LIfe, Animated (2016): Just Your Voice (Review)

Owen Suskind

I am well known for getting tearful at any well done heart tugging scene in a film, or even television. It is not often, however, that I break out in tears while watching a documentary. Yet this is precisely what I did while sitting alone in the back booth of my local diner.

Hiding my MacBook Pro from prying eyes, it was here that I sat  watching the screener for Life Animated, when the Ariel moment towards the start of the documentary takes place.

In “The Little Mermaid” Ariel has just made her deal with Ursula the sea witch for legs. All she has to give up in return, sings Ursula, is her voice. To Owen Suskind, the subject of this documentary, the line of Ursula’s gloating song was a trigger. The youngster who, until then, spoke gibberish, repeats the scene and  his translation of the line, several times.

Ron, Owen’s father makes the connection and he is elated. His son is still in there, inside that Autistic shell, a thing that has enveloped his boy and changed him into a non-communicative stranger.

As that lightbulb goes off over Ron’s head, I cried like a baby. What parent would not?  The tale of a family who used Disney films to create a language that their autistic son could use to communicate, is easily the best “feel-good” documentary of 2016.

It is one that any family who watches Disney films as a unit, where everyone from grandma to the littlest family member gets involved with the drama, action and the stories, will be drawn to.

They will also understand the deeper magic beneath the animation and the songs. How the communicative storylines discovered by a young boy and his parents enabled a family to speak with their son after years of frustration.

Life, Animated bounces to and fro. We see Owen now, as a young adult, making his first faltering steps to freedom.  He is excited at the prospect but also worried. His gal pal from the Disney Club will be moving in above him.

We will be, says Owen, neighbors in love.

The flashbacks, apart from one family film where Ron plays Captain Hook to Owen’s Peter Pan, are made up of hand drawn animation. Pen and pencil sketches that capture the essence of the young Owen brilliantly.

The older Owen runs a Disney club which he says was started partly to help him make friends. It worked, he says gleefully, and it also enables him to interact with his childhood hero, Jonathan Freeman. The actor who voiced Owen’s favorite character’s partner in crime: Jafar, amongst a bevy of other roles became a family friend.

The young man shows off Freeman to his chums in the Disney club and while Owen voices Iago, Gilbert Gottfried, who voiced the parrot in the films, arrives. Owen is beside himself with excitement.

It is all too easy to give the Disney films all the credit for Owen’s progress, but as Ron implies early on, the clever and interactive little boy was always inside that autistic shell. Disney, through the means of its animated dialogues, allowed that boy to be reached by his family. It also allowed Owen to talk with those he loved.

Based upon the book by Ron Suskind and directed by Roger Ross Williams (in what is his third feature length documentary) Suskind senior narrates the film. He has some help from  his wife and Owen’s older brother who take the audience down memory lane.

The family, and Owen, show us what  life was like pre-Disney, and post-Disney.  Using the films and memorizing the dialogue enabled Owen to relate to real life issues with a language he not only understood, but could use as his own.

This award winning film is a “must-see” for anyone who loves Disney animated films. The idea that these classics, that already speak to the inner child in all of us, helped a young autistic boy to not only communicate with everyone but also allowed him to learn some real life lessons along the way.

Life Animated is a full five star treat of a documentary.  Those tears that pop up at the very start will reappear several times throughout the movie. Keep your tissue-box or hanky handy.

On a sidenote: If you’ve never been a fan of either Freeman or Gottfried before this film, you will be by the finish.

The Princess Diaries 3? That Would be a No

Anne Hathaway as Princess Mia
Fans of the first two The Princess Diaries films were excited to hear the news that number 3 was in the works, but before the dust could settle from all those Meg Cabot and Anne Hathaway fans jumping for joy, Disney responded that no sequel would be gracing screens at any time in the near future. Three days ago, the word was that confirmation had been received that the long awaited sequel was in the works and then Heather Matarazzo tweeted about a Teen Vogue article and excitement levels surged.

Heather, who played Lily Moscovitz in Princess Diaries 1 and 2, posted the tweet referencing the news site:

Heather Matarazzo tweet
Not really good news…

Sadly, before anyone could say “shut up” Disney shot down the rumors stating that there were no plans to make a sequel. Sources told Entertainment Weekly that while the topic had arisen in conversation, there really was not a move to make yet another “Diaries” sequel.

Both films, The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 3: Royal Engagement made Disney a lot of money in terms of box office revenue, and home entertainment returns, of over $300 million. The films made a star of Hathaway and the second one had a “pre-Captain Kirk” Chris Pine in it as love interest.

While Heather seems to have taken notice of the very short period of excitement, no one else, apart from Disney, have bothered to mention the news of the sequel.

In all likelihood, the idea of a PD 3 came from the release of Meg Cabot’s latest volume in the series on 2 June 2015. The Princess Diaries: Royal Wedding is the first in the tales of Princess Mia where she is an adult.

The very fact that the character Hathaway played in the first two films is now a grownup, in the book series, and the latest title is so very evocative of The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, makes the film rumor seem like a logical conclusion. Add to this a little bit of fan wishful thinking, Matarazzo’s optimistic tweet and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the Meg Cabot book, Mia has been a college graduate for five years now and is living in New York, attending plenty of official engagements and long term love Michael has popped the question and Mia says yes. All of which would look pretty good on screen and would provide closure for those fans of the movies.

As Disney have denied that they are even thinking of making a third PD, then it may take a re-booting or re-imagining, of the books into a new series of films to make this a reality. Say goodbye to the “perfect” Princess Mia, Hathaway, and hello to whichever upcoming starlet is available and cheaper to use. Even if Disney had responded in the positive, Hathaway would command a pretty hefty price tag which may be the real reason the studios have reacted so negatively.

In the meantime, fans of Cabot’s books can still visit Mia’s world, just not on screen. It may not have the same impact as seeing Anne Hathaway reprise her role once more, but in the mind’s eye, Anne will always be Mia.

Indiana Jones Film Confirmed by Lucasfilm

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
According to Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, Disney will be remaking, or re-imaging, or re-booting Indiana Jones as one of the many properties that the studios now own. Kennedy was speaking to Vanity Fair about Star Wars when the question of relaunching the Harrison Ford franchise came up and she confirmed that a new version of the Lucasfilm property would be made.

Read the rest of the article at Viral Global News…

Into the Woods: Disney Does Broadway Beautifully (Review and Trailer)

Into the Woods: Disney Does Broadway Beautifully (Review and Trailer)

Having never seen any stage version of this Stephen Sondheim musical it is much easier to take this big screen adaptation of Into the Woods at face value and while Disney does do Broadway beautifully, the film, for all its hype and fan excitement, does not overwhelm or overly impress. Certainly the movie looks gorgeous, the costumes, the set designs, the actors, with the exclusion of James Corden as the baker are all equally beautiful.

‘Addicted’ Exclusive Interview with Screenwriter Christina Welsh

‘Addicted’ Exclusive Interview with Screenwriter Christina Welsh

Addicted, a story of sex addiction adapted from the book by Zane aka Kristina Laferne Roberts, published in 1998, was made into a film by Lionsgate and CodeBlack from a script by screenwriter Christina Welsh, who agreed to give the Guardian Liberty Voice an exclusive interview. Ms. Welsh had a chat with Michael Smith, the Deputy Managing Editor and Senior Entertainment Editor of GLV and the two spoke of writing, “pitching” an idea, working with some big names and what she will be working on in the near future.