I kind of wish all production companies were more like Rooster Teeth and that all animated series were more like RWBY. That’s not to say I want RT to be the only game in town (though the relatively small Austin-based company would probably be okay with that) or that I think all cartoon series should look like RWBY, but rather that I would love to see Rooster Teeth’s level of dedication to their fans, cast, crew, and creators mirrored by other such production studios. Theirs is a company built on a strong connection with their fanbase and ongoing, two-way communication with those audience members who watch their shows, attend their conventions, and buy their many and varied array of products. It’s a win-win situation, but Rooster Teeth does it better than anyone else in the animation game. To see why, you have to look no further than the newly released RWBY: Volume 5 Blu-ray.
RWBY may have started as the kernel of an idea by the late Monty Oum, but that ideas soon spread to his friends and co-workers like Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross, who took a risk with Gray G. Haddock when they shopped their idea to Rooster Teeth execs Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum. The RWBY faithful know this story well, but in an attempt to honor Oum’s legacy, the hard work put in by the crew (known as CRWBY) over the years, and the dedication from the growing fanbase, this Blu-ray release includes a touching and informative retrospective on the series’ story so far. It’s one of my very favorite parts of this home video release. It not only illustrates just how unlikely RWBY‘s success was thanks to the many pitfalls along the way, it really serves to remind viewers of the many, many hands that have a part to play in bringing the series to life.
And that leads me to my other favorite part of this Blu-ray: The CRWBY shorts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wildly popular, internationally known animated series do a behind-the-scenes video documentary with the crew of technical artists for each episode, but that’s what Rooster Teeth does for RWBY. Luckily, those 14 episodes are right here for folks who picked up this Blu-ray, and they’re a fantastic resources for anyone interested in how the show gets made, what sort of software the animation teams use, and just how difficult it is to put all the pieces together. The CRWBY shorts are as replayable as the episodes themselves, and that’s something you don’t find on almost any Blu-ray release these days.
So while you may already be convinced that the RWBY: Volume 5 Blu-ray is worth a pick-up, just wait … there’s more! Each of the 14 episodes also has a pair of commentary tracks: one for the writers and directors, one for the technical artists. I’ve included some trivia tidbits from all 28 commentary tracks below if you’re interested or just want to get a sense of what kind of banter the cast, crew, and creative team get up to. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, last-minute, well-I-guess-we-have-to-do-this commentary track; these are every bit as thoughtful, insightful and informative as they are silly and hilarious.
There’s a reason people love RWBY and it’s not just the characters and the all-out action: It’s also the hard-working men and women of Rooster Teeth who wear their hearts on their sleeves for this show and are more than happy to give everything they’ve got back to fans who do the same. RWBY isn’t just a cartoon, it’s a community.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the bonus features you’ll find on Disc 2; the audio commentaries are paired with the episodes themselves on Disc 1:
5 Years of RWBY (10 minutes) – A fantastic retrospective on the story of RWBY so far as Shawcross and Luna revisit Oum’s legacy from the beginning to the modern day. It’s an excellent look at just how far RWBY has come and a real story of inspiration for aspiring animators and storytellers. Haddock comes in to talk about convincing Matt Hullum and Burnie Burns that RWBY was a risk, but one with a big upside. It quickly becomes clear that making RWBY was nowhere near as easy as the team made it seem, but the bombshell loss of Oum hit the team as they were rolling into Volume 3. It’s a testament to the RWBY faithful both behind the scenes at Rooster Teeth and in the show’s fan-base that they soldiered on to not only continue the show but to improve it at every turn.
Character Shorts – Weiss, Blake, and Yang (with Ruby) get their own animated shorts.
CRWBY – All 14 episodes of CRWBY, the behind-the-scenes featurette that shows off the talent and hard work of the RWBY crew from the beginning of Volume 5 to its wrap-up. These are must-watch featurettes for aspiring animators.
Trailers – Need more Rooster Teeth suggestions? Check out some new and current animated series teased here.