In the midst of all this unending national trauma, there’s been a tendency to lean on comforting, soothing entertainment. Pixar’s Ratatouille, one of the studio’s best-ever efforts, was among the top aids in my household. It took on a life of its own, beyond just the cinematic warmth — we made ratatouille itself, quoted its shoddily made, deliberate knockoff, Ratatoing — but TikTok users have taken it several steps further by composing a musical based on Ratatouille entirely over the platform.
There’s an incredibly in-depth feature over on Vulture today chronicling the origins of Ratatouille the musical, which is worth checking out in its entirety. The piece traces its origins from one stray song video, and how it sprawled out to dozens of users creating songs, dance routines, a professional-grade Playbill, and so much more. There’s no limit to what theater nerds can tackle with a ton of free time and their phones.
It reportedly began back in August, when TikTok user Em Jaccs uploaded a pitch-shifted tribute to Remy, the Ratatouille, the rat of our dreams. From there, another, far more musical theater-minded TikTokker named Daniel Mertzlufft imagined it as a big Broadway number, buoyed by full instrumentation, narrative placement, and hopes for set design. He took Vulture inside the game a bit on how this snowballed into musical production territory and mass virality:
“When I first heard the video, I immediately knew, this is an act-two finale. This is in the style of classic Disney. The end of Hunchback really inspired Ratatouille [the musical]. So I knew the soundscape I was going for. I’m a writer, composer, arranger, orchestrator. And I remember in middle school, high school, those were the things that got me into orchestration and arrangement: listening to the world that Disney builds.”
As someone who resides pretty far outside the world of musical theater, it’s kind of remarkable to see it cascade in this way. In just a few short months, the TikTok account @ratatouillemusical has amassed more than 200,000 followers, reposting updates, new songs, and production ideas. It's even trickled up to Remy himself, Patton Oswalt, who tried to get it on director Brad Bird's radar. I’ll never not be surprised that people are ensconced enough in this world to, say, know an actor from the SpongeBob SquarePants Musical who barely registers as a household name. That they were able to organize feasible songs, puppet designs, and cogent parodies for a nonexistent musical in such a short time...it’s something that couldn't have happened this organically anywhere else.
All together, it’s one of the more charming grassroots functions of TikTok and the pandemic — underscored by the darker side of so many theater stars and workers being out of work for the foreseeable future. Given the way things work now, with viral moments on TikTok rarely just existing on the platform without further co-optation by larger brands and creators, this probably won’t be the last we hear of Ratatouille the Musical. Whether it becomes an official Disney venture when Broadway returns in the distant future, or the stuff of amateur productions, hopefully the ones who started it all get to keep their share of the credit.