1 The Mickey Mindset: Why Is Newsies Such an Underrated Disney Film?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why Is Newsies Such an Underrated Disney Film?

Mitchell Stein- Based on the true-story of the Newsboy Strikes of 1899, Newsies tells one of the greatest David and Goliath stories of film making history. When Joseph Pulitzer decides to raise the price of the newspapers the Newsies are forced to purchase in order to take advantage of them, the majority of Newsies choose to go on strike. Being led by Jack Kelley (Christian Bale) inspired by the real-life Kid Blink, they attempt to bring Pulitzer down to a point where he has no choice to meet the demands of the Newsies. It’s the classic story of a big fat cat business taking advantage of the workers below him. In Newsies (and in the true life story) it seems impossible for just a few small newsboys to stand up to a big corporate icon like Pulitzer. The strike was a harbinger for child labor reforms in the 20th Century. 

Newsies is absolutely wonderful throughout. Kenny Ortega directs the film, and does a really great job at portraying New York of 1899 and the daily troubles the newsboys had to endure each day. The story is perfectly well crafted by writers Noni White and Bob Tzudiker, who initially had the idea for the film and wrote a script to pitch to Disney, after dozens of drafts they finally arrived at the Newsies we know and love today. Possibly the greatest aspect of the film is its music. Disney music legends Alan Menken and Jack Feldman joined the team to write the music to the movie. By creating legendary songs like “Carrying the Banner”, “King of New York” and “Seize the Day”, it’s kind of hard to believe that Newsies wasn't originally intended to be a musical! In fact, Christian Bale had no idea that the film was a musical either until the first day of filming. With such a great story, music and acting, Newsies was really going to be a real legendary hit. 

But it wasn't.

When it first opened in theaters on April 10th 1992, it gained tepid reviews and a tremendous lack of money, it was pulled from theaters less than a week after it premiered, making it only earn a mere $2 million throughout its entire domestic run, according to Box Office Mojo. After those numbers came in, I’m not even sure if Disney bothered releasing it internationally, as the international numbers are nowhere to be found on any Box Office tracking sites. In fact, it’s unbelievable how the movie earned a Razzie nomination for worst picture, and got nominated in almost every other category. Alan Menken also earned a Razzie for Worst Song (Alan Menken, winner of dozens of Oscars, Golden Globes and Tonys, with a Razzie! I can’t even imagine how impossible that is.) 

In the following years, it gained a major cult following when it came to VHS, and somehow made it to Broadway (which you can read more about in Newsies: Stories of the UnlikelyBroadway Hit) which allows it to earn its proper place in Disney history.  

The fate of the film was an extremely unfortunate one, as the film still remains one of the most brilliant, and inspiring movies ever. I really appreciate all of the wonderful work that went into the movie, and the stage adaption throughout all these years. It’s a completely under-appreciated film, but still remains a beloved one and one of my personal favorites.  

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