If you have been around kids for the last 10 years, you probably know about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. A one-eyed mollusk with bright pink sneakers and a raspy voice, the star of three internet shorts stole hearts with his slightly melancholy demeanor and brutal honesty about his miniature world.
Released nearly 10 years ago, the first short film currently has 31 million views on Youtube. Now, after years of speculation of a big studio film or television show, creators Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate made the movie on their own instead. Marcel the Shell premiered at the Telluride film festival without a major studio attached.
Jenny Slate found Marcel’s voice playing around
Slate and Fleischer-Camp filmed each Marcel the Shell with Shoes On video on a small scale, at Marcel’s level. Though his mouth was animated in post-production, everything else around him is real.
Slate, star of Zootopia, Big Mouth, Obvious Child, and Parks and Recreation, voices the shell. Director Fleischer-Camp can be heard as the soft-spoken disembodied voice that follows Marcel around and asks him about his life.
So how does one come up with a raspy-voiced mollusk for the main character?
“It just came out, and then I just couldn’t stop,” Slate told Conan O’Brien in 2012. “I think that the character of Marcel is really beautiful, and I have always thought that shells are like the jewels of the sea. The sea makes shells for animals that look like boogers, but the sea makes them for them to live in, and it’s sort of an honor. It seemed like that’s what he should be.”
With multiple books and videos, a ‘Marcel the Shell’ film or TV show was sure to follow
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Two followed on Fleischer-Camp’s Youtube channel in 2011. The third film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Three premiered in 2014. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things About Me and Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been were released as children’s books.
After the short films achieved great success online, multiple studios approached Slate and Fleisher-Camp. This was ironic as the character of Marcel was impossible to pitch, as Slate told Entertainment Weekly. “You just can’t [pitch it]. You just have to do it, and that’s why it starts as an internet short that we made for free.”
Creators Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp didn’t want to sell out to a studio
This mentality carried the filmmakers to create it as a feature-length film independently, without studio backing.
“We fielded a lot of offers and heard people out,” Fleischer-Camp told Indie Wire. “I could see it getting out of hand, and we could end up making a project that I didn’t relate to because the character has such broad appeal. He’s cute and has bright colors. Certain people in the industry will see it in a certain way and wonder if it could be a ride at Disneyland. We really wanted to protect it.”
Jenny Slate recieved rave reviews for the feature-length ‘Marcel the Shell’ at the Telluride Film Festival
The resulting film received rave reviews at Telluride. Instead of only featuring Slate and Fleischer-Camp, new shell family members are introduced in Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Isabella Rossellini, Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, and Lesley Stahl round out the cast. “What I love so much is that the original impulses that made Marcel who he is (my impulses as a performer, Dean’s as a director) have always stayed true,” Slate said to Entertainment Weekly.
“The filmmaking process was careful and deliberate, very creatively open, and extremely hopeful at its core. I’m really glad that, especially right now, we can finally offer this small and astounding sweetness to the very big world out there.”
‘Marcel the Shell’ director Dean Fleischer Camp is proud of staying true to the character.
Her co-creator feels the same way and maintains the new film keeps the integrity of the source material.
“Expanding Marcel’s world in this way is a dream I’ve been working toward for many years, but we took our time because he means so much to us,” Fleischer Camp says. “We felt a responsibility to do it right, and I think we did!”
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is currently looking for a distributor.