Viral Video: Shod gastropod charms millions

"Marcell the Shell With Shoes" is killing on YouTube with 23 million views.
"Marcell the Shell With Shoes" is killing on YouTube with 23 million views.

23 million people can’t be wrong. I guess.

That’s the number of page views so far for YouTube's 2010 molluscan megahit Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, which stars a thumb-sized talking seashell with two feet, two shoes and one massive eyeball. I’ll admit, I was underwhelmed at first by Marcel’s breathy squeak of a voice and childlike non-sequiturs, but the little gastropod grows on you.

The videos (there is also a Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Two) are co-written by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp, and visually realized by Camp with rough-cut, dining table animation which is perfectly suited to the silly, time-filling shtick. A barely audible, off-camera Camp asks Marcel questions like, “What if you had a pen name?” To which Marcel replies, “I’d call myself Sheldon Conch.” Marcel does most of the talking, though, asking and answering his own questions like an excited five-year-old.

“Guess what I use as a beanbag chair?”


“A raisin.”

Slate supplies Marcel’s charming cheep without the aid of any special effects. She honed this skill  — once demonstrated once on an episode of Conan — as a child growing up in a family of jokesters. Her Big Girl voice, along with the rest of her, is currently on view  in the indie film Obvious Child (now at the Guild 45th Theater), a vulgar and labored rom com in which Slate comes off better as a dramatic actor than a comic.

Marcel, Two, made in 2011, has only 7 million hits, but it includes the best visual gag so far. While Marcel is perched somewhere on a laptop’s keyboard, the letter “z” spits out repeatedly on the screen behind him.  He also delivers his most poetic line, “I looked at a diamond and it gave me a sunburn”, poignantly capturing the beauty and danger of his fragile existence.

There are no plans yet for a third installment, but Slate has packaged Marcel’s endearing epigrams into a picture book, available at the Seattle Public Library.

For more Viral Video nuggets, go here.

Check out Rustin Thompson's latest film review, " 'Obvious Child,' a rom-com about the A-word."


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About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.