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Jenny Slate brings little ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On’ to the big screen

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 6/28/2022 Stephen Schaefer

Jenny Slate had no inkling whatsoever that a three-minute “handmade” stop-motion animation video on YouTube in 2010 would become the biggest hit of her career.

Here, a dozen years on, is “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” a feature-length expansion of that award-winning short Slate co-created and co-wrote with director and co-producer Dean Fleischer-Camp.

The duo, who were once married and then divorced, subsequently made two sequels and two books before reuniting on this feature.

“This movie only exists because Dean had promised a friend that he would make a short film for their live comedy show in Williamsburg,” Milton’s own Slate, 40, recalled in an interview.

“I had been doing this little voice and he thought maybe that voice could be something. If it were up to me I would just still be walking around on the street talking with this tiny voice.

“But Dean decided to do something more with it and ended up interviewing me in that voice. Then he created the body of Marcel and the shoes and the eye. Once the body was made, he interviewed me again and that’s when I improvised. He then ended up doing the stop-motion short — and that’s why we’re here today.”

Jenny Slate, voice actor and co-writer of the film “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” poses for a portrait, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) © Provided by Boston Herald Jenny Slate, voice actor and co-writer of the film “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” poses for a portrait, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Video: Jenny Slate shows how she does the voice for ‘Marcel the Shell’ (TODAY)

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Like the original, “Marcel” is presented as a documentary and as our tiny hero’s life unfolds, especially with his ailing grandmother (voiced by Isabella Rosellini), real emotion rises.

“Marcel doesn’t think of himself as unusual. He just thinks of himself as himself and he has feelings of peacefulness and satisfaction about his own identity. But there is a questioning of like, Who’s to say you do or do not fit in?

“We tend to believe that everybody fits in of course, because the world is various and there are infinite examples of how to be and Marcel is just one of those examples.

“But,” Slate continued, “it’s really nice to make a documentary about him because he is a character who likes to answer questions. Honestly.”

So rather than making up some kind of story, “We realized that the first way we saw Marcel was an interview with him and this is just the way to keep doing it. A documentary has the potential to be really intimate.

“When you have that intimacy, you also have the chance to hold many emotions at once. There is some melancholy in the film for sure, right next to themes of grief and loss and the life cycle.

“But you’re also completely in the arms of love and friendship. There’s performance. There’s surprises. And just a lot of comedy as well.”

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” opens July 1 in theaters.

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