A tiny talking shell that wears shoes and makes somewhat profound statements has become one of the sweetest nominees this awards season.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, which just hit cinemas in the UK, is up for Best Animation in both BAFTA and Oscar.
The character is the brainchild of actress Jenny Slate – who many will know from the sitcom Parks And Recreation – and her ex-husband, director Dean Fleischer Camp. In a new interview, Slate said Marcel was born in a hotel room.
“We were sharing a really crappy hotel room with a bunch of friends because we were all trying to save money – we were at a wedding and it was me and, like, five guys,” she said. “And they were all so messy, and we were crammed in, and I just started talking in this little voice to describe how suffocated I felt, and it just started from there — this strange little voice that I’d never done before.
“Dean had promised a friend of ours that he would make a short film for their live comedy show. He hadn’t done it yet, and it was coming up in two days, and he said, “Can I interview you with that voice? And maybe I’ll get some sound, and maybe I’ll like, animate on it.” I said, ‘Yeah, sure, you know, whatever,’ and so he interviewed me.”
From this voice the character was created.
“[Fleischer Camp] he found a bunch of stuff and stuff from the local toy store and the local arts and crafts store, and he started gluing things to other things, and eventually he made a prototype of Marcel,” Slate said. “He set it up on the table, and he said, ‘ I think that’s the guy.” I was like, “Oh, that’s definitely the guy.”
“And that’s kind of how it started, it was just really playful — we never thought anyone would see it other than the people on the show.”
Since those beginnings, Marcel The Shell With Shoes has gone on to evolve into a trio of stop-motion animated shorts, co-written by Slate and directed by Fleischer Camp, the first of which was released in 2010.
They were successful, winning film festival awards and amassing a following after being posted online.
In 2014, the pair announced plans to make a feature film about the character – whose wide-eyed innocence makes him endearing and occasionally wise.
He serves as an antidote to the doom and gloom in the rest of the world, but Slate thinks Marcel is attractive because he seems so real.
“Although it may remind you or bring you to times when your heart hurts, the reason it hurts is because you have a heart at all.
“And yes, Marcel is really ‘good,’ but he’s not sugary, and I think his experience is real, and that’s why I think it’s cool to watch.
“I like to describe the making of this film, it’s like the same instincts with which you can create a public park for people to be in or a public garden or an aquarium for people to come and look at animals that wouldn’t they ever could. see – a community space.”
Now nominated for a BAFTA and an Oscar, Marcel has clearly struck a chord with the critics. Slate admits it’s great to be in the mix this awards season.
“I think we deserve it, which is a great feeling – it would be terrible to feel like a fraud, you know? And it’s probably one of the first times in my life that I don’t feel like a fraud, I feel like our film is really cool, and I’m really proud for this.
“I feel like it’s my birthday every day – if you’re a person who likes your birthday – it’s just like the day is a bit more benevolent and things are brighter and I feel very light on my feet.”
Marcel the Shell with Shoes on is in cinemas in the UK and Ireland – you can listen to our review of the new episode of Backstage, the film and the TV podcast from Sky News