Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Disney Movies Animate Jewish Writer’s Autistic Son

July 10, 2014

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Owen Suskind celebrated his graduation from the Riverview School in Cape Cod, MA in June with his parents and his brother Walter. (Courtesy)

Owen Suskind celebrated his graduation from the Riverview School in Cape Cod, MA in June with his parents and his brother Walter. (Courtesy)

Millions of young people love Disney movies, but few appreciate them quite like Owen Suskind. He has watched every Disney film umpteen times and can recite the entire dialogue from each without error. For Owen, who is autistic, Disney viewing is not merely a hobby; it’s a therapy.

Animated films like “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” and “The Jungle Book” have served as a bridge for Owen to the world, enabling him to get in touch with himself, and interact with other people.

In “Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism,” Owen’s father, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ron Suskind, has chronicled his son’s unique journey from a diagnosis of regressive autism at age three (when a child who seems to be developing normally suddenly stops communicating and reaching milestones) to his life today as a communicative and semi-independent 23-year-old young man.

Click here to read more and watch a video.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.



Clip Reimagines Obama As Aladdin

March 15, 2013

This post first appeared in The Times of Israel.


The music sounds familiar, but the lyrics — a takeoff on Disney’s “Aladdin” — definitely don’t.

Hebrew speakers have been doing a double take since Wednesday as they’ve watched a new online clip inspired by the 1992 movie.

 The video, a parody tied to President Obama’s trip to Israel next week, rewrites the words to the song “Prince Ali.” Instead of featuring the arrival of Aladdin (disguised as the prince) at the Sultan’s palace, the scene now trumpets the visit by “President Barack” to Israel.

Creator Yuval Binder is so good at vocal imitation it’s impossible to tell exactly where he’s inserted his own voice over the original Hebrew dubbing, provided by legendary Israeli comic actor Tuvia Tzafir.

Click here to read more and watch the video.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


Bear Takes A Hike

November 8, 2009

If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise.

Bear has been drafted to be my exercise partner. Although he doesn’t recall having ever actually signed on for the job, he is always happy to report to duty when called up, running to the front door the minute he hears me getting out his leash. Bear loves going for long walks, and that motivates me to put my running shoes on and get outside on a regular basis. Conscientious Bear, eager to encourage us to do mitzvot and generally do right by us, is just following up on what has been recommended by those studies showing that pet owners (or guardians, to be more politically correct) who walk their dogs regularly lose weight and stay fit. He’s simply doing his part to combat the high rate of obesity plaguing our nation. Not to mention that fact that Bear knows that  he, himself, needs to stay trim if he wants to continue hearing those “What a good looking dog!” compliments from passersby.


This is not Bear's thing. He's a dog going places.

It’s a good thing that Bear doesn’t prefer going to the gym for a workout, because that isn’t my thing either. It really is fortuitous that we both have similar likes and dislikes in terms of how and where we exercise. It is so nice not to have yet another thing I have to negotiate about. Bear knows where his next meal (and the next, and the next…) is coming from, so he knows better than to argue over something like this – even if he did prefer to run on the treadmill or use the elliptical trainer, which he doesn’t.


Bear is not into this either, even though it is a quiet, meditative kind of thing.

The best thing about going for long walks with Bear is that we spend time together in silence. Unlike my children, Bear does not talk to me or expect me to engage him in conversation. Although he does usually (ie. when not distracted by food or squirrels…well, I guess these could be considered one in the same) let me know in his canine fashion what he wants, if absolutely necessary (like to loosen his Gentle Leader Headcollar [a must for being able to control a big guy like Bear] if it is too tight), for the most part he is content to be the handsome, strong silent type.

We know that for the intellectual development of our children, it is crucial that we talk and read with them. Now that those Baby Einstein videos are apparently completely useless for turning our kids into geniuses (Don’t forget to get your refund from Disney if you are eligible!), it’s up to us to do all this verbalizing aloud ourselves. What a pleasure it is to have at least one member of the household neither require nor appreciate being spoken to incessantly. Bear says, “I’m not the chatty type, just use those few command words I know and I’ll be fine. But don’t completely cut out the baby talk. I have no idea what you are saying, but it lets me know that you love me.”


San Francisco Baylands, near Palo Alto

Bear is fine with walking on the nearby Stanford University campus. He likes to pretend he is a student rushing to class as he walks along, absorbing the rarified ivory tower atmosphere. But where he feels most comfortable is out in nature at the Baylands. As much as he loves being part of our family, he likes to get out and commune with nature and fellow non-humans when he can. It’s a real treat for him that when we go for our long walks in the Baylands, we usually encounter more small wildlife than we do people. As both a shomer mitzvot and a creature who connects with and is in awe of all of God’s creation, the beautiful words from the biblical prophet Micah (6:8) come to his mind as we stroll together (Well, maybe it’s more like my running behind Bear as I do my best to restrain him from darting off the path in pursuit of jackrabbits and geese.) : “Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God.” It’s amazing how Bear is a baki [someone having extensive knowledge] in Bible and can call up just the right verse to echo what he is thinking or feeling at any given moment. His Bear Mitzvah training clearly surpasses the preparation my sons did for their Bar Mitzvah.

dog graduation cap

We have a smart dog.

Of course, a dog doesn’t have to be Jewishly educated, or even Jewish, to help keep his peeps physically fit. Any canine companion can lovingly tell his guardian, “Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” However, only Bear, being not merely Jewishly erudite but having also spent a good deal of time at Stanford, would be able to tell you that this is a quotation widely attributed to the French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus.

© 2009 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.