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Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp on Why Adults Love ‘Marcel the Shell’: ‘We All Have a Heart and Spirit Inside’

"I think that Marcel is a character that resonates with people because he's making do in a world that wasn't made for him," Camp told IndieWire. "And I think everyone relates to that."

Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp

Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp

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It’s hard to think of an indie film released in 2022 with more widespread appeal than “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” The mockumentary about a tiny shell searching for community first made headlines for its adorable animated protagonist, but soon developed a large adult fanbase for its poignant message about adapting to life’s challenges.

In her review of the film, IndieWire’s Kate Erbland wrote: “In a time beset with films consumed by questions of connection, community, and change, ‘Marcel the Shell’ seamlessly marries big ideas with charm and humor (and inventive stop-motion work to boot). In short, it’s the cutest film about familial grief you’ll see all year, perhaps ever.”

The film’s intergenerational popularity has not been lost on Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp. The longtime collaborators co-wrote the film — based on a character they created together — with Nick Paley, and Camp directed while Slate voiced the eponymous shell. Speaking to IndieWire at the New York Critics Circle Awards, both Slate and Camp explained why they think the film resonated so much with older audiences.

“I think it might be because we all have a heart and a spirit inside,” Slate said. “Whether you’re very young or very old or somewhere on the life cycle in between, it feels so good to have your sweet, tender heart waved at. And I think that’s what our film does. You’re never too old to be activated in that way.”

“I think that Marcel is a character that resonates with people because he’s making do in a world that wasn’t made for him,” Camp said. “And I think everyone relates to that from being a kid, because you’re literally too small for everything and everything is made for adults. And then we get older, and I know I was surprised to find that actually that’s still the case as you get older. The world just wasn’t made for you, for more complicated or weirder reasons. And I always find Marcel very inspiring because he’s not frustrated by that. He deals with everything with a neutral attitude. That’s just what he views life to be. He sees it as an obstacle, it’s not personal, just like the next obstacle, and he’ll overcome it just like he did the last one in this never-ending series of obstacles that he knows as life. And I think everyone can take something really important away from that.”

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