Meeting Marcel the Shell!

by Susan Avett

There have been few events in my life that have been pivotal enough for me to remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when they happened. One of them is the first time I saw “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” I was in the library at school, I was supposed to be studying, and I laughed loudly enough to irritate the people at the table next to me. Over the years, the short film has grown to mean so much to me that I even got a tattoo of Marcel. The short, stop motion animated YouTube video, created by Jenny Slate and Deal Fleischer-Camp in 2010 has now garnered over 23 million YouTube views, and the accompanying book, Marcel the Shell with Shoes on: Things About Me published in 2011, has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller. Clearly I am not alone in my love for this little guy.

I was also not alone in my love for Marcel the Shell last night either, as I squeezed myself in line to see Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp at Housing Works Bookstore Café at 126 Crosby Street in the lower east side of New York City. The event was in celebration of the release of Jenny and Dean’s newest book, Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been (Razorbill). My friend told me the event was free and open to the public, which seemed too good to be true, and I even came armed with $20 in case it was too good to be true; it actually was free and open to the public!

The event began with a viewing of “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Three.” The six minute, 45 second-long video was released just a day before the book, on October 20. Watching the film, the excruciatingly endearing shell not surprisingly caused the large crowd to repeatedly swell with laughter and delight. Following the video, Jenny Slate read her new book in the voice of Marcel. Watching Jenny create the character of Marcel through only her voice and inflection was truly remarkable — and the crowd seemed to agree with me. An enthusiastic Q&A session followed, wherein Jenny and Dean answered questions about how they actually assembled the first Marcel prototype, how the character came to be, their future Marcel the Shell plans, and how Jenny actually does the voice of Marcel (she says it happens with a little constriction of her throat muscles).   

The evening ended with a book signing, so I bought the new book and stood in line.  I stood at the back of the line, hoping there wouldn’t be anyone behind me to impatiently shift his or her weight back and forth as I detailed to Jenny Slate my itemized list of why I feel like she’s perhaps the coolest person ever. I guess my plan would have worked but when it was my turn, all I could do was shove the book in her direction and notice that my face felt like it may have been on fire. She signed it, I took my book, and followed my friend to the sidewalk where I reoriented myself with the earth. In the end though, she and her husband were every bit as sweet and funny as I ever could have hoped. The evening was wonderful and I can say that despite all odds, I am somehow an even bigger Marcel the Shell fan today than I was yesterday. 

(You can buy the new book here!)

Images via FunemployedChicago and Penguin

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