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Movie Review: LIFE, ANIMATED Documents Power of Disney Animation for Young Autistic Man
July 14, 2016 Entertainment

A couple of years ago a story and viral video told how a family re-connected with their autistic son through animated Disney movies.  LIFE ANIMATED is the uplifting documentary film about Owen Suskind, a young man with autism who suddenly lost the ability to speak at age 3, and how his family learned to communicate with him again via classic animated Disney films.  Winner of multiple film festival awards (including Sundance’s best directing for a U.S. documentary), Academy Award winning director Roger Ross Williams weaves together Disney clips, original animation, and documentary filmmaking to tell Owen’s inspiring story in LIFE, ANIMATED.

LIFE ANIMATED

Owen Suskind in LIFE, ANIMATED © 2016 Life Animated Doc LLC. All rights reserved

Owen Suskind is the son of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia, and the film is based on Ron Suskind’s memoir Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism.  Director Roger Ross Williams follows Owen at a critical period in his life as he graduates from school and takes his first steps towards living on his own independently.  LIFE, ANIMATED is a refreshing film in our current environment of unrest and reminds us to embrace the differences that make us all unique.  In addition, Owen Suskind forces us to rethink our assumptions about those with autism as he reveals his own truths about autistic people.

LIFE ANIMATED

LIFE, ANIMATED makes heavy use of clips from animated Disney films, as Owen’s Disney passion for and repeated viewings of The Little MermaidThe Lion King, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and more allowed him to find the tools to understand complex social situations and re-connect with his family and the broader world.  Through using a puppet of Iago (the sidekick red bird from Aladdin), Owen’s father Ron finally engaged in a conversation with his son after many years and learned just how alone Owen felt.  The Suskind family eventually befriended Aladdin’s Jonathan Freeman (original film voice of Jafar and currently portraying Jafar in Aladdin on Broadway) who makes a cameo in LIFE, ANIMATED along with Gilbert Gottfried (voice of Iago).  Gottfried was surprised to learn that his character Iago was Owen Suskind’s first friend.

Life Animated

Original animated scene from LIFE, ANIMATED © 2016 Life Animated Doc LLC. All rights reserved

While LIFE, ANIMATED uses Disney clips and original animation, audiences should not necessarily think this is a light-hearted animated film wrapped in a neat package with a happy ending.  Instead LIFE, ANIMATED is a documentary news story, and, to quote Baymax (the inflatable white health robot from Disney’s Big Hero 6), “I am not fast.”  LIFE, ANIMATED is a slow-moving thoughtful documentary film that takes its time to reveal its story and revelations.  Similarly, as life is not a Disney movie, Owen, like Scar from The Lion King, discovers along his journey that “life’s not fair” and there will be hardship, pain, and suffering along his path.

LIFE ANIMATED

Original animated scene from LIFE, ANIMATED © 2016 Life Animated Doc LLC. All rights reserved

 

LIFE, ANIMATED runs 91 minutes and is currently playing in select theaters across the country.  Click here for the complete list of cities, theaters, and dates.  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

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