Owen Suskind was a boy of considerable promise, until he developed autism at the age of 3. As Owen withdrew into his silent state, his parents almost lost hope that he find some way to interact with his world in some meaningful way. However, that way was found through animated films, especially those of the Walt Disney Company, which provided Owen a way to understand the world through its stories to the point of creating his own. This film covers the life of Owen and how he manages to become as functional as possible with the help of Disney and his family to the point of having his own life. However, Owen soon learns as well that there is more to real life than what Disney can illustrate in animation even as his family prepares itself for an uncertain future with him.
Ron Suskind (based on the book by)
Shanti Avirgan (associate producer), Christopher Clements (co-producer), Robert DeBitetto (executive producer), Julie Goldman (producer), Carolyn Hepburn (co-producer), Sean Lyness (associate producer), Lindsay Richardson (associate producer), Rob Sharenow (executive producer), Ron Suskind (executive producer), Molly Thompson (executive producer)...
Director Roger Ross Williams shed light on the African evangelical invasion in 'God Loves Uganda'. Openly admitting he needed to do something a little more light-hearted for his next film, his latest documentary, 'Life, Animated', is an entirely different project.
At the age of 3, Owen Suskind completely shut off from the world and became unable to communicate. His parents soon discovered that he had autism and may never be able to speak again, heartbroken at the thought of how the relationship with their son they had dreamed of may never fully exist. After trying many tactics with professional help, suddenly Owen became able to communicate through Disney animated movies. The exaggerated character movements and expressions became a tool for Owen to learn his language skills and be able to communicate his emotions. Through the trials of growing up, Owen used scenes and moments from Disney movies, such as 'Aladdin', 'The Jungle Book', and 'The Little Mermaid' to gain an understanding of how to express himself in situations he will experience. It's a touching and at times comedic success story.
Now at the age of 23, Owen is an incredible human being and a banner example of someone who has gone far beyond what people expect from a person with a severe disability. While the film does take a little long to get the momentum going, Owen's story quickly becomes extremely compelling. What makes his story so interesting is that as a 23-year-old he is going through a lot of the same situations that anyone experiences: finishing school, moving away from home, relationships, etc. How he goes about it is entirely different, and takes a few more steps, but the general trajectory is entirely universal.
The Disney element of the story serves as a gateway for us to gain a better understanding of autism and those affected by it, similar to how Disney has helped Owen to understand the rest of the world. The filmmakers follow Owen through numerous obstacles he faces in life which serve as the primary source of drama. Fortunately, he is such an engaging and charismatic protagonist that his life events are heart-warming and at times hilarious as well. The film successfully widens the understanding of an often mysterious mental state that so many people are affected by. Occasionally, top-tier documentaries can forgo the need to deliver a major message or inspire societal change in exchange for telling us a great human story, and giving us a broader understanding of the human condition: 'Life, Animated' is such a film.
Alan Rosenblatt: The image of autism in the early 90's was not terribly flattering.
Although the film was never made by Disney, it involves Disney in it.
Nominated for Oscar. Another 16 wins & 23 nominations
Academy Awards, USA • Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival • Annie Awards • Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) • Black Reel Awards • Boston International Kids Film Festival • Budapest International Documentary Festival • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards • Cinema Eye Honors Awards, US • Critics Choice Documentary Awards • deadCenter Film Festival • Detroit Film Critics Society, US • Directors Guild of America, USA • Docville • Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards • Florida Film Critics Circle Awards • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival • Hawaii Film Critics Society • Heartland Film • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival • London Critics Circle Film Awards • Master of Art Film Festival • Melbourne International Film Festival • Nantucket Film Festival • National Board of Review, USA • North Carolina Film Critics Association • Online Film & Television Association • PGA Awards • San Francisco International Film Festival • Satellite Awards • Seattle International Film Festival • Stockholm Film Festival • Sundance Film Festival
Life, Animated: Die fantastische Welt eines Autisten (Germany (long new title)) • Drengen der stoppede med at tale (Denmark) • Vida animada (Spain) • Animoitu elämä (Finland (TV title)) • Life, Animated (Finland) • Livstecken (Finland (TV title) (Swedish title); Sweden (TV title)) • Life, animated (Italy (literal title)) • Życie animowane (Poland) • Анимированная жизнь (Russia)
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