The extraordinary documentary, LIFE, ANIMATED, is not a Disney picture but what an endorsement of the Mouse House, nonetheless.

Owen Suskind is an autistic man who emerged from years of silence and withdrawal as a child after immersing himself in Disney animated features.

The title of the film takes its cue from Owen’s father, Ron Suskind’s book, Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, and certainly the film’s writer director, Academy Award Winner, Roger Ross Williams, bases part of his narrative on the book, but then proceeds further, capturing Owen’s physical and social maturation as he enters manhood, living away from home, burgeoning romance and sexuality.

Having an autistic in residence has its challenges and Owen is blessed with parents, Cornelia and Ron, and an older brother, Walt, who are accepting of the gauntlet that’s been thrown down.

Buffeted by fear and frustration, they have remained resilient in their caring inclusion of Owen in their family.

Owen’s other family are the myriad characters that populate the Disney canon of animated fables, especially the sidekicks.
At a young age, he started drawing his beloved sidekicks, eventually creating a story called the Land of the Lost Sidekicks. Williams worked with Owen and a team of animators to bring to life this elaborate fantasy, and these animations are intrinsic to the power and enjoyment of the film.

Interestingly, the villain Owen conjured seemed to correspond with the demons in his own life, virtually symbolising his autism, in that the creature’s “power” was to make a person’s mind fuzzy or confusing.

The technique of incorporating and animating Owen’s drawings gives the film an essence of autobiography, enabling the viewer some vicarious response to Owen’s state.
Quirky co-incidence that the bridge back from stony silence for Owen was engineered by Uncle Walt and that the future will be overseen by big brother, Walt.
Williams is on record as wishing that he would like his film to show that autism is neither a deficit nor disability, merely a difference. With LIFE, ANIMATED, his wish is his command.