Life, Animated

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Life, Animated
Life, Animated Official Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roger Ross Williams
Produced by
Written by Ron Suskind
Based on Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism
by Ron Suskind
Starring Jonathan Freeman
Gilbert Gottfried
Alan Rosenblatt
Owen Suskind
Ron Suskind
Music by Dylan Stark
T. Griffin
Cinematography Tom Bergmann
Edited by David Teague
Production
company
Motto Pictures
A&E IndieFilms
Roger Ross Williams Productions
Distributed by The Orchard
Release date
  • July 1, 2016 (2016-07-01)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Life, Animated is a 2016 American documentary by director Roger Ross Williams.[1] It is co-produced by Williams with Julie Goldman, Carolyn Hepburn and Christopher Clements. Life, Animated is based on journalist Ron Suskind's 2014 book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism, which tells the story of his son, Owen Suskind who struggled with autism and learned how to communicate with the outside world through his love of Disney films.[2]

Upon its release the film received rave reviews from critics and won numerous awards including the Sundance Film Festival award for Best Direction and the Special Achievement Annie Award. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature category at the 89th Academy Awards, but lost to O.J.: Made In America.[3][4][5] [6]


Synopsis[edit]

Owen Suskind was a boy of considerable promise, until he's diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. As Owen withdrew into his silent state, his parents almost lost hope that he would find some way to meaningfully interact with his world. However, that way was found through animated films, especially ones by Walt Disney Pictures, which provided Owen a way to understand the world through its stories to the point of creating his own and grew obsessed with despite also owning some non-Disney movies, too. This film covers the life of Owen and how he manages to become as functional as possible with the help of Disney and his family to the point of having his own life. However, Owen soon learns as well that there is more to real life than what Disney can illustrate in animation even as his family prepares itself for an uncertain future with him. He gains and loses Emily who was his girlfriend because he got into her personal space according to her.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The animation is done by Mac Guff, which also worked on Illumination Entertainment films such as Despicable Me and The Lorax.[7] To secure the rights for the clips and characters used in the film, Williams showed the unfinished product to the heads of department put together by Disney Productions president Sean Bailey. Roger refers to it as "the day I made the lawyers cry" after the end of the presentation. The films selected for the film were "100% Suskind".[8]

Reception[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 94% approval rating based on 96 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Life, Animated offers a heartwarming look at one family's journey, and a fascinating message that's more than enough to outweigh its unanswered questions."[9] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 75 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

The Guardian's critic Lanre Bakare praised the film and said, "It's a beguiling mix of animated storytelling and narration that doesn't flinch from exploring the emotional highs and lows that accompany a life with autism."[11] Kenneth Turan of LA Times lauded the film and said, "[Williams] spent two years on this project, and the trust everyone involved placed in him allowed for an emotional honesty that is Life, Animated's greatest strength."[12] Writing for Variety, Justin Chang wrote, "This latest film from Roger Ross Williams ("God Loves Uganda") teems with insights into how children's fantasy can and can't bridge a developmental gap, but works on an even more basic, emotional level as a warm testament to a family's love and resilience."[13] The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge called it "a documentary gem."[14] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post positively reviewed the series and said, "Life, Animated makes fascinating points, about the power of cinema, about meeting our loved ones where they are and, as Ron says, about who gets to decide what constitutes a meaningful life"[15] Rolling Stone's chief film critic Peter Travers said, "In no way does Owen's story claim to be a cure-all. Instead of false hope, it offers up possibility, the chance of a stimulus that might get past the blocks of developmental disorder. That's more than encouraging. Life, Animated is truly inspirational."[16]

Writing for The A.V. Club, Noel Murray said, "On the list of Disney-related 2016 releases about child-rearing and handicaps, this one goes just above "Finding Dory." What it lacks in wacky hijinks, it makes up in hard truths."[17] Reviewing for RogerEbert.com film critic Sheila O'Malley wrote, "Powerful and emotional, without being manipulative. It is deeply inspiring, without trying to be. It is honest about Owen's struggles, and the struggles of his family."[18] Entertainment Weekly's, Joe McGovern also lauded the series saying, "The Suskinds' humongous hearts are obviously in the right place and their openness is to be admired and encouraged - even if a book, more than a movie, remains the better venue to fairly and honestly tell Owen's extraordinary story."[19] Kyle Smith of New York Post explained, "Life, Animated oversimplifies the situation, contriving to use endless clips from Disney movies to make a case that movie magic really can better people's lives. Unfortunately, by the end of the movie it's clear that Disney can't help Owen negotiate sex, breakups or many other challenges he faces as an adult."[20]

Some publications however were more critical towards the film. In a lukewarm review of Empire David Parkinson wrote, "A touch twee at times, but the use of classic and original animation is admirable, while Owen emerges as the king of sidekicks."[21] Film critic Anthony Lane of The New Yorker said, "Owen has made immense progress, to which Life, Animated is a stirring tribute, yet it leaves a trail of questions unanswered or unasked."[22] The New York Times's Jeannette Catsoulis quipped, "Belaboring the cartoon connection, the director leaves the family struggles that enrich Mr. Suskind’s 2014 book of the same title stubbornly veiled."[23] In a less enthusiastic review for Slant Magazine Clayton Dillard stated, "It never addresses Disney's wholly manufactured stranglehold on turning adolescent desire into a consumerist impulse."[24]

Land of the Lost Sidekicks[edit]

An exclusive short, based on Owen's fan fic featuring younger version of himself and his favorite Disney sidekicks battling against the evil Fuzzbutch, was released on The Wrap in 2016.[25]

Sidekicks used in the film:

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Recipients and nominees Results Ref.
Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature Life, Animated Nominated
[3]
Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival IDFA Audience Award Roger Ross Williams 2nd-Place
[26]
Annie Awards Special Achievement Award Life, Animated Won
[27]
Black Reel Awards Best Feature Documentary Life, Animated Nominated
[28]
Budapest International Documentary Festival Student Jury Award Roger Ross Williams Won
[29]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Documentary Life, Animated Nominated
[30]
Cinema Eye Honors Awards The Unforgettable Award Owen Suskind Won
[31]
Cinema Eye Audience Choice Prize Roger Ross Williams Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation Brian Bowman
Philippe Sonrier
Nominated
Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary Life, Animated Won
[32]
Best Director (Theatrical Feature) Roger Ross Williams Nominated
Best Documentary Feature Nominated
Most Innovative Documentary Nominated
DeadCENTER Film Festival Best Documentary Roger Ross Williams Won
[33]
Detroit Film Critics Society Awards Best Documentary Life, Animated Nominated
[34]
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Documentaries Life, Animated Nominated
[35]
Docville Best International Documentary Life, Animated Won
[36]
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Awards Best Documentary Life, Animated 3rd-Place
[37]
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Best Documentary Film Life, Animated Nominated
[38]
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Roger Ross Williams Won
[39]
Heartland Film Festival Truly Moving Picture Award Roger Ross Williams
A&E IndieFilms
Motto Pictures
Roger Ross Williams Productions
The Orchard
Won
[40]
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival Top 20 Audience Favorites Roger Ross Williams Nominated
[41]
London Critics Circle Film Awards Best Documentary of the Year Life, Animated Nominated
[42]
Melbourne International Film Festival Most Popular Documentary Roger Ross Williams 8th-Place
[43]
Nantucket Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Roger Ross Williams Won
[44]
National Board of Review Top Five Best Documentaries Life, Animated Won
[45]
North Carolina Film Critics Association Best Documentary Feature Life, Animated Nominated
[46]
Producers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures Julie Goldman
Roger Ross Williams
Nominated
[47]
Satellite Awards Best Documentary Film Life, Animated Nominated
[48]
San Francisco International Film Festival Best Documentary Film Life, Animated Won
[49]
Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award - Best Documentary Roger Ross Williams Nominated
[50]
Stockholm Film Festival Broze Horse - Best Documentary Roger Ross Williams Nominated
[51]
Sundance Film Festival Best Direction - Documentary Roger Ross Williams Won
[52]
Grand Jury Prize - Best Documentary Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alexander Child, Doreen (January 8, 2017). "Life, Animated – Roger Ross Williams". Below The Line. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  2. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (December 8, 2016). "Life, Animated review – a tremendous story of family love and Disney cartoons:This poignant documentary is about an autistic boy who learned how to understand the world and communicate with it through Disney character". The Guardian. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Samuelson, Kate (January 24, 2017). "Here Are the 2017 Oscar Nominations". Time. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  4. ^ "15 Documentary Feature advance in 2016 Oscar Race". Oscars.org. December 6, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2017. 
  5. ^ "'Life, Animated' Documentary On Oscar Shortlist". Wbur.org. January 16, 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  6. ^ "O.J.: Made in America" wins Best Documentary Feature-YouTube
  7. ^ "Life, Animated – An Interview with Roger Ross Williams". 12 August 2016. 
  8. ^ "'Life, Animated' Director on How They Secured the Rights to Use Classic Disney Characters". 15 November 2016. 
  9. ^ "Life, Animated (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Life, Animated". Metacritic. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  11. ^ Bakare, Lanre (January 29, 2016). "Life, Animated review – how Disney films helped a boy with autism". The Guardian. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  12. ^ Turan, Kenneth (June 30, 2016). "'Life, Animated' follows an autistic boy's astonishing journey back to the world with the help of Disney movies". LA Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  13. ^ Chang, Justin (February 6, 2016). "Film Review: 'Life, Animated'". Variety. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  14. ^ Byrge, Duane (January 27, 2016). "'Life, Animated': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  15. ^ Hornaday, Ann (July 7, 2016). "'Life, Animated': A young man's obsession with Disney helps him navigate autism". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (Jul 1, 2016). "Life, Animated A young autistic man connects to the world through Disney movies in this inspiring doc". The Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  17. ^ Murray, Noel (June 29, 2016). "A love of Disney helps an autistic adult understand the world in Life, Animated". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  18. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (Jul 1, 2016). "Life, Animated, Review". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  19. ^ McGovern, Joe (June 30, 2016). "Life, Animated, EW Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  20. ^ Smith, Kyle (June 30, 2016). "Disney helps an autistic boy navigate life in this new doc". New York Post. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  21. ^ Parkinson, David (December 12, 2016). "Life, Animated Empie Review". Empire. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  22. ^ Lane, Anthony (July 4, 2016). ""Cafe Society" and "Life, Animated" Reviews". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  23. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (June 30, 2016). "Review: In 'Life, Animated,' a Bound Mind Finds Freedom". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  24. ^ Clayton, Dillard (June 27, 2016). "Film Review: Life, Animated". Slant Magazine. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f "Watch 'Life, Animated's' Original Short, 'Land of the Lost Sidekicks' (Exclusive Video)". 14 February 2017. 
  26. ^ "International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam - Life, Animated". IDFA. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Annie Awards Nominees". Annie Awards. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  28. ^ "17th Annual Black Reel Award Nominations". BlackReelAwards. Retrieved January 17, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Budapest International Documentary Festival - Life, Animated". BIDF. Retrieved January 17, 2016. 
  30. ^ "The 2016 Chicago Film Critics Association Award Nominees". December 11, 2016. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Cinema Eye Honors Awards - Life, Animated". cinemaeyehonors.com. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  32. ^ "Inaugural Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Heap Nominations on '13th,' 'O.J.: Made In America' and 'Gleason'". Kate Erbland. Indiewire.com. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  33. ^ "16TH Annual DeadCENTER Film Festival". Dead CENTER Film Festival. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  34. ^ "The 2016 Detroit Film Critics Society Awards". detroitfilmcritics.com. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  35. ^ Hipes, Patrick. "DGA TV Awards Nominations: 'Stranger Things', 'Westworld' & 'Atlanta' On List; Docus Include 'OJ: Made In America'". Deadline. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  36. ^ Menten, Luk. "Life, Animated". Filmmagie. Retrieved 23 March 2017. 
  37. ^ Clarke, Donald. "Dublin Film Critics Circle names I, Daniel Blake best of 2016'". Irish Times. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  38. ^ "Moonlight with 2016 Florida Film Critics Circle Award". FloridaFilmCritics.com. 
  39. ^ "Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Announces 2016 Award Winners". fullframefest.org. April 10, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  40. ^ "Heartland Film Honors "Life, Animated" with Truly Moving Picture Award". PRWeb.com. July 1, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  41. ^ "Best Documentary Films At The 2016 Toronto Hot Docs Festival". Katie Hill. The Culture Trip. October 26, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  42. ^ "'Moonlight' and 'Love and Friendship' Lead London Film Critics' Circle Nominations". Variety. 20 December 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2016. 
  43. ^ "Melbourne International Film Festival - Life, Animated". miff.com.au. July 31, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  44. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (June 27, 2016). "'Other People,' 'Life Animated' Win Nantucket Film Festival Awards". Variety. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  45. ^ "NC Film Critics Association picks the best of 2016". November 29, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2016. 
  46. ^ "National Board of Review Announces 2016 Award Winners". The News Observer. January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  47. ^ Lewis, Hilary. "2017 Producers Guild Film Nominations Revealed". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  48. ^ Kilday, Gregg (November 29, 2016). "Satellite Awards Nominees Revealed". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 29, 2016. 
  49. ^ "59th San Francisco International Film Festival - Life, Animated". SFFS.com. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  50. ^ "Seattle International Film Festival - Life, Animated". SIFFS.com. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  51. ^ "Stockholm Film Festival-Life, Animated". stockholmfilmfestival.se. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  52. ^ "Sundance Autism Doc 'Life, Animated' Sells to The Orchard (EXCLUSIVE)". variety. February 3, 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 

External links[edit]