Roger Ross Williams's new documentary is enlightening and heartwarming enough though some may accuse it of being too cloying (perhaps in its use of music and closeness to its subject) and ingratiating a conglomerate known for their animated classics.
But, his Life, Animated nicely relies on the Disney canon, from Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Jungle Book, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, even if some may feel its overdone in the resurrection of one Owen Suskin in dealing with a pervasive developmental disorder, autism, since age 3. When it was thought, even after years of silence and even in early stages of therapy and placement in the right environment, that he would never be a high-functioning adult.
In a mostly VHS collection Owen was able to connect with the studio's films and Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer-Prize winning author dad Ron using a puppet after being in a debilitating ambulatory and vocal (just spewing gibberish) condition. Especially the secondary characters as Owen picked up reading and writing from the closing credits and a touching scene includes the appearances by Jonathan Freeman and Gilbert Godfried who were connected to the voices Jafar and Iago, respectively. As Owen bonds with classmates who more than get a glimpse into what has transformed him into having that 'human touch' again having influentially written The Land of Lost Sidekicks.
Obviously, this case isn't representative of what could offer enormous relief from a horrible, baffling affliction whose supporters and those personally touched by it, like Temple Grandin, continue to do their part in raising awareness (as a French conference indicates). You know Walt Disney himself is smiling and probably shedding a tear for what Owen has and continues to endure with quite a familial foundation from Ron, as well as mom Cornelia, and older brother Walt (who has some sound advice when enjoying some miniature golf).
As young adult Owen begins a precarious life on his own in an assisted living complex the joys and setbacks are all too evident - his girlfriend Emily breaks up with him needing her space - it's not the usual ending the studio offers (hopefully a remake of this unique story won't be on their docket). "Animated" puts a life in perspective with warmth and respect right through a touching Hunchback of Notre Dame moment.