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The logo for The Federal Department of Odds and Ends, a flying pig Courtesy Lothian Books/Hachette
  • The Federal Department of Odds and Ends

    Part of the Shaun Tan Education Resource.

    Introduction

    When creating the Federal Department of Odds and Ends, Shaun Tan had to find a balance between the surreal and the ordinary.

    If everything is too ordinary, people stop paying attention to some extent; they stop asking questions about what's going on... Whereas if you make it a little bit weird and you exaggerate some features, suddenly people realise the slight absurdity of some bureaucratic processes.
    A new level of bureucracy, a look at the Federal Department of Odds and Ends

    A new level of bureucracy, a look at the Federal Department of Odds and Ends.

    In this module: Respond  |  Reflect  |  Explore  |  Create


    Respond

    • Describe the key visual features of the Federal Department of Odds and Ends.
      • What are some of the exaggerated features of the Federal Department of Odds and Ends?
      • What do you think Tan might be trying to get you to notice or think about by exaggerating these features?
      • What is the connection between the Federal Department of Odds and Ends and the lines of people heading to work in the preceding image/scene?

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    Reflect

    • Describe the little grey creature who tugs at the boy.
      • What is its role in the story?
      • Why is it so keen to help the lost thing?
      • Why do you think it has not followed the signs to the world of lost things?
    • Every sound in an animated story has to be created from scratch.
      • How does sound contribute to the story in the scene set in the Federal Department of Odds and Ends?
      • Consider this still image of the Federal Department of Odds and Ends from the film. List 10 Foley sounds that would help bring this image to life? (Think about sounds you would use to convey isolation, the inhumanity of bureaucracy or the feeling lost?)
    • What do you think of the entire soundscape of the film?
      • Try watching a section of the animation with the sound turned off and the subtitles on and then watch it again with sound. Explain what the sound, music and/or voiceover contribute to the story.
      • How does the sound in the film match up with the sounds of the world you imagined while reading the book?

    The boy and the lost thing stand in front of a towering robotic filing cabinet

    © Passion Pictures Australia and Screen Australia

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    Explore

    • Find out more about the meaning and function of bureaucracy and consider why certain kinds of bureaucracy are described as 'absurd', 'soulless' and 'inhuman'. You might like to start with the discussion of Franz Kafka's The Trial on Shmoop.
      • Why do you think systems originally designed to be efficient and rational sometimes end up inefficient and absurd?
      • Do you have any personal experience of bureaucratic absurdity - maybe an experience at school, or trying to get your laptop fixed or trying to get a concession travel pass? Explain.

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    Create

    • Imagine you work at the Federal Department of Odds and Ends. Write a job description for yourself.
    • The Federal Department of Odds and Ends creates the feeling of isolation, authority and lifelessness, yet is still a place of employment for humans.
      • Imagine what an office function at the Federal Department of Odds and Ends (i.e. a Christmas party) might be like.
      • Draw or write a description that communicates the absurdity and inhumanity of this world.
    • Create your own logo in the style of the logo of the Federal Department of Odds and Ends. You can either create a logo for an unimaginative world like the one we discover in The Lost Thing, or you can imagine a completely different kind of world.
      • What is the name of your department?
      • What kind of world does it exist in?
      • What is your motto?
      • Why have you designed the logo in the style you have chosen?

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    Lost Thing Boy