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Jenny Slate can’t wait for you to see Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

After about a hundred hours of manipulating her voice into an irresistible throaty and nasal combination, Jenny Slate still can’t get enough of speaking like Marcel the Shell. In fact, it’s a voice she tends to slip into at home. “Marcel was always around the house telling people they weren’t doing things right,” says Slate vanity fair. “If my husband ben, trying to put the wrong lid on the peanut butter jar, I just get that close behind him and say [in the Marcel voice]’This will never work.’”

Marcel is a voice that Slate has been doing since 2010 when she was still at it Saturday night live. It was written over the weekend at a friend’s wedding when she and several others were sharing a hotel room. “I started doing this voice like I felt like a little person in this room.” The voice never made it to air during Slates SNL season, though it ran out during a Thanksgiving episode. “I wrote an article for the weekend update where I played an old lady who didn’t want any turkeys pardoned because she thought they were all assholes,” Slate says with a laugh. “I guess I was lucky I didn’t do it there, which is weird because if you had told me then I would have used everything I had [to stay on the show].”

If you remember when a college email address was required for Facebook, had a digital camera that wasn’t connected to a phone, or ever used the “Clarendon” filter on Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the trajectory of Marcel the Shell trusted. As a reminder, in October 2010, Slate and her former partner, director Dean Fleischer Camp, released “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” a three-and-a-half-minute stop-motion video that followed a day in the life of a Shell named Marcel. He said he wears a lens for a hat and spits cuteness out of every pore, if clams have pores at all. Today the video has more than 32 million views. The short film won awards at AFI Fest, the New York International Children’s Film Festival, and was an Official Selection at Sundance. Slate and Fleischer-Camp released two more short films on YouTube and signed a book deal with Penguin Random House.

With Marcel’s fame came the natural progression of Hollywood gossip. But the idea of ​​a television series suited neither Slate nor Fleischer-Camp. “Without being too valuable,” she says, “we just thought, ‘We’ll be happy to do this if we can just keep doing it on our own.'” The two had interest from film studios, but there weren’t any direct offers. “There were discussions like, ‘How about Marcel working with this six-foot-tall comedy actor?’ But he doesn’t need anything other than himself, and it was really hard to convince anyone that Marcel could carry an entire movie himself.”

Ultimately Elizabeth Holmes came on board as a producer. Holm and Slate had previously worked on 2014 obvious child, as well as landline in 2017 and Slate’s Netflix special, Stage Fright, in 2019. Fleischer-Camp would direct and they found funding from Cinereach. “It’s a big risk telling two people who have never made a feature film that you’re going to fund their film, and they don’t even have a script for you,” says Slate.

Slate has always had an affinity for inanimate objects. “I’ve always projected way too much onto everything. I can apologize for almost anything,” she says. “A houseplant that barely makes it breaks my heart.”

Slate and Fleischer-Camp chose to focus Marcel’s feature film debut on the Shell’s quest to reconnect with his family with the help of 60 minutesLesley Stahl (yes, the actual Lesley Stahl). Bursting with heart, the film delves into themes of aging, loss and grief without losing Marcel’s essential magic. “It’s deeply touching. It’s deeply touching,” says Slate.

As always, most of the dialogue in the film is improvised. Slate and Fleischer-Camp collaborated with Cowriter Nick Paley on a 40+ page script treatment, from which Slate would then improvise. They recorded and edited, recorded and edited, creating new plot structures in the process. “For a comedian, I’m actually a pretty bad joke writer,” says Slate, who was grateful for some ready-made one-liners in the script. After the audio locked completely, the stop motion began. “There is so much that goes in stop motion. Everything is a decision.” The whole process took about seven years.

Meanwhile, Fleischer-Camp and Slate, who married in 2012, have divorced. But while working with an ex wouldn’t be most people’s first choice, Slate wouldn’t have it any other way. “I really don’t think there’s anyone who even comes close to Dean,” she says. “In terms of his skills, his style and the stories he loves to create, there’s simply no other director like him. His talent is so vibrant and so unique.” When the two worked together as husband and wife, they would have been totally focused on the project, she says; that still applies today, six years after their separation. “I feel like this work has helped us to have the connection that is the best for us. We tried to do something really delicate while being living human beings ourselves. I will always keep that as valuable and something to marvel at.”

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