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Toon Talk: Newsies
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Newsies Collector's Edition DVD
At the time of its release, ten years ago today on April 10, 1992, Disney had high hopes for Newsies and its bid to revive the long-ignored live action musical. But even with the direction of Dirty Dancing choreographer Kenny Ortega and songs co-wrote by the then red-hot Alan Menken (fresh off of four Oscars for The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast), to say the film was met with a lukewarm response is putting it mildly, to say the least.
"King of New York": Max Casella as Racetrack Higgins.
Even after Ariel and Belle, the public apparently had no interest in a all-singing, all-dancing musical extravaganza about the long-forgotten newsboy strike of the turn-of-the-century. And critics were even harsher; while some championed the film's loving embrace of the tenets of the great musicals of yore (Gene Siskel most notably), most raked the film over the coals, some even appalled at Disney for even attempting such an endeavor. Newsies was even nominated for an infamous "Razzie Award" as the worst movie of 1992.
Jack Kelly (Christian Bale) leads the dancing newsies.
But, like such other family film classics as The Wizard of Oz and It's A Wonderful Life before it, Newsies fought back from cinematic purgatory and box office bust to become a certifiable 'cult' film success. The film's original video release and soundtrack became must-haves for every aspiring high school thespian, even inspiring them to mount full-fledged stage productions. And with the advent of the internet, Newsies was even further launched into unbridled popularity, with dozens of fansites honoring the film and it's star, Christian Bale. Featuring fan fiction and even complete scripts for a sequel, these sites carried the banner in the ten years since the film's dismal premiere. Even thoughts of a Broadway version of Newsies started in these humble forums.
I remember the first time I heard about Newsies: it was with the trailer (included in this package) that showed with Beauty & the Beast. At that time, I was in the middle of a local community theater production of Anything Goes, and seeing the high-energy dancing and singing of this battalion of boys up on the big screen left me eager with anticipation for the final product. When the film finally came out a month or so later, I saw it the first weekend (I still have the Newsies 'newspaper' promo that accompanied the film's release) and was not disappointed. Although the film drags a bit in it's mostly tuneless, plot-heavy third act, I was thrilled to see such a production on the big screen, a treat I was denied before for being born to late to witness the original theatrical runs of such dance favorites as West Side Story and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.