A few weeks ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through my For You page on TikTok when I started to see videos of songs from Ratatouille: The Musical. A small insight for you: my TikTok feed is almost exclusively broadway content—so I didn’t really think anything of it. I’m constantly finding videos by amazing creators singing songs from their favourite musicals.
But this was different.
It wasn’t just one creator singing songs I’d never heard before from a musical I knew didn’t exist. It was hundreds. TikTok users from all walks of life were creating an entire musical from scratch and using the TikTok platform to do so. The hashtag #ratatouillethemusical has over 27 million views, with #ratatouillemusical coming in hot with over 103 million. However, this is more than just a trending hashtag. I have never seen such widespread creative collaboration on a singular project—especially not one that was getting so much attention with hundreds of thousands of likes and comments.
Soon, Ratatouille: The Musical content was everywhere, not just on TikTok. It made me think about the power that social media platforms have in fostering creative collaboration, and how these phenomenons start. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to learn more.
For anyone who may not know, Disney-Pixar released the animated film Ratatouille in 2007, starring Patton Oswalt as Remy—a rat who’s sick of the garbage his family has survived off of and wishes to become a world-renowned chef. The film was able to make over $620 million at the box office worldwide, not even breaking the movie studio’s top 10 grossing films.
So, how did this fun-for-the-whole-family animated classic (if I do say so myself) turn into the musical sensation it is now?
TikTok creator Emily Jacobson (@e_jaccs) can be credited with the start of this entire phenomenon when she posted a nonsensical short video praising the film’s protagonist, Remy the rat. This love ballad set in motion the now-iconic lyrics:
“Remy the ratatouille, the rat of all my dreams / I praise you, my ratatouille, may the world remember your name…”
The song was then discovered by a variety of TikTok creators, including Daniel Mertzlufft (@danieljmertzlufft)—a composer and self-proclaimed musical theatre fanatic—who came up with a Broadway-inspired arrangement of the original video. This new version went viral, gaining massive traction on TikTok with over 230 thousand likes and 20 thousand shares.
From there, a full-blown TikTok musical was conceptualized.
If you’ve ever used the platform, you know it’s capabilities to collaborate with other creators is at the forefront of its user interface. Duets allow users to feature content, whether from another creator or one of their own videos, on their feed beside a new video they’ve recorded. This feature has mostly been used as a way for TikTok users to reply or react to video content made by other users. Duets have resulted in the creation of very funny, shareable content across all verticals on the platform.
Building off of past musical theatre trends on TikTok, where people sing their favourite duets from Broadway, users have found a way to take this feature to a whole new level and interact with the platform in a way unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Mertzlufft’s sound has been used in nearly 8,300 videos (and counting), inspiring other TikTok creators to add their own contributions to Ratatouille: The Musical.
Multiple songs have been written for the musical, including my personal favourite, “Ratatouille Tango”, a song written for the film’s love interests, Linguini and Colette:
Musician and composer Gabbi Bolt (@fettucinefettuqueen) wrote a song for Remy’s dad as he tries to convince his son he doesn’t need anything beyond his simple life as a rat. The video was complete with a duet from possibly my favourite account on TikTok, @shoeboxmusicals, showcasing how this song might be scenically designed on stage:
Even non-musically inclined TikTok users have gotten in on the action, using their own artistic talents to bring Ratatouille: The Musical to life even more. Jess Siswick (@siswij) lent her graphic design skills to create the musical’s playbill and @ardellyfoshelly provided sketches of what the rat costumes should look like:
All aspects of the musical from song lyrics, to the overture, to choreography, to costume design, to set design have been made by TikTok users, including @its.a.frankie offering blocking suggestions for the size differences of the characters:
TikTok’s easy-to-use collaborative functions are the reason why Ratatouille: The Musical has been able to become a social media sensation. Up until very recently with the introduction of Instagram Reels, there hasn’t been a platform that allowed users to work together on a project like this without having to know each other first. However, given TikTok’s first-mover position in the market, it has become the go-to place for creators to post short-form video content while other apps have had to scramble to keep up with its capabilities. This is why I believe Ratatouille: The Musical proves that TikTok is possibly the most collaborative social media platform.
TikTok has proven time and time again that its influence reaches far beyond the platform itself, and Ratatouille: The Musical is no different.
It’s no surprise that a trend of this size has caught the attention of those who were involved in the animated film’s production. Patton Oswalt tweeted Brad Bird, the director of the original film, the duet of Gabbi Bolt and @shoeboxmusicals, asking him if he’s seen what’s happening across TikTok:
Pixar has even caught wind of the musical sensation, posting to their Instagram account a still from the Ratatouille movie, the caption quoting Jocobson’s original lyrics that started it all:
Social media has become a major influencing determinant on a variety of industries from travel to healthcare, to retail, to film—and more. It’s been used as a way to gather user feedback, gain a better understanding of buyer personas, and even what factors contribute to customer decision-making processes. If there is enough demand online, there is an industry or business ready to supply it.
What’s next for TikTok’s capabilities as a platform is in the hands of its users. What’s trending on the app is ever-changing and there’s no real way to determine what will or will not become the next viral sensation. What we do know for sure, is that when it happens, TikTok users’ creativity will have no limitations holding them back.
In terms of what’s next for Ratatouille: The Musical, the possibilities are endless. While there’s no promise that the musical will grace the stages of Broadway, maybe one day at the end of this pandemic we’ll find ourselves sitting in a theatre listening to the opening notes of the overture—all because of the power of TikTok.
If you ever find yourself venturing down the rabbit-hole of TikTok hashtags, perhaps you’ll stumble across the next collaborative sensation that takes the world by storm. Please let me know if you do.9