Sylvanian Drama: We met the 21-year-old creator behind everyone’s favourite TikTok account
Give this woman an Academy Award
Every now and again, just when life feels as though it’s reached its toughest peak, a gift of pure joy and chaos brightens up everyone’s TikTok For You Page and causes mass celebration. Throughout the comment section the cry of elation is the same: “Wake up babe, Sylvanian Drama just posted!!!”
With over two million followers and fifty million likes in under a hundred posts, the premise of the Sylvanian Drama account is simple and genius: Take the furry cast of characters from the iconic 80s toy brand and place them in the most unhinged scenarios possible. Kidnappings, mental health interventions, drunk driving tests, sinking yachts— these otters, elephants and beavers have seen it all.
After two years of posting, Sylvanian Drama has snowballed to become the internet’s favourite variety of silly little video. The Sylvanians have celebrity followers. They’re wearing #ad #sponsored Burberry. This is a boujee affair. So, we caught up with the woman behind the elephants and otters to find out how her maddest idea gained A-lister attention and designer fashion fans.
The creator of the unhinged Sylvanian Drama videos is 21-year-old Thea von Engelbrecht from Kildare, Ireland, who was inspired to create her first post after rediscovering her childhood toys during lockdown. “The Sylvanians reminded me of Desperate Housewives because they all looked really perfect,” she says of her light bulb moment. “I’m still surprised that people even watch the videos because they’re so stupid,” she tells The Tab.
“Usually I don’t make up the script,” she explains. “I just do it as I go along and see what happens….I’m surprised I’m not already cancelled,” she adds. “But I don’t mean any harm. I joke about the problems in my own life. There’s a lot of stuff about weight and dieting and that’s just like me. If there’s a joke in there that’s bad, it’s probably about myself.”
Thea says she watches a lot of shows like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars for inspiration. “I loved The White Lotus as well,” she adds. “At the start of making videos, I was kind of doing a parody of those things. And there’s loads of comedians and writers I love. Jeremy O’Harris, Pete Davidson, SNL— all of that, I get ideas from.”
Somehow, Thea makes all of her videos, (lights, camera, character placement), without an assistant. “It probably takes me five hours per video,” she says. “I can’t make two in a day. But [timing] depends on how intricate I am doing the set and costumes because I actually put a lot of effort into that,” she adds.
Most recently, one of Thea’s Sylvanians was wearing a handmade replica of the iconic yellow dress from 10 Things I Hate About You.
“My main problem for some reason is lighting,” Thea says of production issues. “The houses are so small and, if you look closely, there are so many lamps crammed up around them. The other annoying thing is getting people to stand up. They always fall over. Sometimes, I have to blue tack them to the ground and they always get hairs on them. So, I have to constantly wax them with Sellotape.”
When Thea’s Sylvanian Drama dream took off, she dropped out of her multimedia degree and asked her parents to give her a year to see if she could make money from TikTok. “After the first month of doing it, my followers went up really fast,” she says. “I used to love the Jonas Brothers and I was scrolling on my For You Page and Joe Jonas came up and it said ‘follow back’. I was like: ‘Oh my God this is crazy.'”
“[Sylvanian Drama] wasn’t a business idea,” she clarifies. “But when I had 300,000 followers I made merch and lots of people bought it. I had some brands reach out to me that I said no to because they were fast fashion, which I didn’t agree with, and then my first brand deal was with Burberry.”
When I ask Thea what she’s earned from Sylvanian Drama she can’t tell me (“I have no idea”). But the proceeds were enough for her to move out of her family’s house and into her own place in Dublin at the start of 2022, which didn’t last long: “I tried to live an individual life,” she says. “[But] I missed my pets and couldn’t bring all my Sylvanians with me because it was a small room in a college house so I had to keep driving home. After Christmas, I moved back.”
In a charmingly self-deprecating way, Thea mostly calls Sylvanian drama “stupid” and says her family’s reaction to her success has mostly been confusion. “My uncle’s girlfriend thought it was for children,” she says. “My older grandparents are just like ‘what the hell?’ They don’t understand at all. But that’s fair enough.”
Yet, Thea is astronomically successful as far as TikTok accounts go. Millions of people love her content. So much so, she was even approached to write her own TV show with the same sense of humour as Sylvanian Drama.
“Comedy can be quite hard because it’s so niche and weird,” she says of her success. “But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that, if you find something funny, some other people will. On social media, people follow trends. But [if you] do things that are different and you’re interested in then you’ll gain more followers.
“It’s a good lesson in life to just go with the flow and do random things…I don’t know what I’d be doing otherwise.”