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The boy and the lost thing cast ominous shadows in a surreal city landscape Courtesy Lothian Books/Hachette
  • The Lost Thing

    Part of the Shaun Tan Education Resource.


    The lost thing is a very odd-looking character that doesn’t have the conventional appeal associated with the cute, large-eyed creatures that are a feature of many animated stories. When the time came to animate this large creature with a metal carapace, large claws and no real eyes, the animators chose to use movement to emphasise its gentle personality.

    An interview with Shaun Tan about brining the Lost Thing to life through animation

    Shaun Tan and the production team talk about adapting the Lost Thing character from an illustration into a three dimensional animation. 

    In this module: Respond  |  Reflect  |  Explore  |  Create


    • What was your response to the lost thing character in the animation?
      • Did you find the character appealing?
      • What is it about the character that you found appealing? Explain providing specific examples.
      • What did the animators do to achieve this effect?
    • Watch the video below of Shaun Tan sketching the lost thing and listen to the artist describe the different elements of the character.
      • List the different things that inspired Shaun Tan's design of the lost thing.
      • What advice does Shaun Tan give about designing a character for animation?
    Shaun Tab draws the Lost Thing

    Shaun Tan draws the Lost Thing.

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    • Many stories are told about outsiders who don’t fit in.
      • What are some of the ways the lost thing is represented as an outsider in the book and then in the animation?
    • Even though the lost thing has a body like an army tank, we perceive it as something that needs to be looked after.
      • How have the animators managed to suggest that this large rusty creature is defenceless and in need of protection?
      • How important is the lost thing’s walking movements in communicating its vulnerability?

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    • Initially when designing the sound of the lost thing, sound designer John Kassab, tried to match sounds to the creature’s movements and discovered that he had created a ‘metal calamity‘.
      • The approach Kassab decided upon was based on the idea that ‘less is more’. Describe what he means by focusing on a specific scene in the film.
      • Describe the sounds that accompany the lost thing’s movements.
      • How do sound and music affect our response to the lost thing?

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    • Foley sound effects are recorded sounds that work with the visuals to tell the story.
      • Film, or if you have the time and patience, animate a short scene. Record a series of sound effects on a mobile device. Drop film and sound assets into a film editing program such as Movie Maker or iMovie and use your sounds to help tell the story.

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    Lost Thing Boy