+
Pop Culture

'Marcel the Shell With Shoes On' is a film full of heart-melting simplicity

'It’s important to me to tell a story about someone working through a loss that they weren’t expecting,' star Jenny Slate shared.

marcel the shell, movie, marcel the shell with shoes on

Marcel the Shell is starring in his own movie.

In 2010, a little shell with a googly eye and sneakers appeared on the internet and made everyone go “aww.” His name? Marcel the Shell With Shoes on. In a series of confessional style web videos, Marcel told us about himself and his life. Created by filmmaker Dean Fleischer Camp and voiced by Jenny Slate, Marcel became a part of the 2010s web pop culture. But like most viral moments, he kind of faded into obscurity, but not before appearing in a children’s book. Now, Marcel is back in a full-length feature release, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.”


I recently talked to the star and co-creator Jenny Slate ahead of the film’s release about what it was like to live in Marcel’s head and how the movie came to be. Slate revealed that she and Fleischer Camp have been working on the film for the last seven years. So while many people had forgotten about Marcel, they hadn’t.

“It is an interesting or special thing to bring something back to people that they may have naturally moved on from,” Slate said. “I do think Marcel does have a pretty devoted fan base—the people that like him seem to really enjoy watching him, and it’s nice to rustle that up again.

“Doing a series at that point wouldn’t have allowed us to have as full of an investigation into Marcel’s character as making a documentary or mockumentary feature,” Slate continued. “We started to understand what made Marcel appear the most himself.”

Marcel is all heart. Well, technically, he’s all shell, but still. You don’t expect to find yourself so attached to an anthropomorphic shell with a googly eye and little shoes, but as soon as you first see him on screen, you know your heart is about to melt.

In the feature, the filmmaker, Dean, is recently single and is staying in an Airbnb when he happens upon Marcel, who lives in the house with his Nana Connie and his pet ball of lint, Alan. Quickly, Dean begins to film his conversations with Marcel, mainly because Marcel is such a fascinating little creature. He has his daily routines, which include gardening with Nana Connie and rolling around the house in a tennis ball. He and Nana Connie have a weekly ritual: watching Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes.” It’s their most favorite show, and they never miss it.

“We worked really hard to make sure that Marcel as a character was not changed, but only revealed more and expanded,” Slate said.

Soon, Dean begins sharing his videos of Marcel online and, of course, they begin to go viral. And while Marcel isn’t inherently opposed to his newfound fame, it does begin to take a toll, especially because it only exacerbates his loneliness. Once upon a time, he lived in the house with a whole family of shells, including his parents. There were also humans who lived in the house—Mark and Larissa—but they fought a lot. One night, they fought one time too many and in the rush of packing, Mark swept the shells up with his things.

Dean decides to use Marcel’s fame to try and find the rest of his family. So they get on a livestream that allows Marcel to share his story. While they become more viral, Marcel isn’t any closer to getting his wish for his family back. Then the fame becomes too much—people are taking pictures in front of the house, getting Marcel tattoos, the whole nine yards.

“Although he is always completely down to engage and answer questions honestly, he often seems to have forgotten that what he’s saying has any sort of receiving place. He has no performance of himself—he just is himself,” Slate said when I asked what's her favorite thing about Marcel.

On top of the fame, Nana Connie’s health is quickly deteriorating, which worries Marcel. He and Dean go off in search of Mark to reunite the family, but while he’s gone, Connie has an accident and cracks her shell. Because of this, Marcel shuts everything down—no more filming, no more visitors, and Dean must ask his ex-wife to take their dog after he almost attacks Connie.

In the meantime, the team from “60 Minutes” has heard about Marcel’s story and wants to do a feature. Citing Connie’s poor health as an excuse, Marcel declines the interview, potentially giving up his chance to meet his idol Lesley Stahl. Both Dean and Connie try to convince him to do the interview. Connie even tries to show him that she’s in better health because she doesn’t want him to miss the opportunity to expand his world. Eventually Marcel agrees and everyone is excited about it.

On the day of the interview, the house is buzzing with excitement. After all those Sunday nights together, Marcel and Connie are finally going to meet their idol. Of course, Lesley Stahl is kind and wonderful, and it seems that she is genuinely interested in hearing Marcel’s story. After the interview, Marcel and Dean can’t find Nana Connie.

“It’s important to me to tell a story about someone working through a loss that they weren’t expecting, and the unexpected feelings in dealing with that loss,” Slate shared.

Marcel is still in mourning when “60 Minutes” reaches back out. They have found Larissa working as a doctor in Guatemala and we learn more about her story during the news segment. She brings the crew to Mark’s house, and Marcel and Dean find the shell family. Though he is so happy to be reunited with them, a part of his heart will always be missing Nana Connie. Dean moves out of the Airbnb and Marcel’s family moves back in. Marcel still finds solace in the quietness of the laundry room, where he has time to reflect.

I asked Slate what she hopes people will get out of the film now that's it's been widely released and she shared, “I hope people feel momentary belief on the verge of disbelief that something can be both sad and uplifting at once.”

Run, don't walk, to see "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On," now playing nationwide.

Science

Sustainably good news: Recycling is getting better and this family is showing us how

What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?

Via Ridwell

Ryan Metzger and son Owen

There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?

Keep ReadingShow less
via Tod Perry

An artist's recreation of Jackie's napkin note.

A woman named Jackie pulled a move straight out of a romantic comedy recently, and it has the internet rallying around her potential love interest. Jackie met a guy at a bar and liked him so much that she gave him her phone number. Well, 80% of her number, that is.

The world heard about it on January 17 when Twitter user Henpecked Hal and shared a picture of the napkin with her partial phone number written on it. "My 22-year-old cousin met his dream girl at a bar and it's going pretty well,” Hal wrote in the tweet.

Keep ReadingShow less

Women are looking for love at Home Depot.

Even though people have endless options to find love these days, whether in real life or online, finding the perfect person still isn’t easy. In fact, according to Pew Research, 55% of women believe dating is harder today than it was 10 years ago. So it’s understandable that some are considering ditching the apps to meet people in real life.

Studies show that for people looking for a serious relationship, real life may be the better option.

According to Newsweek, a study by Illinois State University sociology professor Susan Sprecher found that young people who first met face to face were 25% more likely to report feelings of closeness than those who initially met online. Aditi Paul, a communications professor at Pace University in New York, found that people who first met in real life lasted four times longer than those who met online.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

A letter to the woman who told me to stay in my daughter's life after seeing my skin.

'I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men like me who love fatherhood.'

Doyin Richards

Dad and daughters take a walk through Disneyland.

True
Fathers Everywhere

This article originally appeared on 06.15.16


To a stranger I met at a coffee shop a few years ago who introduced me to what my life as a parent would be like:

My "welcome to black fatherhood moment" happened five years ago, and I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I doubt you'll remember it, though — so let me refresh your memory.

Keep ReadingShow less
Science

Man was awake and playing the saxophone throughout his entire 9-hour brain tumor surgery

Several times during the surgery, the patient played the theme song from "Love Story" by Francis Lai.

"Awake surgery" allows brain surgeons to see the functioning parts of the brain to avoid during surgery.

This article originally appeared on 10.17.22


Do you ever step back and marvel at the miraculous things human beings have figured out how to do?

Less than 200 years ago, no human being had ever played a saxophone, there was no such thing as anesthesia and if you had even a simple brain tumor, you were just out of luck.

Now, a team of doctors in Italy has successfully performed a highly complex, nine-hour brain surgery on a man while he was awake and while he played the saxophone. Not only that, but the patient reported feeling "tranquility" during the surgery and only spent a few days in the hospital after the surgery before being discharged.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Deadpool” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

Keep ReadingShow less

Parenting children requires some serious balancing skills.

This article originally appeared on 03.08.16


Like most parents, I didn't know what I was doing when I first became a mom — because I'd never done it before.

I was 27 when our first child joined our family through adoption. He was 10 months old.

My son and me shortly after his adoption. That look on my face can probably best be described as "clueless but hopeful." All photos of my kids and me belong to me.

Keep ReadingShow less