Life, Animated

At three years old, a chatty, energetic little boy named Owen Suskind ceased to speak, disappearing into autism with apparently no way out. Almost four years passed and the only stimuli that engaged Owen were Disney films. Then one day, his father donned a puppet—Iago, the wisecracking parrot from Aladdin—and asked “what’s it like to be you?” And poof! Owen replied, with dialogue from the movie. Life, Animated tells the remarkable story of how Owen found in Disney animation a pathway to language and a framework for making sense of the world.


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  • ★★★★ review by Jack Moulton on Letterboxd

    This is the happiest you'll ever be to see Gilbert Gottfried.

    It's low stakes and sentimental, but it's whole hearted and feels like a very full 90 minutes.

  • ★★★★ review by Ian Bulaclac on Letterboxd

    As someone that grew up autistic and loves movies, this documentary really feels like my life on screen. What makes this film really good is the way it shows how Owen uses Disney animated classics to teach him how to speak and learn about life. Also I like how it shows how film can really be an escape from the stresses life can be. Like for example when Owen breaks up with his girlfriend, he watches film like Bambi or Aladdin to comfort him. Plus it does a good job at showing the struggles of growing up being autistic which I can relate to since I've been there. 

    If there's any flaws, I would say it does feel like a typical biographical documentary which isn't too bad. Overall this is another solid documentary to add to the list of great documentaries we had in 2016.

  • ★★★½ review by Brad Boi on Letterboxd

    That was beautiful. My heart wants this to win Best Documentary at the Oscars.

  • ★★★★★ review by Gazelle Garcia on Letterboxd

    The most relatable film of the year is about a young man who learns to relate to the world around him through the magic of animated films.

    Owen was an expressive toddler who became a silent child. What he describes as the "fog" in his head is a life long challenge that is overcome by the love of his dedicated family and the exaggerated life on paper known as Disney animated features. His passion for WDA gave him the skills to adjust the way he communicates with people and how he understands himself. It's an incredible story about how these kinds of interests assist people with autism in such a huge way. The documentary follows Owen's transition into independent bachelorhood while retelling his incredible journey, like how Iago the parrot taught him how to escape the fog.

  • ★★★½ review by Glen Grunau on Letterboxd

    I’ve encountered a variety of autistic children and youth with a range of preoccupations that are a classic feature of this condition. But never before a preoccupation with Disney movies. 

    For Owen, his favourite Disney characters gave him the voice that his parents feared they would never hear.  Many of us as parents will remember watching these movies with our kids and perhaps even “meeting” some of these characters at Disneyland. But watching this documentary gave me a new appreciation for the contribution of Walt Disney to the children whose imaginations need to be awakened.

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