Hot Docs 2016: Life, Animated

The story of a man with autism who learned to communicate through Disney films is told in Life, Animated. At the age of three, Owen Suskind lost the ability to communicate, with his parents finding out that he has a pervasive developmental disorder caused by autism. Owen’s family feared that he would never speak again, but quickly found out that they could communicate with Owen through the Disney animated films he loves watching. Now in his twenties, Owen is preparing to live on his own for the first time.

Directed by Academy Award winning director Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated is a documentary based on the book by the same name, written by Owen Suskind’s father Ross. The film is very touching story about how a love of Disney films helped improve the communication skills of this young man with autism, with the film featuring multiple Disney clips, relating to moments in Owen’s life. Owen specifically has a love of the sidekicks of Disney films and Life, Animated features a beautifully animated version of a short story Owen wrote about how he is destined to protect the sidekicks.

Life, Animated does the dual task of telling the story of Owen Suskind’s challenging childhood, while also showing Owen’s attempts at living on his own at an Assisted Living Community. There are some heartbreakingly sad moments in this film, with the emotions being compounded by equally sad Disney clips. However, Life, Animated ends up overall being a very inspirational story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism.

9 / 10 stars

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).