Life, Animated, a documentary based on the book, Life Animated, A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, tells the real-life story of how many classic characters helped a man with autism, and who had stopped talking altogether, communicate with his family.

A puppet helped him to talk again

Owen Suskind, whose journalist father Ron wrote the original book, had been diagnosed with autism at the age of three, after becoming silent for about a year. After a year of silence, family members, who at one point believed that Owen would not talk ever again, noticed that he seemed to like to repeat dialogue from Disney films, like Beauty and the Beastand The Little Mermaid.

One of his first words as he began to speak, “juicervose,” which family initially assumed was Owen asking for juice, was derived from the phrase “just your voice” from the latter film’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls.

For his family, this sparked the start of Owen’s second-found rediscovery of language. Owen’s father Ron made use of his son’s fondness for Disney animated pictures by purchasing a puppet of Iago, the parrot character from Disney’s Aladdin. Staying in character as the puppet, Ron managed to have conversations with his son.

The documentary behind the scenes

The film’s official release date is July 1, 2016, although it has reportedly been traveling in film festival circulation beforehand.

One of the film’s highlights is a scene with a now adult Owen meeting Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of the aforementioned Iago, and reenacting a scene from the Aladdinfilm, during the "Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs” event, which helped to raise money for the New York Collaborates for Autismnon-profit organization.

An uncensored video of the event can be seen below.

A mix between live-action and animation, Roger Ross Williams served as director of the documentary. According to a released statement from Williams, he hopes that the film will help to bring awareness to people of “the potential of people living with autism.”

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