Marcel The Shell With Shoes On Was Born Out Of A Cramped Wedding

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This year saw the wide release of A24's whimsical "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On," a quirky, stop-motion feature about a talking shell who sets out to find the rest of his family. But this feature-length film is not the first time Marcel has charmed viewers with his one giant googly eye and heartwarming voice (Marcel gets his trademark vocals from the talented Jenny Slate). In fact, it's been over 10 years since Marcel's first appearance in the short film that appeared on YouTube in October of 2010.

The first video in the original trilogy opens up with Marcel mispronouncing his own name as "Mar-shell," and then bashfully correcting himself. He tries again, this time getting it right, and goes on to say that he is "partially a shell" before taking us on an enchanting romp through his minuscule (and sometimes gargantuan) world as a tiny piece of elegant, calcium carbonate. We meet his pet lint named Alan and learn he regrets not having a dog. He entertains his guests by serving them salad, and shows us how lifting crayons is pretty hard for him to do all by himself. 

The short, which is directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp and written by him and Slate, inspired the internet with its wholesomeness and infectious whimsy. So much so that it went on to win Best Animated Short at 2010's AFI Fest. There is even a children's book ("Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things About Me") published in 2011, and fans of the tiny shell can now buy plushes of the character if they know where to look. Marcel certainly has a very big life nowadays, but his origin story actually comes from a very small and unlikely space.

Small space, big idea

In a recent interview with Deadline, director Dean Fleischer-Camp answered some questions about his much beloved Marcel, including just where the idea for this tiny little friend came from. He tells Deadline, "Jenny Slate, who does the voice of Marcel, and I were getting ready for another friend's wedding. We were packed into this tiny room, and Jenny started doing this teeny, tiny voice to sort of express how cramped she felt in there." The voice was so infectious that the duo couldn't let it go. "We joked about it all weekend at this wedding, and then when I got back afterward, I had agreed to make this video for a friend's comedy show. So, I was like, 'Jenny, let me interview you in this character'" explains Fleischer-Camp.

Obviously Slate agreed, but the voice needed a body to go along with it, so the two quickly put together a creature that seemed like the right fit. "We very hastily put together Marcel, and bought a shell, little shoes and some googly eyes — basically like everything you could grab at a craft store," says Fleischer-Camp, "We made him, and then I interviewed Jenny and cut it together and animated it." All in all, Fleischer-Camp says the entire process took about 48 hours, but the lasting impact of Marcel has been immense, proving that inspiration really can be found in the unlikeliest, and smallest, of places.