How a YouTube Sensation Became a Movie—12 Years Later


When the first Marcel the Shell went viral, it was a bit of an accident. As co-creator Jenny Slate told Seth Meyers this week Well into the night, her then partner Dean Fleischer-Camp showed the stop-motion film they made on a comedy show in 2010, then released it online at the request of a cast member who wanted to show her sick mother . It became one of YouTube’s first sensations: “Gangnam Style” was still two years away, after all, and now, more than a decade later, its hero has his own movie, one about the dangers of the Internet that made him famous.

Twelve years isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but in online time, it’s practically an eon. It’s also been a while since Slate and Fleischer-Camp have been able to gain some perspective on Marcel’s rise to fame. “It’s so weird because, of course, I believe in it 100 percent, but sometimes I can’t even put my finger on it,” Slate says. He believes Marcel’s strength lies in the juxtaposition of his size and confidence, but he also admits that “people like to project their own feelings on how small they may feel about him.”

And so Marcel remained loved, even though “Gangnam Style” came and went. Fleischer-Camp says he and Slate once did what he calls “a tour of water bottles” through LA, stopping at all the studios to talk about Marcel after he went viral. At the time, says Fleischer-Camp, “there was a lot of interest in grafting Marcel into a more familiar franchise template.” The couple knew when they came out of those meetings they didn’t want Marcel to go Stuart Little o Minions route. (However, they are doing a merchandising line with the film studio, A24, to promote Marcel.) Finally, Fleischer-Camp believes that his commitment to independence bore fruit.

“What’s special about Marcel to me isn’t necessarily that he’s so small,” he explains. “It’s the fact that he doesn’t care how small he is. He has the willpower and self-esteem of iron, and he is so autonomous. “

Marcel’s film world is both small and relatively huge. In the film, he lives with his Nana Connie (the amazing Isabella Rossellini) in a colonial house that formerly occupied not only her entire family and neighborhood adjacent to the shell, but also a human couple. People never noticed Marcel and his friends, who built a thriving community of houseplants, bread beds, and meals made with chunks of any food they could grab. One day, the couple quarreled and Marcel’s entire family, except his Nana, fled to the man’s sock drawer for safety. In a quick attempt to get out of the house, he threw the contents of all his drawers into a bag and fled, never to return. Marcel’s family went with him, lost in the winds of Los Angeles.

That doesn’t mean Marcel is desperate, because he’s not. Marcel la Conquilla he finds him and his dwarf growing a thriving garden, developing ingenious methods of food collection, and even maintaining his favorite program, 60 minutes. Fleischer-Camp says that somehow the drive for his creation has inspired even him. “When an obstacle is thrown at him, he doesn’t see the impossibility of overcoming it,” Fleischer-Camp explains.



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