‘Life, Animated’ is a Joyous Documentary About the Transcendent Power of Movies

life-animated-001

It can be easy to be cynical towards Disney. The behemoth of children’s entertainment has made an imprint on our culture landscape, and the gigantic corporation seems to swallow up certain aspects of our culture in order to churn out cheap plastic trinkets, video games, and movie-themed rides at their amusement parks. But there’s a genuine connection that people make to the animated world of Walt Disney, and people of all ages carry that connection with them for most of their lives. One individual who identified with the anthropomorphic characters of Disney’s animated films is Owen Suskind, an autistic man in his early 20 who has spent his life bonding with Disney movies. His story is documented in the new film Life, Animated, which explores Owen’s life in a moment of transition and how his connection to Disney gave him and his family hope even during the most trying of times.

Owen’s young life isn’t that different than the lives of many other children. He laughed. He played. He was the apple of his parents’ eyes. Then at the age of 3, Owen suffered problems with his speech and motor functions. He was diagnosed as autistic. Years passed and his dear parents Ron and Cornelia Suskind saw no improvement in their young son. Specialists and doctors gave them no new answers, and their hearts sank when faced with the sad realization that their son may be beyond help. One day, the young Owen began to speak to his father, trying to a form a sentence despite the difficulty with pronunciation. It was then that they realized that Owen was trying to speak a line of dialogue form Aladdin, the early ‘90s animated cartoon. Over time, Owen was able to gain communication skills from Disney movies and narratives of the films gave him understanding as to the nature of the world.

At 23, Owen is ready to leave his life at home and venture out on his own. He’s about to graduate from his school and move into his own apartment nearly 70 miles from his parents’ home. Owen is about to step out into an unknown world yet always retains the comfort of the Disney animated movies, even when his girlfriend of three years dumps him. Despite all of his struggles, Owen strives for normalcy and friendships. He’s even given the opportunity to speak at a conference on autism in Rennes, France.

The film by director Roger Ross Williams takes its inspiration from the book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism by Ron Suskind. One of the most interesting aspects of Owen’s story is how he bonded closest with the sidekicks of the Disney movies, even going as far to write his own story The Land of the Lost Sidekicks which appears in animated form in the movie. In the story Owen injects a sense of autobiography as he cavorts with his favorite animated sidekicks. Always feeling an outcast, Owen doesn’t view himself as the leading man in any of the Disney films which he loves, so he crafted his own story of sidekicks where he could emerge as the hero. As with much of the film, it really has the ability to tug on the heart strings.

Life, Animated doesn’t always tell its story in the most cinematic of fashion, but those deficiencies are obscured by the charismatic, lovable Owen. When the camera peers upon him watching a movie, mouthing every word of dialogue in sync, the joy in his eyes leaps through the screen and it’s impossible not to revel in the his visceral excitement. One of the most entertaining parts of the film is when Jonathan Freeman and Gilbert Gottfried (voices of the villainous Jafar and Iago in Aladdin) make an appearance at the Disney club that Owen has organized. There’s just something so amusing and heartwarming about this young man being beyond thrilled at the chance to meet Gilbert Gottfried, and the legendary comedian feeds off Owen’s joyous aura and freely riffs zingers. It’s moments like these that make Life, Animated a worthwhile viewing experience.

When it seems that the public discussion concerning autism is typically relegated to the nonsensical debate over vaccines, a film like Life, Animated is welcome addition to the discussion. This isn’t a movie that tries to peddle pseudoscience or answers to questions that have no solutions. Here is a movie that is about love, compassion, and the power of the movies. It’s impossible not to well up a little bit at some of the film’s more trying moments and impossible not to laugh and smile at its more joyous ones. It doesn’t matter if you love the animated films of Disney or see them as crude pieces of profiteering, when you see what these movies do to buoy the soul of Owen Suskind, they’ve proved their value is beyond the bottom line.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Good Place Review
Thursday Is Once a Again a Good Place for NBC – The Good Place Review

The Good Place returned “Must See TV” Magic to Thursdays at...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ is Really Big, Really Dumb, Really Fun

There’s no other movie star who has retained their improbable rise...

Clean Slate Review
A Special New Year Treat, Fresh Off the Boat 312 Clean Slate Review

A special Chinese New Year episode filled with American Culture – Fresh...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
9.7/10
The Walking Dead A New Frontier: The Ties That Bind Review

The greatest connected story in gaming – Telltale Games’ The Walking...

Yakuza 0 Review
7.3/10
An Epic Japanese Crime Story – Yakuza 0 Review [PS4]

The Yakuza series has been around since 2006 and have grown...

Atelier Shallie Plus now available for Playstation Vita

Koei Tecmo have just released the latest installment in the Atelier...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
naruto
Viz Media Announces New Partners for Naruto

VIZ Media continues to expand consumer product licenses for its hit...

one-punch man
Viz Media, Funko, and ThreeZero Collaborate for One-Punch Man

VIZ Media continues to generate momentum for its smash hit anime...

kitsu
VIZ Media Invests In Anime Start-Up Company KITSU

Kitsu, a startup changing the way the community experiences anime, announced...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
WrestleMania Crate
Loot Crate’s Slam Crate’s Road to WrestleMania Crate

Get ready for the biggest event in World Wrestling Entertainment with...

one-punch man
Viz Media, Funko, and ThreeZero Collaborate for One-Punch Man

VIZ Media continues to generate momentum for its smash hit anime...

Dok Talk CR25
The Dok Talk CR25 Voice Activated 5 Device Charger

Cut the mess, the stress, and impress with The Dok Talk...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Combate Americas Appoints Finance & Sports Industry Leader as Chairman

From Combate Americas – NEW YORK, January 11 — Combate Americas,...

Lucha Underground, ‘Evil Rising’ Airs Wednesday, January 4 on El Rey Network

Johnny Mundo and The Mack face off in their most intense...

Combate Americas Announces Four Fights for the Mexico City January 19

From Combate Americas – NEW YORK – January 3, 2017 –...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
New Year’s Resolution Begins with ‘Country Heat’ Days 5, 6 & 8

Days 5 & 6: No, I didn’t forget to do days...

Cultural Junkdrawer – Pop Culture Resolutions for 2017

Hey, 2017, new year, new you?!?! The starting days of any...

New Year’s Resolution Begins with ‘Country Heat’ Day 4

Day 4: It has gone from leg pain to ab pain...

Event News Event Reviews
Santa Makes Phone Calls in Time for Christmas

NORTH POLE, Alaska, Dec. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — With just days to...

The 2016 2nd Annual Great American Comic Convention

  This past weekend, Las Vegas, NV hosted the 2nd Annual...

Bluefin Concludes 2016 with a Special Year-End Warehouse Holiday Sale

Bluefin Concludes 2016 with a Special Year-End Warehouse Holiday Sale Come...

Gaming Uncensored Growing Up Geek The Popcorn Podcast Toon-In-Talk
Popcorn Podcast Presents: Nintendo Switch Commentary

On this special episode of the Popcorn Podcast Chad, Izola and...

Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con: Interview w/ Sonya Belousova

At last month’s Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con event, I had...

Mike Hill Bass Lives for ‘Love and War’

Love and War is a pop rock collaborative project that is...

Sheena Easton Headlines Concert for Survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury

PALM SPRINGS, Calif., Oct. 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — The Neuro Vitality Center...