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Creatures play on a swing in a surreal landscape © Passion Pictures Australia and Screen Australia
  • Utopia

    Part of the Shaun Tan Education Resource.


    When talking about The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan calls the world of the lost things Utopia. A utopia is an ideal or perfect society.

    A look at the world of Utopia

    Shaun Tan talks about creating an animated utopia as well as the familiar and unfamiliar in this make-believe place. 

    In this module: Respond  |  Reflect  |  Explore  |  Create


    • Creating the animated world of lost things was one of the greatest challenges faced by the animation team. As well as making the creatures depicted in the book three dimensional and animating them, Tan designed many new lost things.
      • Describe your response to the animated world of the lost things.
      • How does this animated world compare with the single page represented in the book? What are the similarities and what are the differences?

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    • In describing the decisions made about the music for the film, Michael Yezerski, the composer, explains that in the Utopia scene, he had to decide between drawing attention to the oddness of the characters in this world or focusing on the story. It was decided that the music be designed in such a way that the 'audience felt the conclusion of the story'.
      • How can music make viewers 'feel' a conclusion? What music elements did Yezerski introduce to create this emotional effect in The Lost Thing?
      • List some other films or animations where the music adds to the sense that the story has reached a satisfying or heartfelt conclusion.
      • What happens to the music as the door closes after the boy and the lost thing have said goodbye?
    • What is the emotional effect on the viewer of the final scene in which we see the boy grown up? Some people argue that the animation should have left the viewer in the world of the lost things, rather than bringing them 'back down to earth'.
      • What do you think?
      • What does the concluding scene add to the story?
    Shaun Tan speaks about storytelling and endings

    Shaun Tan talks about different types of endings. 

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    • Visit Shaun Tan's website and the website for The Lost Thing to see Shaun Tan's designs for the creatures that populate the world of lost things.
      • Focus on a particular creature and describe Shaun Tan's drawing style.
    • Most of Shaun Tan's work is signed - even his preliminary sketches.
      • Why do you think this is the case?
      • Why is it important for an artist to keep his/her name on their work?
      • Is this more of a challenge for people creating in a digital field?
    A look at Shaun Tan's workspace

    A look at Shaun Tan's work environment through the prism of the boy's home from The Lost Thing

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    • Imagine you are creating an exhibition for The Lost Thing. How would you design a section on Utopia, the world of lost things? Watch this video that describes the exhibition Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing: From Book To Film for some ideas.
    • In a style and artform of your choice, make a fantasy world filled with remarkable creatures.

    A look at the Utopia gallery space. 

    A video clip of children creating their own version of Utopia through cutout animation techniques

    Animating Utopia at the Rockhampton Art Gallery. 

    Gallery of Utopia

    As part of Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From book to film, ACMI tapped into the public’s creative talent by inviting drawings of original ‘Lost Things’ from the minds of all who have been inspired by Shaun Tan’s work.

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    Lost Thing Boy