Utah. The Rocky Mountains. Deep behind the Zion Curtain. This is a place that revels in being small town, locked away. Secluded. Also the best kept secret in the film industry, for Utah hosts Sundance Film Festival every year in January. Sundance, which brings aspiring film makers, celebrities and press from all around the world to the state everyone usually raises a quizzical eyebrow at.
Because Sundance is such a big draw for worldwide film enthusiasts, animation has its own category. This year’s Sundance brings thirteen animated shorts from around the world, four of which were made here in the United States. One in particular stands out if for nothing more than the sheer oddity of a small shell wearing shoes.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is one animated short that is shown in this year’s Festival; at first glance it looks like something that can be done in an afternoon for less than a dollar. However if that is as far as you are willing to look, you would be missing out on a delightful piece of whimsy. Marcel, the Shell has a squeaky voice, a charming personality and colorful shoes. Marcel guides you through the ten minute short film about the life of a shell while talking about bad jokes, pieces of lint or some other equally odd subject. Here though, is where animation is superior to live action.
Animation allows a viewer to more easily suspend belief as well as have greater patience for some subject matter. As an example, if this short was live action, with a boy or girl talking about playing with lint, it would be almost sad. The child would have no other friends than old laundry castoffs. However, because this is a shell, with shoes and a single eye mind you, it becomes endearing and even very cute. The film maker, Dean Fleischer-Camp realizing this, was able to take a few dime store ingredients to create a wonderful character. The animation may be crude, but the heart is there and that is more than half the battle with creating a good cartoon.
Most people give animation no more thought than taking out the garbage but it has the ability to make people care about the smallest set of shoes or allow for a greater connection to the imaginative world all around. Marcel fits quite nicely into Sundance, and while there is not much animation going on, it is a very good lesson in economy of animation; the ability to get the most out of what you have. They did.
Marcel is whimsical, enchanting and an all around good way to spend ten minutes. It’s showing at Sundance right now, but if you are interested in watching it online you can here.