Disclosure: I was provided press materials for Life, Animated, and have been invited to screen the documentary.
Owen Suskind was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. For years, he couldn’t communicate with his loved ones, until the magic of Disney movies created a means by which he could express his feelings, thoughts and desires. Life, Animated is a documentary inspired by the book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, written by Owen’s dad Ron Suskind. The documentary explores Owen’s childhood, from his diagnosis, to his use of Disney films as tools of expression, to his journey into adulthood and independence.
I’ve seen the trailer for Life, Animated several times, and every time it brings tears to my eyes. I know so many children who have been diagnosed with autism, and this film gives hope that they too can communicate in their own way, and grow up to have meaningful lives in unexpected ways. I’m very much looking forward to watching this extraordinary film. Life, Animated is currently screening in New York and California, and will hit theaters across the country during the coming weeks. Click here to find a theater near you.
From Academy Award® winning director Roger Ross Williams, LIFE, ANIMATED is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. This emotional coming-of-age story follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence. The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three year old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent – and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires. Over time, through repeated viewings of Disney classics like THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING, Owen found useful tools to help him to understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him. LIFE, ANIMATED evocatively interweaves classic Disney sequences with verite scenes from Owen’s life in order to explore how his identification and empathy for characters like Simba, Jafar, and Ariel gave him a means to understand his feelings and allowed him to interpret reality. Beautiful, original animations offer rich insights into Owen’s fruitful dialogue with the Disney oeuvre as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks. Owen’s story is a moving testament to the many ways in which stories can serve as a means of persevering through the dark times, leading us all toward the light.