Life, Animated looks at the life of Owen Suskind (below), a young man with autism who has only been able to make sense of the everything through the animated films from Disney, since he otherwise was unable to effectively communicate with the outside world.
Over the course of this documentary, we learn how these have become a kind of obsession, and at one point see him happily shouting along to them, but there’s an odd choice of direction in that scene, as while he’s meant to be voicing the lines along with the film directly, you see him staring right back at you – rather like one of the current BBC idents – which came across as really jarring.
Conversely, there are times when the Disney clips are used to echo moments in his own life, rather like the ’90s TV series Dream On.
Along the way, we see his family, his girlfriend Emily, Owen moving into his own place in sheltered accommodation – which is pretty huge – and quickly setting up his Disney VHS video rack, as well as applying for a job. However, on the downside, his brother is very concerned that once another 20 years pass by, not only may his parents have passed away – or will be requiring help with care at that time, but also Owen will likely have passed away, due to his condition.
Mixing in meeting Disney star Gilbert Gottfried, plus using some new animation to show Owen’s life, I get that he was a silent child for some time before Disney opened up his ability to communicate more with others, but overall, Life, Animated was rather uneven and didn’t wholly work for me as a documentary.
Note: This review is just for the film only, but the DVD also contains the following extras:
- Five deleted scenes
- Short film: Land of the Lost Sidekicks (6 mins)
- Theatrical trailer
- Educational Resource
- Audio commentary with the Suskind family
Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: Dogwoof Pictures
Released: January 30th 2017
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Producers: Julie Goldman and Roger Ross Williams
Screenplay: Ron Suskind (based on his book)
Music: T Griffin and Dylan Stark