In A24’s film Marcel with the Shoes On, we meet Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate), a tiny one-eyed, one-inch shell who lives with his grandmother, Connie. They lived with his family in a community of shells until the couple who owned the house separated and moved out. That’s when their loved ones mysteriously vanished! Marcel and Connie are left alone with their pet lint, Alan. The pair learn to adapt to their new situation but Marcel never loses hope in reuniting with his family and friends.
I have to admit, I was unfamiliar with Marcel the Shell. My daughter was excited for me when I told her about the interview with co-creator Jenny Slate who also voices Marcel. My daughter couldn’t believe I didn’t know who the popular Marcel was. My daughter was introduced to the Marcel short films in her film classes. I viewed the films and I especially loved that the shorts are a blend of stop-motion (my favorite form of animation!) and live action. The shorts are witty and I was eager to see how Marcel managed himself in a full-length feature.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has quickly turned into one of my favorite films. The mockumentary style is modern and fresh. Marcel as a character is calming, hopeful and he truly likes himself. We need more characters that believe in themselves, ooze positively and love their family wholeheartedly. His relationship with his grandmother is really special and made me miss my grandmothers. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is a must-see for the entire family. It’s a beautiful, life affirming story with a fun plot.
I participated in a parent interview with Jenny Slate where she discusses making the film, how her grandmothers played an integral part in creating Nana Connie and also her hopes for what communities can take away from the film.
Getting into the character of Marcel:
Actors use what they have to step into other roles but for Jenny, Marcel is the first time she’s ever played a character who represents how she feels about herself. Jenny shares, “It was a process of more looking inside rather than then going out into something new.”
Isabella Roslinani’s Children Encouraged her to be in the film.
Dean Fleischer-Camp and Jenny Slate wrote the character of Nana Connie knowing that she had an accent. They wanted an actress with a very distinctive voice. Isabella said that she didn’t know what Marcel was but that her children told her she had to do it because they were fans of Marcel the Shell. So, she said yes when the role was offered to her. She was fascinated by the process of improvising and locking an audio play before anything was animated. Jenny told us that, “she was really courageous. You know, she kept saying she wasn’t used to improvising and she’s used to getting a script and just doing it that way. You were never able to tell, she was just so game to get in there and improvise and she’s very kind. She let us record at her farm all the scenes where Nana Connie is in her garden is on Isabella’s farm.”
Who inspired Nana Connie?
Nana Connie is a combination of Jenny’s two grandmothers (one who is named Nana Connie). Dean Fleishcher-Camp’s grandmother as well as Nick Paley’s grandmothers. Jenny shared why it was important for Marcel’s Nana Connie to have an accent, “My dad‘s mom Rochelle is an immigrant. She was born in Cuba and grew up in Paris and then was in hiding during the holocaust and is a holocaust survivor. She has an accent and that’s why nana Connie in our film has an accent,” Jenny continues, ” We put a combination of the qualities of our grandmothers into Nana Connie and I know for me, my grandmothers were essential to my happiness. Growing up they were a constant source of unconditional love and I had deep respect for them as people and I was so intrigued by their personal style and choices and stories. I felt they were the people who directly helped me connect to a past that I was really inquisitive about. I’m really affected by having my grandmothers with me for my life so it was really important for me to put them in the movie because they are people who taught me how to be loving and how to be confident.”
Lesley Stahl shot with her 60 Minutes crew.
The creators were very grateful to have Leslie and were incredibly intimidated by her because she’s, “A powerhouse and she came onto our set with her 60 minutes crew!” This was a true-to-life representation of what it would be like to be interviewed on 60 minutes which made it really fun.
What can people take away from Marcel about making the world a better place?
“I hope they can take away that it’s worth it. That if the people you are around, feeling like you can connect to, it’s worth it do it. I know it’s easy to lose heart and to stay to the side of it, when you’re exhausted but there’s always something to be gained in connection whether it’s just like with one other person or a group. I hope that people remember that hope doesn’t have to mean perfection, hope is actually attached to a process that is like moving through something, moving through change and hoping to just keep going. Hope is actually a thing that we do so that we don’t just stay in one place.”
What makes Marcel special to Jenny?
Jenny thinks that Marcel is special because he’s straightforward yet sensitive. He has a wide range of emotions. He’s friendly but also fearful at times which is precious to her, “He’s really funny and I think he’s precious because he’s doing his best,” shares Jenny.
Will we see more of Marcel?
Jenny shared that she’s not sure if more books will be made but she would love to continue to do more Marcel the Shell film projects or TV projects. “I think it always relies on just finding the right partner who lets us do our thing. I think this movie proved that we know what we’re doing! I’m certainly down to do it but I think Dean and I would really have to find someone who lets us do our work.”
I can’t wait to see more of Marcel’s adventures.
Watch the entire interview with Jenny here.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is now playing in theaters.