Roger Ross William’s (God Loves Uganda) remarkable new documentary Life, Animated has won awards and acclaim at festivals across the US. Focusing on autistic teenager Owen, it tells the story of his fascination with classic Disney animations and how they have given him both a pathway to understanding language and a framework for making sense of the world.
By evocatively interweaving classic Disney sequences with vérité scenes from Owen’s life, the film explores how identification and empathy with characters like Simba, Jafar, and Ariel offer a conduit for him to catalogue his emotions and interpret reality. Meanwhile, the film’s original animation sequences beautifully expand on Owen’s interior world as he deals with the challenges of growing up.
This is an unsentimental and powerful coming-of-age tale, offering a moving insight into both the experience of autism and the transformative possibilities of cinema.