Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From book to film

The Lost Thing, © Passion Pictures Australia & Screen Australia.From never-before-seen original paintings, working drawings, production footage and behind the scenes interviews with the team who created the picture book and turned it into an Oscar winning short film, Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From book to film is currently on display at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Exploring the process of what it takes to turn a picture book into an animated film, this exhibition tells a story in two parts: firstly, Shaun’s exquisite original sketches, collages and finished paintings show how he developed the storyline and visual style for the original picture book.

Secondly, Shaun and the team from Passion Pictures Australia reveal how they developed the picture book into a short animated film, which went on to win the Oscar® for Best Animated Short Film in 2011.

Starting life in 1999 as an idea sketched at Shaun’s kitchen table, the picture book The Lost Thing tells the story of a boy who befriends an unusual creature who just doesn’t seem to belong anywhere.

Together, they search through a city dominated by bureaucracy, looking for answers, but are met by indifference at every turn. Largely illustrative with minimal text The Lost Thing is layered with resonant observations about the environment, technology and childhood, making this a story for all ages.

Turning the book into a film was a natural progression for Shaun as he saw the images in the book as ‘stills from an imaginary film’ – it presented an opportunity to expand upon key scenes, not only by adding motion and sound, but also visual content, adding further subtle layers of meaning and feeling.

From a 32 page picture book, this modern fable now exists as a 15 minute film comprising of 74 individual characters and 22 computer generated sets and a complex and subtle sound design.

“I can’t think of a better way to look into the painstaking work that goes into making an animated film than through the lens of Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing” says ACMI Director Tony Sweeney.

“Shaun’s distinctive illustrative style coupled with unique storytelling provides the perfect focus for making stunning animated films. To see the creative process is truly fascinating and makes the end product all the more extraordinary.”

Shaun explains “It’s such a terrific privilege to be involved with a new exhibition that looks behind the scenes of my own story, The Lost Thing.”

“As an artist and writer, the first thing I learnt about short animation is that it’s anything but short! It’s been a fascinating journey of collaborative dreaming and technical problem-solving spanning ten years, the materials of which have been since stored away in drawers, shoe boxes and hard-drives; yet are no less interesting than the final film.”

“It’s with great pleasure that our creative team and the staff at ACMI can together present this work to the public, as something to both inform and inspire anyone out there who feels they might be an artist in search of a ‘lost thing’.”

Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From book to film
Gallery 2 – Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne
Exhibition continues to 19 January 2014
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: a still from Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing – © Passion Pictures Australia and Screen Australia.