Director: Roger Ross Williams
A&E Television Networks, LLC/Madman Entertainment
Owen Suskind was a normal, happy kid. Until he was three. Almost overnight he seemed locked in, his development halted. A profound autism the diagnosis. He was bullied at school and became further locked in a world of his own; his sanctuary – Disney’s animated movies.
Based on the book that his Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist father (Ron Suskind) wrote, Life, Animated is the story of Owen’s attachment to Disney and to animation – eventually drawing cartoons himself, hosting conventions, founding a club of like-minded cartoon obsessives – and the breakthrough that occurs when an emotionally tapped father tries, in desperation, to connect with his locked-in son and inhabits the character of a puppet based on a cartoon character. The result: Owen speaks – for the first time in a long, long while. He tells his father he is lonely.
Life, Animated is a huge heart-story, what could seem devastating is uplifting, often humorous and full of a kindness and depth of human spirit.
It’s profound and beautiful and fascinating. Owen’s memory for Disney dialogue was explained away as mere mimicry – but it is a portal; it becomes the lifeline, his point of reconnection, his ‘place’ to live; his DVD collection the friends he needs, his version of a bookshelf or record collection or pen and paper…
Owen is funny and full of life and self-aware and his parents and brother are not merely worthy interview subjects they seem saintly in a way. Life, Animated is a joy.