How the Fan-Made TikTok 'Ratatouille Musical' Became a Social Media Phenomenon

Remy the Ratatouille!

Key Takeaways

  • Ratatouille’s cultural significance has become a viral sensation and become the patron saint of TikTok success.
  • These virtual performances have become the lifeblood for a starving audience as COVID-19 has caused the closure of theater productions nationwide. 
  • The future of the fan-made musical is up in the air as the trend continues to gain traction.
Ratatouille logo
Wikipedia / John Johnston - CC2.0

TikTok’s latest craze is not a new viral dance or a catchy sound, it's...a Ratatouille musical? Yes, a Ratatouille musical.

Traditional entertainment sectors have taken a massive hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, but none quite like live theater. From massive production teams and in-house audiences to ushers and concession hosts, theaters have been forced to shutter due to understandable infection concerns. With mass vaccinations still months away. Broadway is not expected to open its doors until at least mid-2021. Nearly a year of shows have been suspended so far, and thousands of jobs furloughed. This viral musical came along at the right time. 

“I’ve never experienced something where the world is all working together toward a common goal, for a common project,” creator Emily Jacobson said during an interview with Inside Edition about the viral movement.

The Rat of All Our Dreams

It all started on August 10 with an innocent short TikTok song sung by the 26-year-old teacher in the aptly-titled “Ode to Remy,” about the titular rat of the popular 2007 Pixar film. Commemorating the announcement of the new EPCOT ride “Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure,” set to open in 2021, Jacobson didn’t know the “rat of all our dreams” would become more than a catchy throwaway lyric. 

Part of the parody is fully realizing it in a very real way, so it sounds like you’re listening to a Broadway album by invoking emotion.

Half-parody, half-serious mockup, the TikTok musical has caught the attention of more than a few amateurs. Classically trained composer and arranger Daniel Mertzlufft threw his hat in the ring fresh off viral fame from his New York Summer-inspired Grocery Store musical TikTok video. Like his previous attempt, his take on Jacobson’s “Ode to Remy” added some much-needed classic showtune tropes and that Disney magic, complete with the famous bombastic crescendo. The end result was practically indistinguishable from a typical Broadway closer.

“I heard that and was told by a friend of mine to musicalize it. And I thought, `Oh my gosh, this is brilliant for an act two finale for a big Disney show,'” he said in a phone interview with Lifewire. “The last line is the world will remember your name, and what a great way to end a show. Part of the parody is fully realizing it in a very real way, so it sounds like you’re listening to a Broadway album by invoking emotion despite the fact that it didn't really make sense and it was random. I didn’t think it would launch a revolution, I just thought it would be a funny video.”

But a revolution it was. With almost 10,000 videos using the orchestral sound of his creation and over 125 million views in total under #ratatouillethemusical, the movement, born on TikTok, has taken off across social media. It inspired thousands of users, including professional set designers, actors, costume designers and amateurs, to unleash their inner musical theater nerd.

Post-Remy Success

For theater professionals like Merklufft, it was a relatively lonely year, but he could not shake the theater bug, leading him to turn to TikTok to get his fix. He thinks this desire many have for a form of live entertainment is what made the Ratatouille musical movement really take off. With nothing but time on their hands, people sought to innovate, entertain and, most importantly, be entertained.

“There are a lot of ways to adapt and innovate, but at the end of the day it’s still not live theater and I think that’s what people are missing and craving so much. I can’t watch another Zoom performance,” he said. “Producing something like this, where it’s also brand-new content, is so exciting. It feels very real and new and that possibilities are alive and available again. Live theater was gone and there was an audience and they clearly wanted it, so I gave it a shot and it turned out well.”

With a Broadway-inspired appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden—complete with legends Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald and Kristin Chenoweth singing parts in a different musical he wrote—Mertzlufft is living a version of his dream, all thanks to a little viral rat musical. Virality has given him and other creatives more than an outlet for their talents. It's allowed them to showcase their skills to an audience of millions.

The Unauthorized Future

Do not expect much from Disney, Pixar’s parent company. The media giant is notoriously tight-lipped about future projects and historically hesitant to work with independent creators without a signed contract and binding NDAs.

Still, not one to pass on a good viral moment, the company acknowledged the social media craze and threw its hat into the ring by making nods to the fan-made project on both the official Pixar Instagram page andDisney on Broadway Twitter account. In the meantime, the virtual self-made Ratatouille musical will have to do—with a little wiggle room for a potential, real-world future.

 “I don’t know how much I can say, but I really don’t have high hopes for an actual Broadway production of it. But that being said, there are other forms of theater besides Broadway,” Mertzlufft said.

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