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Newsies is a American Disney musical starring Christian Bale, David Moscow, and Bill Pullman. Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret also appeared in supporting roles. The movie gained a cult following after its initial failure at the box office. The film marked the directorial debut of choreographer Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing and High School Musical) and featured the music of composer Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Enchanted).

Although the film was not originally intended to be a musical, it contains twelve songs and multiple dance sequences (for which the young cast trained for approximately 10 weeks). Musical highlights include "Carrying the Banner," "Santa Fe," "Seize the Day," "The World Will Know," and "King of New York."

Newsies was not a commercial success when first released; in fact, it ranked among the highest-costing and lowest-grossing Disney live-action films in the studio's history (due to it being released on the same day as FernGully: The Last Rainforest which also failed). Movie critic/historian Leonard Maltin even christened it "Howard the Paperboy" (in reference to another infamous box-office flop, Howard the Duck).

However, the picture gained fans when it was released on VHS and was played on the Disney Channel. After much petitioning, Newsies was released on DVD in 2002. It has since gained a modest yet enthusiastic following.


Newsies is based on the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York Citymarker. Thousands of homeless children are living in Newsboys lodging houses, including Manhattan newsboy Jack "Cowboy" Kelly (Christian Bale), who is a regular newsboy selling newspapers for Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall) and his paper, the New York World. The newsboys wake up and get ready to sell papers ("Carrying the Banner"). Jack meets David Jacobs (David Moscow) who leaves school temporarily and joins the newsies along with his little brother Les (Luke Edwards) to help his family while his father is out of work with a broken arm. Though the injury was work-related, he lacked the protection of a union; he was deemed useless and fired with no severance. Les looks up to the older Jack. Jack seeing this as an opportunity to make money by using Les because he is younger and cute. Jack teaches Les how to trick people into buying a paper by pretending to be sick and making up headlines. The 3 of them duck into Irving Hall to escape being chased by a cop. Jack introduces Les and David to Medda, a vaudeville star who performs at Irving Hall ("Lovey Dovey Baby"). After they witness a violent part of the trolley strike and Les begins to fall asleep, David invites Jack back to his house to meet his family and sister Sarah. After declining to spend the night Jack confesses his desire to escape to Santa Femarker ("Santa Fe"). Soon, Jack and David become good friends, Shortly afterward, the price of newspapers for purchase by the newsboys is raised 1/10 of a cent, decided by joint decision of Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Feeling they will be unable to bear the added cost, Jack organizes a strike with the aid of David. As the protagonist, Jack struggles with his past as he forms an important friendship with David and his family. Between his dream of one day going to Santa Fe and currently wanting to help his friends, he faces many difficult decisions involving money and loyalty. Along the way, the boys are aided by newspaper reporter Bryan Denton (Bill Pullman) and vaudeville performer Medda "Swedish Meadowlark" Larkson (Ann-Margret), as well as being hindered by Snyder (Kevin Tighe), warden of "The Refuge" juvenile detention facility. Jack and the newsies gain the cooperation of rival newsboy groups from New York and Brooklyn to team up and strike against the big-shot newspapermen. They eventually win their hard-fought demands after self-publishing and distributing a sympathetic newspaper flier and gaining the support of other non-union child workers around the city.



The soundtrack to Newsies was released in 1992 by Disney. A remastered reissue was released in 2001. The music was composed by Alan Menken and the lyrics were written by Jack Feldman.
  1. "Prologue" – 0:48
  2. "Carrying the Banner" – 6:15
  3. "Santa Fe" – 4:18
  4. "Lovey-Dovey Baby" – 1:30
  5. "Fightin' Irish: Strike Action" – 1:50
  6. "The World Will Know" – 3:20
  7. "Escape from Snyder" – 2:08
  8. "Seize the Day" – 2:01
  9. "King of New York" – 2:25
  10. "High Times, Hard Times" – 2:54
  11. "Seize the Day (Chorale)" – 1:12
  12. "Santa Fe (Reprise)" – 1:50
  13. "Rooftop" – 3:13
  14. "Once and for All" – 2:24
  15. "The World Will Know (Reprise)" – 1:50
  16. "Carrying the Banner (Finale)" – 6:22

Differences From Reality

  • Pulitzer and Hearst had a far deeper and more involved relationship than was suggested in the movie (they are only shown in one scene, playing poker, and little is discussed)

  • There is no Jack Kelly / Francis Sullivan in real life

  • Kid Blink, who has a very minor role in the film, was actually the leader of the strike, delivering many speeches that received media attention.

  • In addition to singing and dancing through the streets, the strikers demonstrated on the Brooklyn Bridge to the point where they shut down not only traffic to-and-from Brooklyn, but effectively shut down newspaper distribution in most New English cities (as the main point of production was Brooklyn).

  • The strike was ended not by the newspapers lowering their price from $0.60 per 100 back down to $0.50 per 100, but by the papers agreeing to buy back any unsold papes, a deal that was mutually-beneficial.

The Newsie Math:

Under the original deal, if a newsie bought 100 papers for $0.50 and sold them for a penny, he made $0.30 if he sold 80% of his papers.

If a newsie bought 100 papers for $0.60 and sold them for a penny, he made $0.20 if he sold 80% of his papers plus another $0.12 selling the leftover papers back to the company, making his total profit $0.32.

For example, a newsie who only sold half his stack under the old deal would break even at $0.50 because he had to "eat what he didn't sell" - under the new deal he could make a perceived $0.30 profit from being able to sell his leftover half-stack back to the company, even though he was making significantly less profit per sale than he was under the old deal.

This increased the newsies' potential for profit when any less than 100% of the papers were sold, assuming the leftover papers were returned for a refund.

The papers profited, overall, because of the high amount of newsies who would sell 80+% of their stack, be satisfied with their profit, and not want to hike all the way back to Brooklyn for a nickel after selling papers all morning.


Newsies received harsh reviews from most critics and audiences and made $2,819,485 at the U.S. box office, becoming a box office bomb. On Rotten Tomatoes, its average score was 29%. However, Newsies has gained a considerable cultural fan base. Christian Bale is reportedly not a fan of the film. He said: "Time healed those wounds. But it took a while."


Young Artist Award (1993)

"Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture"

Golden Raspberry Awards (1993)

  • Worst Original Song - "High Times, Hard Times"

See also


External links

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