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We Talked to the Co-Creator of Marcel the Shell, the Internet's Favorite Mollusk

An interview with Dean Fleischer-Camp, the co-creator of 'Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.'

by Emerson Rosenthal
Oct 30 2014, 9:30pm

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In 2010, a gregarious gastropod wearing bright red shoes crawled out on the arm of a sofa chair and told us about his life. Four years and nearly 24,000,000 views later, Marcel the Shell might be the internet's favorite mollusk. Created by filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp and comedian (and Obvious Child star) Jenny Slate, the stop-motion shell voiced by Slate now features in three short films and two books, and his signature mousy drawl has made its way from YouTube to Rock Center with Brian Williams

Hot on the heels of Marcel the Shell's third short film, Marcel's second book, Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I've Ever Been, made its debut on October 21, 2014, from Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.

The Creators Project spoke to Marcel's co-creator, Dean Fleischer-Camp, about his influences, the making of The Most Surprised I've Ever Been, and why illustration is way easier than stop-motion animation.

The Creators Project: Can you tell us about the making of Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been

Dean Fleischer-Camp: This is my second Marcel the Shell book. I wrote it with my wife, Jenny (Slate), and illustrated it with Amy Lind.

How was the process different from making Marcel's first book?

The first book was a more direct adaptation of the videos, with Marcel delivering one-liners and giving us a tour of his world. This time around, we wanted to tell more of a narrative. I’ve always loved the shorts that Charles & Ray Eames made together, so we took their Powers of Ten films as a jumping off point & fleshed out what it might be like if Marcel were accidentally catapulted into the air: what his world would look like to him from up there, what his emotions would be, what observations he might have about his life as seen from a distance.

An excerpt from Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I've Ever Been, via

Other than, you know, writing words and stuff, do you have to think differently to create a book, versus an animation? 

I didn't know how to create a book. I basically just directed it the way I would direct a film: Jenny & I wrote it together, then I storyboarded it, produced a few shoot days, a DP friend and I shared cinematography duties, etc. I edited & retouched the photos, and then I sent them off to Amy Lind, who created the beautiful oil renditions you see in the book. I worked with designer/all-around aesthetic whiz kid Teddy Blanks & CHIPS to create the layout/jacket. It was very collaborative and in a lot of ways, the process wasn’t that different from a video.

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Is it more or less difficult to tell stories with illustration, or stop-motion? Why?

I’m a happier person when I’m doing illustration or live-action directing. Stop-motion animation is a form of torture invented by God to remind everyone of how incredibly tedious his job is. Animation can be magical, but it requires intense concentration and patience. 

Marcel the Shell's co-creators, Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp. Photo by Richard Koek

What are the advantages of working with such an "analog" medium? The shortcomings?

I want people to experience my work in whatever way they want, but with a book it’s nice to know that you have a captive audience. My work won’t just be one ingredient in the media soup that they’re consuming at that moment, with Facebook open and music playing and several Gchat windows. 

A young Dean Fleischer-Camp

Do you and Jenny have any projects coming up? 

Always. I’m writing a feature for Jenny to star in. It's very loosely based on Catherine, the short we made which screened at Sundance last year. 

Jenny Slate as a child

Finally, what's next for Marcel the Shell? 

We have tentative plans for a bigger Marcel project, but it’s just in its infancy. We’re still working on developing the story and finding the right partners.

Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been is available now from Penguin Young Readers Group. 

Related:

First-Time Filmmakers: "Obvious Child" Writer/Director Gillian Robespierre

Pop-Up Books Get The 3D Treatment In "Lost At Sea"

New Book Digs Into What Art Will Look Like After The Internet

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MARCEL THE SHELL: THE MOST SURPRISED I’VE EVER BEEN
Marcel the Shell
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things About Me