Marcel the Shell: Tiny snail, big party

Friends of local Jenny Slate cheer her on as she contends for an Oscar


Paul Newman and Audrey Hepburn were there Sunday evening. Steve McQueen made it, Jeff Bridges too. Even Sean Connery attended, though it was a long trip from Lyford Cay, the Bahamas, to Davoll's General Store in Dartmouth.

Though she lives in Dartmouth and spends a lot of time there and in Westport, Jenny Slate, the Saturday Night Live alum and creator of the "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On" series of animated shorts, was attending the Oscars awards ceremony in LA and couldn't attend the gala thrown in her honor. But she got a pass as her friends watched on TV, cheering her on and hoping she'd win an Oscar for Best Animated Film for the full-length version of her now-famous shorts. That she finished behind Guillermo Del Toro for his "Pinocchio" was OK. Those who attended were proud to support her anyway.

"We were happy just to cheer her on," Andy Pollock, the executive director of the Coastal Neighbors Network, said. "It was a lot of fun. It wasn't a crowd that was going to be out partying late, but it was a good time. It was so exciting to see her walk down the champagne carpet."

Marcel, a tiny snail with one giant eye and two clunky Mr. Potato Head shoes, is one of the more beloved series of shorts to come out of Hollywood over the past few years. Written by Slate and friends and first released on YouTube, the shorts have been seen many millions of times around the globe. They follow the charming snail as it walks its dog (a piece of lint), wears a lentil for a hat, talks about downhill skiing aboard a pair of men's toenail clippings, and marvels at knowing a guy who can eat a whole grape in one bite. In a quavery, wispy voice, Slate voices Marcel in the series and movie.

When the full-length Marcel film was released last June, the tiny snail's popularity skyrocketed, as did Slate's notoriety in the South Coast. While the film was in production, she and husband Ben Shattuck purchased Davoll's General Store and have since become active members of the Dartmouth and Westport communities. Ben's mom also runs the Dedee Shattuck Gallery in Westport.

In keeping with the Oscars theme, all the attendees Sunday evening wore name tags for their favorite actors, or ones whom they resemble. Dressed in a tux and red bowtie, Pollock attended as Tom Hanks, and alongside his fellow A-listers mingled and ate hors d'ouevres with the likes Helen Mirren, Julie Andrews, Ashton Kutcher and others. There was not a paparazzi to be found — the South Coast is still a quiet place.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.