Start the New Year with Marcel, the "partial shell" with shoes and a face, in their 2022 documentary story-telling hybrid film debut, the stop-motion comedy-adventure-docu-drama Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Or, as Marcel characterizes it, "…it's like a movie, but nobody has lines, and nobody even knows what it is while they are making it."
Marcel's internet fame began unexpectedly in 2010, when the multitalented actor, writer, off-beat, one-liner comedic extraordinaire Jenny Slate and her then partner Dean Fleischer-Camp, created Marcel, the shell with shoes on, an intentional and simultaneously experimental YouTube project from 2010-1014. Marcel is "an adorable 1-inch seashell with one googly eye and a child's tiny, questioning voice (by Slate)."
Intentional to the degree that "To create the movie's Marcel the Shell, Dean Fleischer-Camp …started studying the science of what humans instinctively find cute." So, is the nurture or nature element of social cuteness?
It is difficult to get more familiar and granular than a personalized, intimate documentary, and at the shell angle view closeup and friendly. This film will help start the year with hope, possibility, compassion, and wonder. As well as some clever and cute laughter as insight into the human condition – through a talking shell with shoes on.
Isabella Rossellini, Rosa Salazar, and Thomas Mann appear with Jenny Slate in Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
"Marcel is an adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colorful existence with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Once part of a sprawling community of shells, they now live alone as the sole survivors of a mysterious tragedy. But when a documentary filmmaker discovers them amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as unprecedented dangers and a new hope at finding his long-lost family. A beloved character gets his big-screen debut in this hilarious and heartwarming story about finding connection in the smallest corners."
Here is the marvelously joy-inducing trailer.
Like any good documentary, the unpacking and telling of woven narratives and memories, the details of back stories, and the intimate emotions that are revealed impact the actual process of making the film and the narrative arc and ending—minor spoiler as an example. The famed investigative CBS news show 60 Minutes plays an important, unexpected role. Marcel is sincere, self-assured, trusting, kind, and inquisitive; he misses his family.
The origins of Marcel are as unexpected as the story revealed in the film. As reported in The San Francisco Chronicle in June 2022,
"Back in 2010, Slate and Fleischer-Camp were creative and romantic partners (they've since divorced, and Slate has remarried) when they found themselves sharing a cramped hotel room with five male friends to save money while attending a wedding. Slate was feeling low after being fired from "Saturday Night Live" after just one season as a cast member…[and] she started talking to the guys in Marcel's quivering and very funny little voice.
'The voice just came out,' she said. 'It was so weird because at 'SNL' I had done every voice I could do to try to get attention, and it just wasn't working. I felt used up, which is really sad to feel. I was being hard on myself, and so I started talking in this little voice. Then, I just kept doing it. It felt refreshing and affirming, being this character.'
"It cracked us up," Fleischer-Camp confirmed during a separate interview by phone from Los Angeles.