Ratatouille the Musical and how it could change theatre

Ratatouille the Musical and how it could change theatre

Abby Cason, Copy Editor

Let me set the scene. It’s almost seven months into the pandemic’s lockdown. People are crawling up their walls for social interaction and a creative outlet. TikTok was able to fill many of the artistic and entertainment voids that were growing within many individuals stuck in isolation. In August of 2020, the creator Emily Jacobson posted an acapella ode to the character Remy from the Pixar movie Ratatouille. This video was not intended to be the first song to launch a Ratatouille-obsessed movement on TikTok, but that is exactly what happened. The video and the audio went viral on TikTok in October. After Emily’s sound started circulating the internet, Daniel Mertzlufft, an aspiring composer whose parody songs have gone viral on TikTok as well, saw the video and was immediately inspired to create more. Daniel Mertzlufft took Emily’s foundations and created a fuller, ensemble sound to it by adding a full-scale orchestra and multiple voices to give her song a more musical theatre feeling. This was the first official video and song created for Ratatouille the Musical and the idea of the musical continued to develop in the minds of many TikTok creators and users. 

Many Disney musicals have graced the stages of Broadway, such as The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Frozen. These musicals were easy to adapt to the stage, as the original movies contained full-length soundtracks. Pixar musicals are far less common, as Pixar movies are not musical movies, but do still exist, such as Toy Story: The Musical on the Disney Cruise Line and Finding Nemo: the Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Ratatouille the Musical truly was the first Pixar musical to receive mainstream attention, which is all due to the viral nature of TikTok. Building upon Daniel’s initial creation, many talented creators wrote more songs for specific characters and moments in the movie, choreographed dances to these songs, and one graphic designer created a Playbill poster for Ratatouille the Musical. The outside world began to notice too. Twitter began to discuss the growing phenomena, and Patton Oswalt, the voice of Remy in the Ratatouille movie, began to tag the movie’s director Brad Bird in the comments of some of the videos and on Twitter. As it got more attention, some of the creators feared that Disney was going to take legal action but luckily, they were not angry. Disney started quoting some of the musical’s lyrics on their social media platforms and the official Disney Parks TikTok page posted a video for the “Unofficial audition for the Ratatouille musical.” The creators of the “unofficial” musical began to realize that it was not a joke anymore. 

With all of this mainstream attention and more than 250 million engagements with Ratatouille Musical content on TikTok by December, it was clear that a show was bound to happen. The original creators did not want Disney to be involved, as their musicals typically take a very long time to get from rehearsals to the Broadway stage. With the constrictions of the pandemic, the creators felt a virtual musical with a short rehearsal period would be most appropriate. Ratatouille the Musical streamed on TodayTix’s website on January 1st and the profits were donated to The Actors Fund charitable organization to support performers and behind-the-scenes workers in the performing arts and entertainment industries. A multitude of people watched Ratatouille the Musical and over two million dollars were raised for The Actors Fund. Broadway has been closed since March, and shows have permanently closed. This musical served as a happy and bright musical escape for many in such hard times and also supported arts workers who have been severely hit by the pandemic. 

Ratatouille the Musical was the first musical of its kind. It was crowdsourced and had many creators whose voices are not always heard or represented in the musical theatre industry. Its origins were irregular, as it stemmed from multiple niche sides of TikTok (scenic design, puppetry, composing, graphic design, and musical theatre). I believe that this production is potentially a jolt of energy and creativity that Broadway so sorely needs. Rather than the same small group of creatives producing mainstream shows that have to make a lot of money, this serves as a potential new model for musicals. It lifts aspiring creators to have their voices and work heard on a larger platform through performances by seasoned professionals from Hollywood and Broadway. And in this time of isolation, it is refreshing to see collaboration on such a large scale all through the magic and connection of the Internet. 

Cover photo source: Playbill