‘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
The Devil’s in the Details of Vestron Video’s ‘Warlock Collection’ Blu-Ray

Lionsgate has been pretty steadily releasing remastered Blu-Ray collections of some...

Atomic Blonde
‘Atomic Blonde’ Kicks Ass When the Plot Gets Out of the Way

Veteran stuntman David Leitch started out behind the camera as a...

‘The Gifted’ Red Carpet Photos from SDCC 2017

We recently covered the Fox red carpet for the new X-Men...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
blade runner
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Atari Partners with NECA and Audiowear

Atari announced a partnership with leading action figure and collectibles maker...

atari
Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, and Handheld Prices Announced

AtGames announced pricing for its Fall 2017 lineup of classic gaming...

Sega Details Activities in New Yakuza Kiwami Trailer.

Sega released a new trailer showing of the various side activities...

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
viz
VIZ Media Announces New Manga and Literary Acquisitions At Anime Expo

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), a premier company in the fields of...

9.0/10
Supergirl Makes Contact in ‘Supergirl Being Super’

Title: Supergirl Being Super #4 Writer: Mariko Tamaki Artist: Joelle Jones...

9.0/10
Marvin Attacks!

Title: Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Writers: Steve Orlando and Frank J....

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
Alter Ego Release Groot and Deadpool for SDCC

From Alter Ego – Cary, NC: Florida based lifestyle accessories company,...

Hasbro SDCC2017
The Most Notorious Booth at Comic-Con, Hasbro SDCC17 Line-Up

Hasbro to Showcase Its Top Entertainment & Fan-Favorite Brands at the...

atgames
AtGames Announces Pre-order Date for New Atari 2600/Sega Genesis Consoles

AtGames announced that pre-orders will start on July 28th for the new Atari...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator MMA Signs Gegard Mousasi

From Bellator MMA – LOS ANGELES — Bellator MMA is proud...

New Japan Pro-Wrestling G1 Special Live from Long Beach, CA

July 1, 2017, Long Beach, CA – Tonight, for the first...

Bellator Announces Broadcast Duties For Historic Event At Madison Square Garden On Saturday, June 24

From Bellator MMA – LOS ANGELES – With the recently announced...

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...?
Comics on the Can: Schick Hydrobot and the Transformers

Written by John Barber, Pencils by Steve Kurth, Inks by Juan...

Star Wars Themed Lands Will be the Perfect Safe House for the Rebellion and the First Order

Disney’s D23 Expo has revealed a lot of what is to...

Paul Bottos, The Ultimate Mickey Mouse Collector

What makes a fan an ultimate collector? Is it the size...

Event News Event Reviews
Black Panther Custom 2018 Lexus LC
Lexus, Marvel Unveil Black Panther Custom 2018 Lexus LC @SDCC

From Lexus – SAN DIEGO (July 18, 2017) — Today, on the...

lezhin
Thousands Swarm Lezhin at Anime Expo

Multiple times per day at Anime Expo this year, the aisles...

Symbiosis
Shmaltz Brewing Releases the Collector’s Edition Star Trek Symbiosis Ale

SHMALTZ BREWING CELEBRATES THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF STAR TREK: THE NEXT...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
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....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Lahna Turner’s ‘Limeade’ is a Hilariously Haunting Comedy Album

Many people are roll their eyes at the idea of musical...

Prince’s ‘Deliverance’ Reminds Us of Who We Lost

On Friday, April 21st, it will be one year since we...

Sabroso Fest, How can you go Wrong with Beer, Tacos and Lucha Libre!?!(Photo Gallery)

The Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco and Music Festival sponsored by 95.5...