Lost & Found, directed by Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe, is a simple yet poignant stop-motion tale of love and the sacrifices it demands from people, or in this case, from a crochet t-rex and fox. The two animals are in love, and once the fox gets itself in deep waters (literally), t-rex must race against time and pull some strings (literally) to save her. For such a brief plot-line, it does say a lot about willpower and commitment in an era where it seems almost extinct.
Throughout the film, the audience is given no choice but to root for the characters. The use of facial expressions and body language is undeniably scarce, but that is not important. We connect with the characters on a deeper level, on an intimate level because their struggles really come across clearly.
Although the characters are fascinating, the heart of the story lies (as it rightfully should) in their actions. The t-rex, seeing his love in need, embarks on an extended action sequence that encapsulates the meaning of the film as a whole; it is beautifully constructed and carries with it so many unspoken things about sacrifices in a relationship. When you think about it, it is truly fascinating how animated crochet puppets portray the hardships in romantic relationships that most humans avoid talking about.
The film is a typical crowd-pleaser but with an ending that makes it stand out from your classical Pixar shorts. The film’s melancholy is apparent in its bittersweet resolution and is deeply rooted in the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, which celebrates the impermanence and imperfection of life, and constructs its meaning through an “acceptance of transience and imperfection”. This helps establish the hopeful yet elegiac tone of the film, seen both in the culmination of the story and the development of the characters.
The film is set in a life-size sushi restaurant that was especially constructed from scratch for the purposes of the film. In practice, the set allowed for the camera to employ techniques very uncommon and rare to the stop-motion form. The use of the dolly effect and they play on incredibly shallow depth of fields elevate the film’s aesthetic qualities and, to an extent, help externalise character development as well.
The level of detail is jaw-droppingly impressive. Yes, every stop-motion animated film seems to receive praise for the amount of time and thought that goes into comprising the details, as this subgenre demands, but Lost & Found just pushed that bar a little bit higher.
From the fox’s wet feet as they touch the ground, to the subtle water splashes and waves, every single frame helps set a new standard, not to mention the impeccably well-crafted crochet animals from artist Julie Ramsden. The water splashes (as well as every other element of the film) was hand animated by Samuel Lewis, the project’s lead animator. To achieve the delightful texture of the water, hat-warped acetate, bubble wrap, hair gel and personal lubricant were used in order for the subtleties in the water changes to remain rigid long enough to capture the desired frames. If these details fascinate you, do check out the film’s behind the scenes video available here.
There is no doubt that Lost & Found is an incredibly simple story (and at its core, old-fashioned), but it rightfully gains admiration through the way it is executed and the philosophy it is rooted in. Lost & Found has had a very successful festival run, including a win at the Australian Academy Awards and is now shortlisted for Best Animated Short Film at the Oscar. The film is now available to stream online on its website.