Saturday, April 7, 2018

Where do the brains go when they drain out of Malaysia? That's right, Down Under!

The Lost Thing, which took over three years to create, is a 15-minute fable about a boy in Melbourne who, while collecting bottle caps near a beach, discovers a strange creature that seems to be a combination of an industrial boiler, a crab and an octopus.

The son of a Malaysian-Chinese father and an Anglo-Irish mother, Tan, 37, came to filmmaking after a career as an award-winning author and illustrator.

The Lost Thing, originally the story of a lost pet, was written by Tan in 1999 "on the kitchen table of a share house." He says the deadpan lead character is partially based on himself as a teenager.

That teenager was once interested in becoming a genetic scientist, and studied chemistry and physics as well as continuing a childhood interest in drawing and science fiction, before studying literature and art history at the University of Western Australia.

Despite moving to Melbourne in 2007, Brunswick resident Tan remains strongly tied to the west, where he grew up, inaugurating The Shaun Tan Award for Young Artists, (for shcoolchildren aged between five and 17 years) which sponsored by the City of Subiaco. A mural he painted adorns 20 square metres of the wall at the Subiaco Public Library.

Andrew Ruhemann, owner and producer of Passion Pictures, worked as a producer at Richard Williams Studios, which made the animated feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He said he was "immediately drawn" to the book of The Lost Thing when he encountered it at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

[Read the rest here.]

Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan with their Oscars
Interview with 2011 short film Oscar-winner Shaun Tan

The 2011 Oscars have awarded The Lost Thing as the Best Animated Short. Check out the full interview with talented filmmakers Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan who reveal how they made the film happen and the journey they took from illustration to CG animation.

Congratulations. When did you first write this and how long was this in the making from when you mentioned it to when it actually made the screen?

[Tan] Okay. I originally wrote this story in, I think, 1998. I was an unemployed illustrator. I wrote it on the kitchen table of my share house. Worked on it for a year. Developed it as a picture book, which was then published in Melbourne in the year 2000. Shortly afterward, it was exhibited in an international book fair in Italy, which is where Andrew came across the story. And we began discussions about developing it as an animated film at that point. So, the whole project for me has spanned, I guess, some 13 years.

So, you originally started as an illustrator. How was that going into animation? CG animation nonetheless?

[Tan] Well, I started off as an illustrator with absolutely no formal training aside from high school. And so, when Andrew originally approached me and suggested adapting this for animation, my first reaction was I am not a filmmaker and secondly, (inaudible) and I still managed to do other stuff as an artist. And so, I basically just asked everybody I knew in the film industry about animation, and I started studying handbooks. And also, Andrew came down to both Melbourne and Perth and Western Australia, and we had very intensive story boarding sessions and, I guess, part of that was actually a degree of mentorship. You were explaining to me narrative flow in pictures. I was already working in that in illustrated stories, but film is obviously a different animal and I guess, if anything, it helps me bridge that gap.

This is another win for Australia, this category. What do you think is going on down there in the animation business?

[Tan] You know, it’s not just animation. As an illustrator, I know it’s in the world of children books (inaudible). It’s something to do with the fact that we don’t have any existing tradition. Something like that. And we experiment. And we go a little crazy. And a lot of our projects are very small. And our project was extremely small as well. And both Andrew and our producer, it’s basically just two other guys. It’s one animator (which is very unusual for even a short animated film) Leo Baker, and one digital artist, Tom Bryant. The three of us; myself, Tom, Leo, we did all the visuals that you see in the whole film over a period of three and a half years. With very little outside intervention or anybody to come in and say, no, it should be like this, it should be like that. We just thought this looks right to us, we will just give it a go, and we thought it worked, and obviously it’s working for other people now, too.

THE MIGRANT'S EYE ~ by Shaun Tan 
(Note: This essay is by a different Shaun Tan, not the creator of The Lost Thing)

[First posted 20 December 2011]