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A colour storyboard of the lost thing © Passion Pictures Australia
  • Asking Around

    Part of the Shaun Tan Education Resource.


    When creating The Lost Thing book, Shaun Tan was inspired by his father’s old scientific and engineering text books. He created a background out of these books to suggest a world without imagination. Tan likes to think that The Lost Thing was the first piece of fiction ever produced in a society that focused only on facts with no interest in personal stories.

    Shaun Tan talks about how he was inspired by his father’s old scientific and engineering text books

    "I think any writer or illustrator looking towards an adaptation of their work, whether they're doing it themselves or somebody else is doing it, if their serious about it, they're going to be a bit worried." - Shaun Tan

    In this module: Respond  |  Reflect  |  Explore  |  Create


    • The collage of text book pages that dominates the book is featured in the opening credits and in the sequence that opens with the line: ‘I asked a few people if they knew anything about it.’
      • What happens in the ‘collage’ sequence?
      • Why has this sequence been animated in this way?
      • How does the collage frame add to what is being communicated?
      • In what other ways is the idea of a world without imagination represented in the animation?
    An insight into the collage technique used in The Lost Thing

    Curator Fiona Trigg speaks about the collage technique used in The Lost Thing.

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    • When adapting The Lost Thing for the screen, the creative team (including Shaun Tan) could not rely too heavily on the pre-existing work. This is how Shaun Tan described the process to ACMI curator Fiona Trigg:
      In producing any adaptation, you have to start from scratch. You’re not just taking one image and thinking ‘Okay, let’s try and turn this into a scene, what do we have to build? What do we have to move?’ That was very rare actually if you look from book to film that there are scenes that are directly translated.
      • What are some of the things that need to be taken into account when adapting a picture book into a film?
      • Choose a scene from the film to explain some of the challenges and changes that are required in the adaptation process.

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    • Shaun Tan describes the book as ‘concept art’ that can be referred to in the filmmaking process.
      • What is concept art?
      • What is its purpose?
      • In the video Tan mentions the difficulty of maintaining a balance between the quiet contemplative nature of books and the dynamic nature of film and animation. Has this balance been achieved in The Lost Thing film? If so, how?

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    • The lost thing is a playful, purposeless creature who finds itself in a fact-driven universe where there is no art, music or literature.
      • Use your imagination to create your own version of a world without imagination using the creative form that best suits your ideas.

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    Lost Thing Boy