‘RWBY’: Why You Should Be Watching Rooster Teeth’s Hit Anime Sensation
During RTX 2017, I had a chance to sit down with the cast and crew of Rooster Teeth’s international anime sensation, RWBY. For the uninitiated, RWBY (pronounced “Ruby”) centers on young men and women training to be Hunters and Huntresses, fighters tasked with protecting the world of Remnant from nightmarish creatures known as Grimms. Team RWBY includes Ruby Rose (Lindsay Jones), Weiss Schnee (Kara Eberle), Blake Belladona (Arryn Zech), and Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkelman), a quartet of gifted fighters who overcome their differences in order to defend their friends and family.
Jones, Eberle, and Dunkelman graciously carved out some time for this interview between returning from Anime Expo and meeting and greeting RWBY fans during Rooster Teeth’s home-grown fan festival, RTX. I also got to sit down with the creative team of Kerry Shawcross, Miles Luna, and Gray G. Haddock, who wear quite a few hats behind the scenes. They all shared their favorite moments from RWBY while looking back on the journey so far and teasing what’s ahead for the show’s upcoming Volume 5. Look for the new episodes to premiere exclusively on Rooster Teeth FIRST this October 14th before rolling out to other digital platforms.
Since we have a little while until Volume 5 drops, this is the perfect time to catch up on RWBY if you haven’t just yet. If you’re already a super-fan, you might find some new bits of trivia here in the following interview; if you’re a newcomer, you’ll certainly find plenty of good reasons to tune in. (Keep in mind that spoilers follow.)
First of all, here’s how the creative minds (and voices) behind RWBY describe the show:
Gray G. Haddock: In a world where two brothers…
Kerry Shawcross: No.
Miles Luna: I think we’d say, it’s Harry Potter with magical, monster-fighting girls and amazing weapons.
Haddock: It’s a coming-of-age tale in a world where the remnant, if you will, of stories that people will find familiar—characters and concepts that embody those fairytales—are all running around in the same place in a conflict that will affect the destiny of the planet. It’s a fantasy-action story with charming characters and kick-ass action scenes.
Barbara Dunkelman: I just think it’s a show that everyone can relate to in some way, whether it be if you’re going through changes in your life, or relationship issues, or just coming of age, it’s a show that so many people can find a character that’s like them. It’s also just these badass people with amazing weapons and beautiful design and amazing music, so there are so many aspects of the show that are amazing and they all come together.
Kara Eberle: It’s almost like a Netflix binge-watcher. You can visually just see it and go, ‘Wow!’ from the outfits, to the backgrounds, to the animation.
Lindsay Jones: There’s a lot of vibrancy in the show … especially with the fight choreography, that’s something that really was kind of a highlight of Volumes 1 through 3 especially. We’ve been kicking it up in Volume 5 with the different things that we’re doing, but you can just watch it like a music video. I like meeting people who say, ‘Hey, I haven’t watched the show at all yet but I listen to the soundtrack and I love it.’ You can listen to RWBY all you want to.
Speaking of music, the soundtrack of RWBY is killer. Many viewers who find themselves obsessed with the show simply started by listening to its music. Here’s which tracks get the cast into character:
Jones: I listen to “Red Like Roses Part 2” to get into character, especially when Ruby has really intense or sad moments. I cry like a baby for a little bit and then I go and do my thing. So that’s probably my favorite.
Dunkelman: My two favorite songs, for different reasons, the first one is “I Burn” which is Yang’s theme song. That just means a lot to me. My other favorite song is “Cold.” That just has a lot of personal connection in terms of Monty [Oum] and what the show means and what he meant to us.
Eberle: “Red Like Roses Part 2” is definitely my all-time favorite, not that I’m copying Lindsay’s answer, but I’ll also say “Mirror Mirror” which is the theme song on Weiss’ trailer. Not being biased or anything, but it means a lot knowing that Monty put so much time into those trailers and make sure that not only the music fit the character but the choreography as well.
It’s clear from talking to the cast and crew of RWBY, or literally any of the fans who dig into the creation of the series, that the show’s creator Monty Oum is still respected and beloved years after his unfortunate passing. Luna and Shawcross have been breaking story with Oum since the beginning, so the task of carrying RWBY forward falls on their capable shoulders, just as the voice cast must continue to perform in the face of strong emotions. They all spoke about Oum in high regard and were in agreement that the “Monty Factor” is still present in their work:
Shawcross: We’ve been working on this from the very beginning, so every step of the process was us talking and figuring stuff out. At this point, what we talk about is the “Monty Factor”, which is just, at any stage of the pipeline, what’s the crazy thing we can throw out here? What’s the really wild, out-there thing that, at first impression you might go, ‘Wait a minute…’ but on second impression, you go, ‘That’s the perfect thing to do here!’
I think that one of the things he brought to the table was he would take something like a traditional approach toward something and then do the wild thing at the end. I always thought that was the best thing. That, and style.
Luna: Yeah, he was always very much like, “Do you have an idea that you think is cool? Do we have the time to do it? Even if we don’t, let’s try.”
Haddock: There are multiple layers to the Monty Factor. The man was pure momentum; there was absolutely no stopping him. If you are spending more time thinking about it than doing it, then you need to smack yourself and just get started.
Then there’s the spontaneity to it all. From the creative side, you’re trying to stay sensitive to the particularly crazy ideas to see if you can work them in even if at first you think, “That’s so strange. Why would you do that right there? Nah, let’s do it and figure out how to make it make sense later.”
Jones: With RWBY, Miles and Kerry were there from the beginning with Monty so they know everything that he wanted to do and things he wanted to get to in the show. I think they’re doing him proud with everything; the show looks beautiful, the fanbase is incredible worldwide and so passionate. I think that he kind of lives on in them and all of us and all the fans every time a new episode of RWBY comes out.
Dunkelman: Seeing the fanbase and how big it’s grown … we have international audiences. We never really had a market in Japan or Asia as a whole, and now we have that, too. It feels like Monty’s somewhere going, ‘I told you! I told you it would be like this!’
Eberle: I actually saw a giant billboard in Japan on the side of a big skyscraper and it was all of his RWBY designs that he had drawn. I thought that was so cool. He definitely is seeing that. At the same time, I think he’s really excited … I say ‘he’ like he’s still around. I think he’s still watching everything.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the story of RWBY, you might want to stop reading here; it’s about to get spoilery. The cast and crew (delightfully known by the tongue-in-cheek moniker CRWBY) shared some of their favorite moments on RWBY before teasing the upcoming fifth volume of the ongoing story:
Shawcross: The biggest thing to me is the last two episodes of Volume 3, mainly just because we had those events in our heads since before we wrote the first script of the first volume. In a lot of ways, that was what we’d been focusing on; that was RWBY for me for the longest time.
Luna: Yeah, the fall of Beacon was like, “Finally!”, this kick-off to this super-long story that the three of us had come up with years ago.
Haddock: There’s an episode in Volume 3 called “PvP” and it’s not just because I helped make the show, but I love that episode. If you’ve been with the show for so long, this is when the pivot begins. You get to the top of the biggest hill of a roller coaster and we’re going after that. I’m just proud of the team and everything that they had to do to build up to that point and have an emotional payoff.
The easier answer though is, my favorite part of the production is the stuff the audience can’t see and will never be aware of, and that’s just how everybody has grown over the years. There’s still a core crew who has been with us from the very beginning and we keep adding more over the years.
Eberle: I really liked in Volume 4, there’s a fundraiser party the Schnees do and they’re putting on this grand show, all kind of fake, and Weiss has a moment where she finally lets go and yells at everyone and is like, ‘Shut up! You’re all fake and it doesn’t mean a whole lot.’ I was really proud of her for doing that because I feel like that’s not something she would have done in Volume 1 or 2; she would have been too scared of what her dad might do.
Jones: It feels like—I’m a huge fan of the show, too—with Weiss especially, it’s awesome to watch her go from, ‘I’m doing what I should do and what I have to do,’ to, ‘I’m doing what’s right.” That’s really been a big thing for us.
I think for best moments, Barbara and I have talked about this, at the end of Volume 3 when we had a very poignant scene together and that was the first time you got to see Ruby go from the happy-go-lucky, ‘Everything’s fine’ … she’s been very positive and keeps pushing forward no matter what until you finally get some results, to actually having that moment of breaking and saying, “I can’t keep pushing forward. There’ll be no results. I’ll be breaking my relationship with my sister even further.” To delve into this really sad area and to play off of Barbara, and to have these poignant moments that people really connected to was awesome. I feel like you’re going to see more of that because Ruby’s gone through so much, so it has been a really transformative moment for her.
Dunkelman: I mean, kinda when she got her arm cut off is a pretty big moment. [laughs] That changed her completely. That led to her losing part of her powers, her friend abandoning her, everything collapsing around her, her team, the world. Definitely a life-changing moment.
A lot of these life-changing moments lead up to the debut of Volume 5, which finds the members of Team RWBY off on their own journeys. The cast and crew shared what they felt was the overall theme of the upcoming volume and gave fans a hint of what’s to come later this year:
Luna: We’ve kind of been saying that if Volume 4 was about overcoming loss, Volume 5 is a story about growing stronger after that, and picking yourself up, and clenching your fists and saying, “We’re not done here.”
Jones: Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like, for a lot of this, after Volume 3 has been ‘Recovery’ and that’s a larger arc for a couple of different volumes. Yeah, ‘Recovery’ and building yourself back up again, finding where your center is amongst friends or within yourself.
Eberle: I was going to say ‘Independence’ meaning self-reliance and being self-sufficient and solving problems on your own. It’s the first time we really get to see the characters not just interact with their families, but also without the other characters around, too. You can really just kind of see who they are as a character by themselves.
Dunkelman: Two words to describe this volume would be ‘Strength’ and ‘Growth.’ I think that’s what a lot of characters are going through. There has been so much change and yes, last season was about recovery and relearning who you are and what you’re about. This is where they’re really coming into their own.
As for what the cast would like to see their characters accomplish going forward:
Eberle: I would like Weiss to get her heiress title back from her brother. I would love to see that. She’s broken out of her shell a little bit, but now I’m excited to see where she travels to, literally and mentally. Volume 4 left everyone on a bit of a cliffhanger and everyone’s really excited to see what happens with that. I’m excited to get an answer for that.
Dunkelman: Yang has a lot of stuff to get past and get over. She’s clearly very affected by everything that’s happened, but I think she has a lot of strength deep down that she has to just find again, so I’m hoping that happens for her. At the end of Season 4, Yang was at a crossroads where she could either go see her sister or her mother. I think people are going to find out what the outcome of that is hopefully soon into the season.
Jones: We had a moment of it in Volume 3 when Ruby obviously witnesses the death of her friends and it’s horrible, but we really haven’t had that moment of her completely breaking down. Very much like in a Yang way, because they talk about it with Taiyang when they’re fighting each other and he says, “You throw temper tantrums. That’s what you do when you go into a battle. You’re upset and then you go.” I want Ruby to do that, just be like, “I’m so upset that I’m just lashing out in anger or frustration or anything that I can,” which is kind of a classic anime moment of like, “You hurt my friends! Now I have to kill you!”
But will Team RWBY ever get back together?
Eberle: I can’t wait to see everyone back together … if and when that happens.
Jones: If and when. I mean, did ‘NSYNC’ get back together? No. So why should we?
Dunkelman: But did ‘The Backstreet Boys’?
Some other fun bits of RWBY trivia came out of the interview, which you can use to bolster your knowledge of the series:
RWBY has a video game, “RWBY: Grimm Eclipse”, which kicked off the medium’s division in Rooster Teeth, which Jones thinks would have elated Monty.
- Though the cast doesn’t get to record together, Miles and Kerry emulate the characters’ voices so well that the other actors have a strong sense of the scene and something to play off of. Sometimes, since the voice performances are recorded before the animation work is done, the actors will get to hear voice work from their fellow actors in a scene.
- Monty did some fun art featuring all of the RWBY characters in a band, playing different instruments, but there was a raptor on the drums for some reason. Dunkelman confirmed that he used to put raptors in unfinished scenes; Jones wants a raptor in a finished version at some point.
- The cast likes to start by working on their RWBY Chibi voice work, which is lighter and sillier than their increasingly dark and serious RWBY scripts.
- Dunkelman and Jones also voice roles in Rooster Teeth’s Camp Camp series; Dunkelman also hosts Always Open on Rooster Teeth.
- The acronym for the original writing trio of Monty, Miles, and Kerry was “Mm, kay.” [MMK]. Miles now calls the trio of Gray, Miles, and Kerry, “Gee, ‘m kay!” [GMK]. They’re most often known as CRWBY.
- Inspiration for the various Grimms comes from history and mythology, like the Nuckelavee, a Scottish myth; the Nevermore, “which is this weird bat/raven/dragon type thing” as Shawcross describes it; and the Seers, inspired by the idea of a “horrifying and somewhat sentient” crystal ball.