Lost in the mix of a summer filled with blockbuster hits like ‘The Legend of Tarzan’, ‘Finding Dory’, and ‘The Secret Life of Pets’, there is one documentary that has caught my attention. Friday, July 1, 2016 marked the release of ‘Life Animated’, a film based on The New York Time’s bestselling novel written under the same title by Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, and father of a child with autism.
Suskind’s son, Owen, was diagnosed with regressive autism at an early age, and became withdrawn as well as non-verbal. After repeated family movie night showings of Disney animated films such as ‘Aladdin’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, and others, Owen began to utilize those movies to interact socially again. Owens’ parents began to imitate characters from all his favorite Disney animated movies in order to communicate with him.
In preparation of the documentary’s release, ABC ran a story explaining Owen’s journey using animated movies. You can check out the article here. Following the release of the book in 2014, both CBS and NBC News did similar pieces to the one released more recently by ABC.
It is no secret that Disney animated movies have had an incredible impact on the autism community for several years now. We have seen it more recently with the release of movies like ‘Inside Out’, and the aforementioned ‘Finding Dory’, as well as in past movies, like the ones that Owen enjoyed throughout his childhood.
The story of Owen and his family is one of the many incredible stories in the autism community, and it is great to see their experiences being shown in such a fantastic light. Though I can never personally understand Owen’s experiences, having grown up as a Disney fan myself, it is easy to see how these movies have brought so much joy and inspiration to him and others.
For those of you who are interested in checking out the trailer to ‘Life Animated’, you can watch it here. The documentary is available in select theatres through September 16, 2016!