I’m sure when you first heard that TikTok was entering the Emmy race, you wondered, “Wait — is that guy drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice while skating down the highway and grooving to Fleetwood Mac even eligible?” Well, no. But viral hit “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” has been given the green light to submit, and now TikTok is aiming to join YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media outlets that have entered the awards competition once just reserved for good ol’ fashioned television.
“Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” began life as a video by user Emily Jacobsen, who performed an ode to Remy the rat from the animated Disney film. Soon, other TikTok users joined in — most notably, Daniel Mertzlufft, who gave Jacobson’s song the full Alan Menken treatment, complete with orchestra score and 20 vocalists. As this started to become a phenomenon on the platform with hundreds of millions of views, TikTok staffers noticed it and decided it might be an opportunity to try out a long-form project via the site’s live feature.
“Seaview reached out to us, TodayTix and The Actors Fund and said, we’ve got an idea: We could develop a ‘Ratatouille’ musical that could live on your platform and then sell tickets to it, and the [money raised] from that would go to The Actors Fund,” says Cheryl Gresham, TikTok’s head of U.S. marketing.
With Disney’s permission and sponsors including Lowe’s, “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” debuted on New Year’s Day and streamed for 72 hours. Tituss Burgess, Wayne Brady, Adam Lambert, Ashley Park and Kevin Chamberlin all appeared, and the songs were interwoven into a book script by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley. Broadway-level talent contributed to the choreography, sound, editing and more.
“I am so proud to have brought this story to life on behalf of the incredible TikTok community,” says Mertzlufft, who served as the production’s music supervisor. “Collaborating with everyone involved in this process including Seaview, TodayTix Presents and the leadership at TikTok was a dream and the first real time I felt theater was alive since March 12th, 2020.”
That got TikTok thinking even larger: “Working with that core group of partners, we thought, let’s submit this in some Emmy categories,” Gresham says.
TikTok had never run an Emmy campaign, however. That’s where Seaview and PR firm Impact24 came in. “Thinking back on all the success that productions like ‘Rent Live’ and ‘Grease Live’ had at the Emmys, I was confident that ‘Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical,’ with its similar production values, warranted a shot at similar recognition,” says Impact24’s Andrew Seth Cohen. “I reached out to the TV Academy’s awards management team to inquire about eligibility, since the production ran on a ‘pay what you can’ streaming platform via TodayTix, and then later was re-broadcast on TikTok. I wanted to ensure it would be eligible, as ‘self-published’ works involve increased scrutiny from the Emmys.”
The Academy decided “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” was eligible to compete in the variety special (pre-recorded) field. Clocking in at around 58 minutes, the actors and casting directors were not eligible. But besides pre-recorded variety special it’s also up for categories including directing, writing, choreography, sound mixing, sound editing and picture editing in various variety categories. TikTok will also enter one of the songs (“Remember My Name” composed by Daniel Mertzlufft with lyrics by Kate Leonard) in the original music and lyrics field, as well as enter into the music supervision and music direction categories.
“During one of the darkest times in not only our business but in the world, the community rallied around the story of Remy, a story of creativity, ambition, and humanity,” says Greg Nobile, Lead Producer and CEO of Seaview Productions. “All of this was in service to The Actors Fund, and by raising a historic two million dollars (and counting), this project helps to support the over 40,000 people assisted by the fund.”
TikTok is backing “Ratatouille” with its first For Your Consideration campaign, including digital and outdoor ads. This could be just the beginning at the Emmys for the social networking service, especially as the platform introduces a way to produce longer, one- to three-minute videos.
“Something like an Emmy Award nomination would be certainly the icing on the cake, but it certainly was not the goal when we started doing this,” Gresham says. “You can’t always plan for everything, and this was something that really came up through the user community.” Ocean Spray guy, it’s time to make an Emmy-worthy sequel.