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A John Brack inspired illustration of The Boy and the Lost Thing in a city street Courtesy Lothian Books/Hachette
  • The City

    Part of the Shaun Tan Education Resource.


    The City in The Lost Thing is a place without imagination or creativity. It exists to work efficiently but not to make its inhabitants' lives better.

    Shaun Tan on writing

    Shaun Tan speaks about the city of The Lost Thing, and the relationship this place has with its inhabitants.

    In this module: Respond  |  Reflect  |  Explore  |  Create


    • Describe your impressions of the city of The Lost Thing.
      • What is the effect of the pipes, signs and lack of vegetation? Explain by focusing on a couple of specific examples.
      • Jot down some adjectives to share with the class that describe the music and your response to the music. How does the music add to the story being told? What aspects of the narrative does the music accentuate or complement?

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    • The place where The Lost Thing is set is a place without imagination.
      How important are imagination and creativity to a society and to the people living in a particular place?
    • Think about the place where you live.
      • Describe some ways that people express, experience or share imagination and creativity in your community.
      • Are there qualities or aspects that it shares with the world of The Lost Thing?
    • As a class, you might like to put together a collection of images that demonstrate the differences and similarities between your world and the world of The Lost Thing.
    • At the end of The Lost Thing, the boy has grown up and no longer sees 'lost things': 'Maybe there aren't many lost things around anymore nor maybe I just stopped noticing'. (In the book the line reads 'Maybe there aren't many lost things around anymore nor maybe I just stopped noticing them.')
      • What happens to a place when people stop noticing things?

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    When designing the city, Shaun Tan was inspired by Collins Street, 5p.m., a painting by Australian artist John Brack. The painting is owned by the National Gallery of Victoria and you can find out more about this painting on the NGV website.

      • Why does Shaun Tan refer to this painting in his depiction of the city? How do the figures inspired by Collins Street, 5p.m. contribute to our understanding of the world where The Lost Thing story is set?

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    • When animating the city scene inspired by Collins Street, 5p.m., the CG supervisor Tom Bryant 're-purposed' a set of 8-10 basic characters. He was then able to re-use assets that had already been animated, simply by changing characters' hair or clothing.
      • Draw your own generic character using a digital program. And then - with as few changes as possible - add and take - away features to create a group of characters.
      • You might like to try adding your characters with those created by other students to make a crowd scene.

    Collins St 5Pm inspired still from The Lost Thing film

    © Passion Pictures Australia and Screen Australia

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    Lost Thing Boy