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Film: Newsies
"Pulitzer may own the World, but he don't own us!"

Newsies is a 1992 film produced by Disney. It is a live-action musical that follows the story of a group of newsboys in New York City in 1899, who strike against the city's biggest newspapers and their publishers after the price of newspapers goes up. It was a box office bomb when it was first released and severely mocked by critics (Leonard Maltin went as far as calling it "Howard the Newsboy"), but a combination of releases on home video and DVD, airings on the Disney Channel, the Internet, and word of mouth has given it a monster-sized cult following. Go figure. A Broadway adaptation hit in 2012 and was promptly sold out and showered in Tony noms. It won two, for Best Choreography and Best Score, winning Alan Menken his first Tony.

It should also be noted that the film was also directed by Kenny Ortega, the guy who would go on to be responsible for the High School Musical films.


This film provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Targets: When trying to figure out which headlines would help them sell more papers, one newsie suggests a crooked politician. He gets shouted down because "that ain't news no more!"
  • Adults Are Useless: Though only partially, since Denton does help the newsies by getting their story out.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Both Pulitzer and Weasel, David's full name is "David Jacobs", his sister is named Sarah, and his parents are called Esther and Meyer, all Jewish names.
  • Angry Mob Song: "The World Will Know"
  • Badass Boast: From "Seize The Day": Proud and defiant, we'll slay the giant!
  • Big Applesauce: Turn-of-the-century applesauce, no less.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Most of the kids use these with marbles.
    "And we got a ton of rotten fruit and perfect aim."
  • Brooklyn Rage: Spot Conlon.
  • The Cavalry: Spot Conlon and his gang.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: By default.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Pulitzer is the pre-20th-century-Robber-Baron variety of this.
  • Creator Backlash: Christian Bale hated working on the film, and swore he'd never do another musical.
  • Da Editor: Pulitzer.
  • Dark Reprise: Jack sings a melancholy reprise of "Santa Fé" after he has been taken to the juvenile detention centre.
  • David Versus Goliath: The premise; the original legend is referenced explicitly twice in the film: in dialogue ("What's your name?" "David." "As in David and Goliath?"), and in the song "Seize the Day": "Proud and defiant/We'll slay the giant!"
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Jack teaches Les how to use his cute-little-boy charm to sell more papers.
  • Face-Heel Turn: When the strike looks like it's succeeding, Pulitzer hauls Jack in and offers him money in exchange for him giving up on the strike. Jack's not interested until Pulitzer threatens Jack's friend and co-leader, David, and David's family; then he caves, and is later seen wearing new clothes and selling Pulitzer's papers. It doesn't last. (This is one aspect of the story that comes more or less straight from the historical record.)
  • A Friend in Need
  • The Gambling Addict: Racetrack is unashamedly addicted to gambling.
    Racetrack: Remember that hot tip I told you about?
    Jack: Yeah?
    Racetrack: Nobody told the horse.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Crutchy, rather pleased with a bit of mischief, tells Jack he's done something to Snyder's sauerkraut. What color is sauerkraut, and what could a mischievous teenage boy do to it in order to get back at somebody?
  • Historical-Domain Character: Theodore Roosevelt, Governor of the State of New York.
    • Not to mention Joseph Pulitzer and Kid Blink, the latter of whom is downgraded from his historical role as leader of the strike in favor of the film's original character.
    • Actually, most of the boys are loosely or directly based on actual newsboys involved in the strike. Racetrack Higgins, Spot Conlon, Mush Meyers, Crutchy Morris, and several others are explicitly named in newspaper articles from the strike, and David is clearly based on a strike leader named Dave Simons. There was also a newsboy named Jack Sullivan who probably provided some inspiration for Jack Kelly.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: "King of New York".
  • "I Am" Song: The newsies collectively get one in the opening number, "Carrying the Banner", which explains their working life:
    ''Every morning
    We goes where we wishes
    We's as free as fishes
    Sure beats washing dishes
    What a fine life
    Carrying the banner home-free all!''
  • I Choose to Stay: Jack has always dreamed of going to Santa Fe, but with a little off-screen persuasion by Governor Roosevelt, he decides to go back to his Newsie family.
  • If I Were a Rich Man: The song "King of New York" has shades of this, with the newsies imagining the extravagant things their fame will get them.
    • Slightly averted, because they aren't even imagining anything truly expensive. The most expensive thing any of them want is a movie ticket and a private box at Sheepshead Races. Although one does hope for a Saturday night with the Mayor's daughter.
  • "I Want" Song: Jack's solo "Santa Fé":
    ''Santa Fé, are you there?
    Do you swear you won't forget me?
    If I found you, would you let me come and stay?''
  • Kid Hero: Also by default.
  • King of the Homeless
  • Large Ham: Pulitzer, especially his rant about when he created The World.
  • Market-Based Title: Released in Britain as The News Boys.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Headlines don't sell papes. Newsies sell papes."
  • Mouthy Kid: The cast is made of these.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: And the World Will Know! And the Journal too!
  • No Song for the Wicked: None of the antagonists sing.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Many of the newsies.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: One of the Delanceys initially acts offended by his brother threatening to beat up David, indicating that he has Hidden Depths (or at least standards). Within minutes though, he helps harass David and his family along with his brother and not seeming the least bit conflicted or hesitant about it.
    • It's actually far more likely that Morris just didn't want Oscar telling Jack about their plans, as it would up the odds of Jack getting in their way.
  • Parental Abandonment: All of the newsies except David and his little brother, Les, are either orphans or otherwise effectively parentless.
  • Plot-Induced Stupidity: Jack specifically tells Denton not to put his picture in the paper, but later when he whips his camera out and takes a picture of all the newsies, Jack doesn't duck down or cover his face or even move so as to make it blur. This leads to trouble when Warden Snyder sees the picture and figures out that "Francis Sullivan" is now using the name "Jack Kelly". Of course, the subsequent plot is dependent on this happening, but why didn't they just have Jack be taken by surprise? Instead, he sees the camera and even points it out to the others.
  • Police Are Useless: Right up until the very end of the film.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: "Poor orphans and runaways, the newsies were a ragged army, without a leader, until one day all of that changed..."
  • Refuge in Audacity: When they realize they need to print their own paper if they want to rally all of the child laborers in the city, the heroes make use of one of Pullitzer's own printing presses, stored in his basement.
  • Running Gag: For poetic reasons, the characters continually say that they will talk to the World, run by Pulitzer. It sounds like they're talking about the actual world, but every now and then they'll throw in "and the Journal" as a side note.
    • The newspaper heading reads: "Children's Crusade: Newsies stop World." (The sub-heading says "and the Journal.")
  • Somewhere Song: "Santa Fé".
  • The Smart Guy: David is "the brains" of the strike.
  • Stealth Pun: Evil Old Pulitzer's newspaper is named The World. They milk the hell out of this ("and the world will know! And the Journal, too!") (also see the page quote).
    • There's also a part where Pulitzer is on a rant about the good old days and says, "Now when I created the World—" Even his cronies snicker.
  • That Was Objectionable: Spot Conlon attempts this when the Newsies are taken to court for holding a protest rally.
    Spot: Your Honour, I object.
    Judge: On what grounds?
    Spot: On the grounds of Brooklyn.
  • The Theme Park Version: Of the late-19th-century labor movement. The real thing involved a lot more violence, a lot more theory connecting strikes to the state of society, and not quite as many musical numbers.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The World Will Know!
  • True Companions: A major theme; all the newsies are these.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There really was a newsboys' strike in 1899, and most of the newsies' nicknames are taken from contemporary records.
    • Though history has been mute on the amount of singing and dancing involved, so it would be best to take that with a grain of salt.

The Broadway Musical contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Jack has a lot more angst over Crutchie getting captured and injured than he does in the movie.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Jack's brief time as a scab is tied in better to the plot, by making him realize how important he is to the strike as a leader everyone else can get behind.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Telling that Jack and Katherine's first kiss is in the middle of a shouting match.
  • BSOD Song: The stage musical's version of "Santa Fe" might be this given that Jack is flipping out with guilt and angst over Crutchie being beaten up and arrested.
  • Composite Character: Katherine absorbs the roles of Sarah Jacobs and Bryan Denton from the movie.
  • Gender Flip: Given that Katherine is a composite of a male and female character from the film, the male character's role got this treatment.
  • He's Back:
    "We've got faith!"
    "We've got the plan!"
    "And we've got Jack!"
    "So just watch what happens . . .
    We're back!"
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jack and Crutchie, and also Jack and David, by the end.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Katherine Plumber becomes invested in the newsies' revolution and works hard to get their story out.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Katherine is Pulitzer's daughter. Not a totally straight example, as both of them know it from the start, but the other protagonists sure don't.
  • Plucky Girl: Katherine, again. She braves a couple of scuffles, writes what she believes, helps to cheer up Jack, and defies Pulitzer's printing ban and parental ban on seeing Jack.
  • The Pollyanna: Crutchie is visibly upset about once in this show, and Jack quickly cheers him. The rest of the time he's smiling like crazy and is one of the most spirited supporters of the strike.
  • Power Trio: Jack, David and Katherine give off this vibe as strike leaders.
  • Serial Romeo: Romeo, fittingly enough.
  • She Is the King: Thanks to the Gender Flip above, "King of New York" ends up invoking this for Katherine's part.
    Race: Am-scray, punk, Shes the king of New York!
    Katherine: Whod'a thunk! I'm the king of New York!
  • Shout-Out: "Good Ol' Captain Jack." Oh, Disney . . .
    • Also, it may be a coincidence, but "Is that even legal?" (said by Katherine during "Watch What Happens") is also a line from Kenny Ortega's later Disney musical High School Musical.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Katherine Plumber.
  • Starving Artist: Jack is given shades of this.
  • Vague Age: How old is Katherine? Old enough to be a reporter, young enough to be an honorary member of a children's crusade (thereby playing Adults Are Useless straighter) and start a relationship with 17-year-old Jack.
  • Villain Song: "The Bottom Line"
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Jack. When he's ticked-off at Katherine, he laments something along the lines of "Oh, if you weren't a girl . . ."

The Mighty DucksCreator/DisneyCool Runnings
NemesisFilms of the 1990sNoises Off
New York New YorkThe MusicalNext To Normal

alternative title(s): Newsies
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