methodically. Very often I’ll have a kick here or a punch there, a block here, and I’ll just put them together. It’s been several years since I’ve done motion capture where I want to mo-cap a fight scene completely new. I’ll go in and do the combos and then I’ll turn around and do the blocks and stuff. Very often you’ll see me fighting myself.

Then you’ll get to the scenes in RWBY, where I can’t mo-cap where she fires sixty feet in the air or slices. I’ll mo-cap what I can, then I’ll do the rest by hand. It varies a lot. Motion capture is more for the acting stuff: head animation. It helps to be in shape.

WG: So you guys are doing fights using your own bodies as models for the girls?

MO: Yeah or the acting scenes too. We have mostly guy animators, but there are some girl animators. Sometimes we’ll actually grab a woman in the studio and say, “Hey we need this walk. I’m sorry, but my guys can’t do it.” So I have them do some walks and stuff. I’ve studied a lot of female movement. Especially when it was just me, I was doing a lot of the characters. It came into play a lot, then it propagated to several male animators who one day I actually said, “Okay, you’re all wearing high heels.” I made sure they learned how to walk in heels.

WG: I was about to say one way you can replicate a woman’s walk is wearing shoes with heels.

MO: There comes a corrective stride and posture wearing heels. Even if the feet are off screen, you have different posture.

WG: You’re exactly right and it’s hard to walk in heels, but you feel so taller. It’s interesting the history of heels, but we’re not going to go into the history of high heels.

MO: I equate high heels and fashion to a sense of empowerment. I try to work a little bit of logic in where if a woman wears heels in RWBY it means she has some sort of power that other people don’t. Essentially if a girl wears heels, it’s not strictly for fashion, because the metaphor for empowerment and spiritual power in a magic tech world is actual magic. Therefore if a girl wears heels so has a reflective ability that’s actually something she uses in life. Heels are empowering.

WG: That would be pretty cool, because I’ve also noticed…one of the things I like about RWBY are how practical the costumes are. Yeah, there are skirts and this, but they are actually things you can see girls and guys fighting in.

MO: I like fashion, so very often you can go this isn’t practical for real fighting and this is also not real fighting. I like to think of it if this show was a time capsule for the hopes and dreams [from when] you’re like a six year old, you’re eight year old ,and you want to be a superhero. You think about what you want to wear, what you want to hold, what you want to be. When a twelve-year-old girl puts on her mother’s heels, she think about being a hero like her mom. When you’re child you look at these things and think this is what a hero looks like, this is what I want to be. By all practical means, it looks ridiculous and you’re never going see someone like RWBY in Afghanistan…like RWBY in a world like Remnant, it’s practical for the world they’re in.

WG: Using the stop motion suit, do you guys ever use constructs of the weapons so you can get the movement down?

MO: Well, we do have a lot of Nerf swords and prop swords laying around if you need to wave something around. The weapon itself doesn’t get captured, but it’s important to get the arm movement. Sometimes I’ll just grab a rake or a broom that’s sitting around. It helps to have the thing you’re using. Sometimes it’s not a weapon. There was a scene with a teapot and I imagine the animator had a cup of coffee. Or whenever Austin is in a scene, I can guarantee you is holding a cup of coffee. It helps for the weight, the eye tracking, for that little bit of focus you have in the scene.

WG: That’s cool. I think we’re almost to the end of the interview, but can you give us a bit more news about what to expect from RWBY in the future, do you have anything big coming up, can you share anything from season three?

MO: We wrapped season three last September and from there I’ve just kept going, cause I need to fix as many bugs that popped up and make the job that much easier for the rest of the team. I work on a lot of rigging and modeling. I also know where we’re going plot wise, but then I look at the assets that are necessary and I’m like “Oh my god, we need so many character outfits, we need the characters to look real, and fixes that were problems for the animators, story stuff because I want it to go beyond season three. September and October of last year I did several, several months of R&D where I gave the rigs an overhaul, because I wanted it to last two or three more years. That overhaul still translates over, because the rigs have been updated, but there were still some problems and I had to overhaul the overhaul. At least I’m not making a six-month overhaul again, it’ll probably be a two-month overhaul. Also there’s the wrangling of assets and making sure everything is in the right directory. And at the same time you need to take what is was and think about where you want to take it. In my head, I’m in season four and then I’m setting something up in season three for the season four and five stuff. I just got out of a writing meeting with the writers and it’s like, “Okay, this character wants this, this character wants that.” This year’s season things happened that are really going to pay off in next year. I definitely hope people stick around to watch next year’s season.

WG: Can you give away any plot elements?

MO: Fighting. More fighting. People grow.

WG: Character or do they grow in height?

MO: They may grow in height too. As I look at it, this person might have a birthday, so they will get taller or older. The biggest plot element will be the tournament. The tournament is something we’ve been talking about for awhile. Me, Miles, and Jerry are big fans of animes that have tournaments. It will be a great way to showcase the characters. That’s the biggest thing that will happen.

WG: Are you going to have it be like Dragon Ball Z?

MO: No, see everyone thinks I’m a huge Dragon Ball Z fan, but I’ve actually never watched it. I’m more of a fan of Hunter x Hunter and some others. I was a big fan of the chunin exams in Naruto and recently I’ve been watching Fairy Tail and I love it. It has such a great story and arcs as you get into it.

No, it won’t be a character does one move and it takes three episodes to get through it. It’ll be more of the fighting you know and the stuff I really excel at when it comes to fights is the one on one stuff. You get one character fighting another character and that mano a mano stuff where you truly get to understand one another through conflict.

WG: Where can we find Rooster Teeth and RWBY and the other great cartoons you guys make?

MO: So Rooster Teeth is at and if you go under videos you can see we have RWBY listed as one of our main series. We also have a YouTube channel which I presume. RWBY itself is also on Crunchyroll and probably in a Wal-Mart near year with season one, also on Amazon, and our online store. But definitely come to We try to give as frequent updates as we can, especially for our sponsors and members because we try to have a community there. Any updates should go there, so definitely go to

WG: Awesome. And now the last question I ask all of my interviewees and you must interpreted anyway you want, do you Mr. Monty Oum have anything to declare?

MO: Do I have anything to declare? I love making RWBY. It’s a lifelong dream. Imagine me as a ten-year-old saying I want to make 3D animation and then I’m in a store with my immigrant parents, we grew up in poverty, and I point at this $800 box. How does he even fathom what 3D animation is as it’s a new genre in the 1990s and that I’ll be able to do it in a genre I loved watching.   I don’t have anything to declare, I just want to make more of it and I want to make more of it faster. I want to make toys, plushies, and videogames of it would be great. It’s fun to make, it’s a dream come true to be allowed to do what I do.

WG: Neat. Well, you know can more more of it. You just have to go to China, Korea, and North Korea.

MO: That’s true. Actually we just talked with Warner Brothers Japan and they want to make stuff with this property as well. It might result in OVAs, manga per se and I have a lot of emails to answer about what they’re allowed to do. It’s a very long process, including everything else involved in making the show.

WG: Congratulations. It looks like it’s onward and upward from here for you guys. Monty, thank you so, so much!

Toon-In-Talk Episode 04: Interview with Richard Thomas

Hello and welcome to fourth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  When you think about animation, you most likely think about a US studio.  In fact, a lot of animation is made in other countries and there are a lot of fantastic studios overseas.  Whitney had the luck to interview with Richard Thomas of One Animation, a Singapore studio, and discuss new animation projects, like in Asia, and what they love about animation.


Show Notes

  • One Animation is based in Singapore and is six years old.  Richard is their creative director.
  • One Animation is more known for Rob the Robot, Oddbods, and the Insectibles.
  • Richard is originally from Manchester, England, but he’s worked all over the world and his animation background is predominantly game based.
  • Animating videogames is more piecemeal, but with television requires more prep work.  On the end product you receive more feedback with games, but with television you have to wait.  The end result is always the same for both: trying to create a great visual.
  • As a creative director, he’s more involved with the creation process, which he also considers to be more holistic.
  • On his current job, he draws a lot less than he did working on videogames.  On television he loves working to constrain budgets on shows.  Stress and deadlines remain the same, however.
  • Richard believes that CG is a modern trend and it’s popular because it is more accessible to people.  CG animation is strongly routed in traditional animation principles.  One isn’t better than the other and there is room for both.
  • Richard joined One Animation when he received a call from an associate and was shown the source material for a preschool show he felt had potential.  It was a huge success and his career with the studio and expand into other projects.
  • One Animation got its name from when they higher ups needed to register with the government and they basically came up with it spur of the moment.
  • Working in Singapore is like working in England, except the weather is better and people are hungry for work.  The biggest problem is that it’s hard to find local talent for animation.
  • Whitney is curious about the animation industry in Asia.  She asks about Oriental DreamWorks and about animation factories.
  • One Animation’s mission statement is to continue their current progress, keep building their skill set, and eventually make a feature film.
  • Rob the Robot is preschool show about the explorations of a spacefaring group and the lessons they learn. Oddballs is an in-house show with completely silent characters and each one will resonate with you.  The Insectibles is about a boy and a grandfather who are shrunk down to the size of insects and they befriend bionic insects as they try to return to normal size.
  • Whitney and Richard both like intelligently written cartoons.  They might consider making web toons in the future and they are working on a show that might appeal to an older audience, but Richard dislikes assigning age groups.
  • Richard and Whitney discuss old cartoons, the current industry, and where animation is going.
  • Whitney explains her master plan to one day interview John Lasseter.