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Preview: Doc Film - Life, Animated

April 3, 2017

Student Activities is excited to bring you one of the most inspiring Documentary Film Nights we have ever had as we present the award winning film Life, Animated. Join us on Tuesday, April 18 in the LaHaye Event Space starting at 7 PM for one of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary as well as a nominee or winner of awards at 19 film festivals around the world.

Life, Animated is the story of Owen Suskind, a young man who at age three experiences a dramatic decrease in his ability to speak and is eventually diagnosed with autism. To his family’s surprise, Owen rediscovers his voice through his memory and love of Disney movies, identifying deeply with particular characters in many all-time classics including The Lion King, Peter Pan, and especially The Little Mermaid. Even if the film were a straightforward telling of his story, it would be outstanding. However, Academy Award winning director Roger Ross Williams adds a beautiful dimension to Owen’s story by weaving animated segments of Owen’s personal life into the film footage, including a unique animation of one of Owen’s own stories. The juxtaposition of Owen’s life and the brief clips of classic Disney movies is one of the most striking aspects of the film. Almost everyone can think of a deeply affecting story, even to the point of describing it as “magical”, and Disney’s massive appeal likely makes it the most endearing storyteller of the past century. However, the viewer in this film gets a glimpse of seeing that magic through another person’s eyes. You see joy and wonder, fear and sadness, anger and despair; whether you have seen the death of Bambi’s mother or the crowd’s mockery of the Hunchback of Notre Dame a hundred times in your life, viewing those same moments from Owen’s perspective is like seeing them in some ways for the first time. Placing Disney moments alongside the animations of Owen’s life not only adds gorgeous visual depth to the film, it is also one of the most touching gestures the filmmakers could pay to him. It adds a soul-stirring depth of kindness, especially considering the importance animation plays in Owen’s growth and development.

The concept of the sidekick is an important aspect of Life, Animated. Owen’s father recognizes that many of Owen’s drawings of Disney characters are of the supporting cast rather than the protagonists. This layer of the story not only creates such a beautiful and natural irony, but it enhances all of the central themes of the film – familial love and support, persevering through difficulty, and most importantly, issues of identity and significance. In one of the most important moments of the film, Owen’s mother relays a question to one of his therapists that the family has asked among themselves: “So who decides what a meaningful life is?”* This is not only the central question of the movie but to each of our lives as well. Life, Animated is the imaging of this question. It honestly depicts the challenges of autism and what it truly means to bear with one another’s burdens. It is a picture of grace and a powerful reminder of the Christian’s essential fight for human dignity.

FYI – Life, Animated is rated PG for “thematic elements” and “language” that includes “a suggestive reference.”

This event is free to attend and as usual we will have FREE popcorn and cheap snacks and drinks available. Questions? Check our FAQ page to find answers. If that doesn't help, send us a nice email:


* This question occurs at approximately 33:20 of the film.