Documentary by Roger Ross Williams
I love Disney movies. Not like a "oh sure, they're cute, but I'm too old for that"- kind of way. I love Disney movies and still watch them on a regular basis. They make me feel real emotions on a basic level. They cheer me up when I'm sad and make me laugh out loud when I'm happy. So I completely understand how a young man who is unable to communicate normally could use Disney movies to make sense of his world. This is exactly the story Academy Award Winner Roger Ross Williams is telling in Life, Animated.
This film tells the story of Owen Suskind, who as a child inexplicably wasn't able to talk or communicate his thoughts and desires with others. He wouldn't respond to treatments, but he would respond to Disney movies. His parents realized that he was able to communicate by emulating what he saw on the screen. The first conversation Ron Suskind, Owen's father (who wrote the book, which this film is based on), had with his son was by using puppet from the Disney movie Aladdin. Owen talked to the puppet, because he considered it a friend he knew from the film he had watched so many times. Slowly Owen began to learn more complexities of social behavior through the stories he watched. He learned about loss through Bambi, heartbreak through The Little Mermaid and the feelings of being bullied through The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The film mostly explores his life as a young adult and how Owen deals with normal day-to-day tasks like finding a job and moving out of his parents’ house. It shows how his life hasn't always been easy and continues to offer plenty of hardships, but despite that, Owen has figured out his unique solution for making sense of it all.
Even if it seems odd or silly to reference Disney movies to make sense of the world, he's not the only one who responds positively to this "treatment". Owen actually has started a club, where he watches Disney movies with others who also struggle to communicate. He was asked to speak in public about his unique way of looking at the world in order to help and encourage others to explore possibilities that might seem odd or different.
This coming of age story is not only touching and inspiring, but it makes the audience remember what it's like to be a child again and to be able to feel those pure emotions and believe that everything will be okay.