Newsies (1992)

PG | 120 mins | Musical, Children's works | 1992

Director:

Kenny Ortega

Producer:

Michael Finnell

Cinematographer:

Andrew Laszlo

Production Designer:

William Sandell

Production Company:

Walt Disney Pictures
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michelle Bjornas, a student at Georgia Institute of Technology, with Vinicius Navarro as academic advisor.

Newsies opens with a title card that reads: “This story is based on actual events” and an introductory voice-over narration. All credits appear at the end of the film.
              According to a 21 Jul 1899 report in New York Daily Tribune , the Newsboys Strike of 1899 began the previous morning when the price of The Evening World and The Evening Journal increased from fifty cents to seventy cents per one hundred copies, and that the leader of the strike was “Jack” Sullivan. On 1 Aug 1899, New York Daily Tribune reported the end of the strike, but unlike the film, where the original price was reinstated, the boys returned to work because they were able to return their unsold papers for compensation. Various New York Daily Tribune news items mentioned the Newsie “Kid Blink.” This name was used for a character in the film.
       According to an article in HR on 27 Aug 1991, Newsies was originally written as a drama. Producer Michael Finnell reported that when his company, Renfield Productions, was approached with the story, they were convinced that it would be too complicated to produce as a musical. Walt Disney’s CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, however, was eager to make a musical after the success of The Little Mermaid (1989, see entry) and brought its composer, ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michelle Bjornas, a student at Georgia Institute of Technology, with Vinicius Navarro as academic advisor.

Newsies opens with a title card that reads: “This story is based on actual events” and an introductory voice-over narration. All credits appear at the end of the film.
              According to a 21 Jul 1899 report in New York Daily Tribune , the Newsboys Strike of 1899 began the previous morning when the price of The Evening World and The Evening Journal increased from fifty cents to seventy cents per one hundred copies, and that the leader of the strike was “Jack” Sullivan. On 1 Aug 1899, New York Daily Tribune reported the end of the strike, but unlike the film, where the original price was reinstated, the boys returned to work because they were able to return their unsold papers for compensation. Various New York Daily Tribune news items mentioned the Newsie “Kid Blink.” This name was used for a character in the film.
       According to an article in HR on 27 Aug 1991, Newsies was originally written as a drama. Producer Michael Finnell reported that when his company, Renfield Productions, was approached with the story, they were convinced that it would be too complicated to produce as a musical. Walt Disney’s CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, however, was eager to make a musical after the success of The Little Mermaid (1989, see entry) and brought its composer, Alan Menkin, together with choreographer Kenny Ortega, who was set to direct. The songs were completed, with the exception of “King of New York,” at the end of Jan 1991, and the cast endured a rigorous ten-week workshop to improve their singing, dance, gymnastic and martial arts skills before shooting began.
              According to HR production charts on 16 Apr 1991 and studio production notes from AMPAS library files, production started 15 Apr 1991 in Los Angeles. Locations included the New York City backlot at Universal Studios, which was destroyed by arson the day before construction was scheduled to begin, as reported in an Apr 1992 Theatre Crafts article. Production designer William Sandell admitted in the article that the fire proved to be an advantage, allowing his team to design sets to the specifics of the film. According to studio production notes and Theatre Crafts , the sets became a staple in the Universal lot and their removal resulted in negotiations between Universal and Disney. Sandell noted that during the shoot for Newsies , Francis Ford Coppola expressed his desire to use the sets for his upcoming production, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, see entry), but Sandell informed him that Newsies was a Disney production and the sets belonged to them. During the striking of the set, Universal charged Disney for the artifacts it took away from the lot, so many stayed on site, including the World Press building. The Universal backlot location also raised sound issues, as noted in Theater Crafts and studio production notes, and the shooting schedule was organized to avoid the audio interference of Universal Studio Tour tramcars. Interiors were shot on sound stages at Disney and Universal.
              According to a 15 Apr 1992 LAT news item, Newsies had the worst opening weekend of the year for a major studio film. Although budgeted at $25 million, the film only grossed $1.2 million, with an average of $981 per theater. Newsies was Disney’s first feature-length live action musical release since Pete’s Dragon (1977, see entry).
              The movie opened to mixed reviews. On 6 Apr 1992, HR claimed that the movie had “uninspired choreography” and “inadequate musical leads,” while Var , on 6 Apr 1992, said that the characters are “card-board cutouts instead of flesh-and-blood characters.”
              Newsies was Kenny Ortega's first movie as a director.
              Although the film is a musical none of the songs or background music is listed in the credits.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 May 1991.
---
Daily Variety
6 Apr 1992
p. 2, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1991
pp. 6-7, 66.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1992
p. 5, 34.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1992
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1992.
---
New York Daily Tribune
21 Jul 1899.
---
New York Daily Tribune
1 Aug 1899.
---
New York Times
8 Apr 1992
p. 17.
Theatre Crafts
Apr 1992
p. 32, 48-49.
Variety
6 Apr 1992
p. 166.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring
Starring
The Newsies:
The Friends of the Newsies:
The Opposing Forces:
Newsies dancers:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Michael Finnell Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres in assoc with
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
"B" cam op
1st asst cam
"B" cam 1st asst
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Technocrane op
Still photog
Filmed in
Prod and distributed on
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Art dept researcher
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Leadman
Const coord
Const eff foreman
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's cost supv
Women's cost supv
MUSIC
Orig songs, Mus by
Orig songs, Lyrics by
Orig underscore by
Songs orch and cond by
Mus supv
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
On-set mus ed
Mus coord
Songs prod by
Songs arr
Songs arr
Vocal arr
Songs and score rec and mixed by
Score orch
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Copyist
Mus contractor
Mus contractor
Vocal consultant
Vocal coach
Vocal contractor
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Cableman
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
ADR ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Sd eff rec
Sd eff rec
Sd eff rec
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley rec
Foley mixer
Foley facilities
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Dubbing rec
Group ADR coord
ADR mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Opening montage and title des
Matte artist, Illusion Arts crew
Matte cam, Illusion Arts crew
Matte cam, Illusion Arts crew
Matte cam, Illusion Arts crew
Brooklyn Bridge spec techniques, Illusion Arts cre
Prod, Illusion Arts crew
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
Asst choreog
MAKEUP
Key make-up artist
Make-up artist
Make-up artist
Key hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Scr supv
Dialect coach
Asst prod coord
Prod assoc
Asst to Kenny Ortega
Secy to Kenny Ortega
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Extras coord
Studio teacher
Studio teacher
Studio teacher
Studio teacher
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Craft service
Unit pub
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
DETAILS
Release Date:
1992
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 8 Apr 1992; Los Angeles opening: 10 Apr 1992
Copyright Claimant:
The Walt Disney Company
Copyright Date:
20 April 1992
Copyright Number:
PA561821
Physical Properties:
Sound
Spectral Recording Dolby Stereo SR in selected theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31682
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1899 New York City, orphaned, crippled, and unfortunate boys known as Newsies make a living by selling newspapers. At the Newsboys Lodging House, the boys prepare for their day’s work and head to the printing press. Outside, the Delancey brothers harass one of the younger boys, but Jack Kelly, a Newsie nicknamed “Cowboy,” defends him and leads the brothers on a chase. Returning to the press, Jack is cheered by his fellow Newsies and waits for the distributor, Mr. Wiesel, whom the boys call “Weasel,” to sell him his usual allotment of one hundred “papes.” Weasel shortchanges one of the Newsies and Jack protests, buying the boy fifty extra copies. When the boy objects to Jack’s charity, his younger sibling, Les, introduces Jack to David, and Jack suggests they form a partnership as compensation because younger boys sell more papers. After agreeing to a sixty-forty split in Jack’s favor, Jack teaches Les and David the ropes. Meanwhile, publisher Joseph Pulitzer complains that the headlines are not selling enough of his papers to compete with William Randolph Hearst and orders his advisors to find a way to increase revenues by that evening. Casing the crowd at a boxing match, David observes Jack advertising false news stories and coaching Les to play sick in order to sell papers, but when he says his father taught him not to lie, Jack responds that they must do what it takes to survive and argues that the newspaper writers also embellish the truth. Upon spotting Snyder, the jail warden, Jack tells the boys to run and they hide in a local theater. Jack ... +


In 1899 New York City, orphaned, crippled, and unfortunate boys known as Newsies make a living by selling newspapers. At the Newsboys Lodging House, the boys prepare for their day’s work and head to the printing press. Outside, the Delancey brothers harass one of the younger boys, but Jack Kelly, a Newsie nicknamed “Cowboy,” defends him and leads the brothers on a chase. Returning to the press, Jack is cheered by his fellow Newsies and waits for the distributor, Mr. Wiesel, whom the boys call “Weasel,” to sell him his usual allotment of one hundred “papes.” Weasel shortchanges one of the Newsies and Jack protests, buying the boy fifty extra copies. When the boy objects to Jack’s charity, his younger sibling, Les, introduces Jack to David, and Jack suggests they form a partnership as compensation because younger boys sell more papers. After agreeing to a sixty-forty split in Jack’s favor, Jack teaches Les and David the ropes. Meanwhile, publisher Joseph Pulitzer complains that the headlines are not selling enough of his papers to compete with William Randolph Hearst and orders his advisors to find a way to increase revenues by that evening. Casing the crowd at a boxing match, David observes Jack advertising false news stories and coaching Les to play sick in order to sell papers, but when he says his father taught him not to lie, Jack responds that they must do what it takes to survive and argues that the newspaper writers also embellish the truth. Upon spotting Snyder, the jail warden, Jack tells the boys to run and they hide in a local theater. Jack informs David and Les that the “Refuge” is a jail for kids, and Snyder is trying to imprison him for a past offense of stealing food. Although Jack refuses to explain why Snyder called him “Sullivan,” he tells the brothers that he escaped the Refuge on Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage. When Medda Larkson, the matron of the theater, investigates the noise, she welcomes the boys to stay and they watch her perform from the wings. As they leave the theater, Jack tells David and Les that Medda was a friend of his father, who is with his mother in New Mexico, and that they will send for him once they find a ranch. Investigating the sound of gunshots and shouting, the boys discover a riot of striking trolley workers but David encourages them to escape the violence and invites Jack home to meet his parents. After dinner, Jack flirts with David and Les’s sister, Sarah, and David tells his parents that they will be successful in their partnership with Jack. David’s father, however, reminds his son that he will soon return to his job at the factory when his arm heals and that David must go back to school. Later, David tells Jack that his father was laid off after becoming injured at work because he was not protected by a union. Although invited to stay the night, Jack refuses and on his way back to the Newsboys Lodging House, he fantasizes about going to Santa Fe. Meanwhile, Pulitzer’s adviser, Jonathan, informs Pulitzer that revenues can be increased by either raising the distribution price of the paper for the Newsies or by cutting salaries at the top level, and Pulitzer agrees to charging the Newsies ten cents more per one hundred papers. When his associate, Seitz, objects and argues that the Newsies will work for Hearst, instead, Pulitzer plans to conspire with Hearst to raise the fee so there will be no competition and claims that the fees will provide incentive for the boys to sell more papers. The following day, Jack suggests a strike, but David reminds him that they do not have a union to back them. Despite his concern that they will end up in a violent stand off like the trolley workers, David tells Jack that they need to recruit all of the Newsies in New York City for a successful strike. As David whispers rhetoric about rights and unity in his ear, Jack makes a rousing speech to the Newsies and they declare themselves a union. At the door of Pulitzer’s building, Jack tells the boys to be “ambassadors” and spread the word about the strike then heads to Pulitzer’s office with Les. A reporter with The New York Sun , Bryan Denton, observes the rally and questions David, saying that he looks like the “man in charge” when Jack and Les are evicted from the building. Denton treats the boys to a meal, listens to their story and tells them to keep him informed. Later, Jack faces off with Spot Conlon, leader of the Brooklyn Newsies, who doubts that Jack’s Newsies have the courage to fight. The next day, the strike begins with the Newsies intimidating scabs and destroying newspapers, but they are broken up by the police and Crutchy, one of the Newsies, is captured and taken to the Refuge. On their way to rescue Crutchy, Jack tells David that Snyder receives increased funding for every orphan he “rehabilitates,” but he uses the money to pad his pockets. At the Refuge, Jack finds that the Delancey brothers attacked Crutchy, making him unable to walk, and he cannot escape. The next day, Pulitzer authorizes Weasel to use any means necessary to break up the Newsie strike, and when the boys arrive at the press, they are met by men wielding chains and clubs. Watching Jack's Newsies attempt to fight off their attackers, the Brooklyn Newsies come to the rescue and force Weasel’s men to retreat. Denton captures the scene with a photograph and the next morning, the strike makes it to the front page of The New York Sun . In order to get more publicity, Jack suggests a rally. Back at the Refuge, Crutchy sees Jack in the paper on Snyder’s desk and reveals his identity as “Jack” instead of “Sullivan.” Although Crutchy feigns ignorance about Jack’s location, Snyder pursues him at the Newsboys Lodging House, where Kloppman, the caretaker, and the Newsies claim they have never heard of Jack. When Snyder reports to Pulitzer and Mayor Von Wyck that Jack is an escaped felon, Pulitzer demands that Jack is arrested and used as an example to intimidate the Newsies. At the rally in Medda's theater, Jack and David advocate for non-violence and unity, but as Medda performs, Snyder sneaks inside and the New York police force surrounds the building. As the boys attempt to block the police, Jack runs away but is captured after a blow to the head. At the Newsies’ hearing, Denton pays for their release, but tells Jack that the rally was not reported in any papers. When Jack goes before Judge Movealong Monahan, Snyder announces that his real name is Francis Sullivan, his mother is dead and his father is in prison, and that he is a fugitive from the Refuge. Jack accuses Judge Monahan of accepting kickbacks from Snyder and is sentenced to return to the Refuge until he is twenty-one. The Newsies meet with Denton and discover he has been reassigned by The New York Sun and can no longer write about the strike, but he gives David his story about the rally before he leaves. Guided by David, the Newsies attempt to rescue Jack, but outside the Refuge they see him transported away and David follows the carriage to Pulitzer's mansion. After Pulitzer attempts to bribe Jack with freedom and money, and threatens the livelihood of David’s family, Jack escapes with David. Jack, however, angrily sends David away, reminding him that he has put himself and his family at risk, and returns to the Refuge. The next morning, Jack is presented to the striking Newsies as a scab and they call him a traitor, but Les insists it is a ploy. Feeling betrayed, David takes over as leader of the strike, making him a prime target for the Delancey brothers, but when they attack him and his siblings, Jack defends them and rejoins his friends in their cause. The kids visit Denton and Jack asks him to help them write their own paper to rally sweatshop kids from across the city. Using one of Pulitzer's own presses, they print enough papers to spread throughout the city. The next day, while the Newsies wait for others to show at the rally, Denton takes their paper to Mayor Von Wyck and he agrees to help. Suddenly, thousands of sweatshop child laborers congregate outside of Pulitzer's office and join the strike. With the help of Seitz, Jack and David confront Pulitzer in his office. When Pulitzer threatens to retaliate, David tells him that his circulation has decreased seventy percent since the strike began and argues it is not in his best interest to disregard their voices. Reading the Newsies’ paper, Pulitzer demands to know who defied his ban on publishing stories about the strike, and Jack informs him that the news was printed on a Pulitzer press. Returning to the crowd, Jack announces that they have beaten Pulitzer. When the police and Snyder arrive, Jack starts to run, but Denton tells him that he is no longer a fugitive. Newsies from the Refuge, including Crutchy, are released while Snyder climbs into the paddy wagon in handcuffs. As Crutchy explains that Teddy Roosevelt demanded the boys’ discharge, the governor greets the cheering crowd and Denton tells him that Roosevelt will give him a ride anywhere he wants to go. David, Les and Sarah watch sadly as the carriage pulls away, but the next day, as the Newsies line up for their papers, Jack returns to the press and tells Roosevelt that the boys are his family. As the crowd cheers, Jack kisses Sarah passionately, and the friends walk away from the press arm in arm. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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