Meet the Creators of Marcel the Shell!
Jenny Slate, co-writer and the voice of Marcel, is an actress, stand-up comedian, and alum of Saturday Night Live. Dean Fleischer-Camp is a writer, director, and animator whose work has screened at film festivals around the world. They live together in Brooklyn, New York. Watch the video and learn more at: www.deanfleischercamp.com
Interview with Jenny and Dean
When you created the original Marcel short film, did you envision down the road a picture book featuring Marcel? When did you realize that Marcel would make a great picture book character?
J&D: When we first created Marcel, we weren't really thinking about anything except, "Who is this character?! Where did he come from?!" Marcel began when Jenny started talking in this voice, saying little things to Dean every now and again, and he came to life when Dean built him out of found art supplies and animated a little two-second test of Jenny (as Marcel) introducing himself. Immediately, we were struck by how confident and self-possessed he was; how satisfied he was with his little simple life. We made the short film out of fun, but we were still chomping at the bit to explore his world and learn more about him! We both have, and have always had, a deep love for children's literature, so when the Marcel film became so popular, we thought, "Oh wow! Marcel would be great and beautiful in a picture book!"
The original Marcel film features Marcel talking about things he likes to do, how is the picture book similar to the film? How is it different?
J&D: The book is similar to the film in many ways: Marcel is the same person, he is in the same apartment, and he introduces himself in the same way as he does in the film, but the main reason that we wanted to make this picture book was to show more of Marcel's personality and more of his life and thoughts. We see more of what Marcel does in a day, more of what he sees as he goes about his life.
What were your favorite picture books that you remember from when you were young?
JENNY: I loved and STILL love Bread and Jam for Frances, One Morning in Maine, Outside, Over There, The Ox Cart Man, Mrs. Rumphius, and New Blue Shoes.
DEAN: I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon, Where The Sidewalk Ends, Round Trip, The Stinky Cheese Man & Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and anything illustrated by Thomas Locker. We both adore George and Martha and Jenny is still a little scared by Miss Nelson is Missing.
What do you hope young readers take away from Marcel's new book?
J&D: There are many different ways to enjoy this book and to enjoy Marcel. We hope that it makes readers happy, and that it makes them curious about themselves and the world around them, because we think that having a loving, curious relationship with the world is what makes life fun and beautiful.
What's it like collaborating on a picture book?
J&D: Well, we are best friends, so making this book together was like getting to do a fun school project with the partner you wished to have. We kept looking at each other and saying, "Is this for REAL?" We feel very lucky, and very proud! At times it was difficult because we wanted to get it just right, so that fans of the film would relate to the book and vice versa, but we think (and hope) that we did a good job.
Tell us about the process of working with an illustrator to create the setting behind the picture book?
JENNY: We both work in the film world a lot, so we approached the book kind of like shooting a movie: We brainstormed & conceptualized a lot of the pages together and then Dean went about sketching and storyboarding all of the images.
DEAN: Once they were finalized, I created a little film shoot with a real set (our apartment) and hand-made costumes (Marcel's grandmother's hairstyle was made using a lock from our dog Reggie) and I worked with cinematographer David Erickson to photograph all of the various scenes. Then the photographs went to Amy Lind, a wonderfully talented portrait artist, who created the oil paintings you see in the book. We are so excited by them, because they really pop! Hopefully, the unconventional process lends the images a kineticism and a liveliness that you don't find in most illustrations. I hope it does! Otherwise it was a huge waste of time.
Where did the idea for paintings come from?
DEAN: Back when we first screened the film at Sundance, we were tasked with creating a poster for the film. For it, I commissioned a friend to create an oil portrait of Marcel. I just thought it was really funny to take this little tiny guy, who only barely exists to the naked eye, and honor him with a big, classy portrait. We came back to this idea when we began on the book, because Marcel's world has always been about making ordinary things extraordinary, about finding richness in the everyday, and frankly, there is nothing richer and more vibrant than oil painting. Nothing looks more alive than oils, even photographs. You just can't beat them!