From Academy Award® winning director Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. This emotional coming-of-age story follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence.
“An incredibly personal story, with unique insights into the minds of people with autism and people without autism, Life, Animated won over the hearts of our jury as they unanimously voted to give it our Truly Moving Picture Award,” said Heartland Film Artistic Director Tim Irwin.
The subject of his father Ron Suskind’s New York Times bestseller, Owen was a thriving three year old who suddenly and inexplicably went silent – and for years after remained unable to connect with other people or to convey his thoughts, feelings or desires. Over time, through repeated viewings of Disney classics like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, Owen found useful tools to help him to understand complex social cues and to re-connect with the world around him.
Life, Animated evocatively interweaves classic Disney sequences with verite scenes from Owen’s life in order to explore how his identification and empathy for characters like Simba, Jafar, and Ariel gave him a means to understand his feelings and allowed him to interpret reality. Beautiful, original animations offer rich insights into Owen’s fruitful dialogue with the Disney oeuvre as he imagines himself heroically facing adversity as a member in a tribe of sidekicks.
“I initially met Owen when he was very young, but only briefly. I already knew that the Suskinds were a remarkable family, but I didn’t know what to expect going into this project,” said Director Roger Ross Williams. “I came in with my own feelings of being uncomfortable, but that soon changed. The great thing about making documentaries is that you have the luxury of time, and I got to know Owen over time. My perceptions changed greatly. I’m a dreamer myself, as well as a storyteller. And no one loves the transformative potential of story more than Owen Suskind. He understands the beauty of a story or fable in a way that was very inspiring for a filmmaker.”
Owen’s story is a moving testament to the many ways in which stories can serve as a means of persevering through the dark times, leading us all toward the light.
Life, Animated hits select theaters nationwide on July 1. The film will begin playing in Indianapolis at Landmark Keystone Art Cinema on Friday, August 5.