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 ten weeks). Musical highlights include "Carrying the Banner," "Santa Fe," "Seize the Day," "The World Will Know," and "King of New York."
Newsies is based on the true story of Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. Thousands of homeless and orphaned children are living in Newsboys lodging houses, including 17-year old Manhattan newsboy Jack "Cowboy" Kelly, who is a regular newsboy selling newspapers for Joseph Pulitzer and his paper, the New York World. The newsboys wake up and get ready to sell papers ("Carrying the Banner"). Jack meets David Jacobs by using Les because he is younger and cute, teaches Les how to trick people into buying a paper by pretending to be sick and making up headlines. The three of them duck into Irving Hall to escape being chased by a cop. Jack introduces Les and David to Medda "Swedish Meadowlark" Larkson, 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 Fe ("Santa Fe"). Soon, Jack and Sarah find themselves in love. Shortly afterward, the price of newspapers for purchase by the newsboys is raised one-tenth 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 ("The World Will Know" and "Seize the Day"). 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 and Medda, as well as being hindered by Snyder, 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 ("Once and For All") and gaining the support of other non-union child workers around the city and Snyder is arrested. Denton tells Jack that Governor Theodore Roosevelt, was grateful Jack brought the strike to his attention and Roosevelt is offering to give him a ride anywhere, and Jack requests to be taken to the train station to catch a train to Santa Fe. His friends are disappointed to see him leave, but Roosevelt gives Jack advice convincing Jack to change his mind and decides to stay with his friends in New York City and David is accepted as an official Newsie. Sarah catches up to Jack and the two share a passionate kiss. Jack and the who leaves school temporarily and joins the Newsies along with his little brother Les 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 other Newsies dance into the crowds as the film comes to a close.
- Jack "Cowboy" Kelly / Francis Sullivan - Christian Bale
- David Jacobs - David Moscow
- Les Jacobs - Luke Edwards
- Mush Meyers - Aaron Lohr
- Kid Blink - Trey Parker
- Racetrack Higgins - Max Casella
- Spot Conlon - Gabriel Damon
- Skittery - Michael A. Goorjian
- Crutchy - Marty Belafsky
- Snitch - Dee Caspary
- Boots - Arvie Lowe, Jr.
- Snipeshooter - Mathew Schoenfeld (as Mathew Fields)
- Snoddy - Robert Feeney
- Jake - Joseph Conrad
- Dutchy - Ivan Dudynsky
- Itey - Dominic Maldonado
- Bumlets - Dominic Lucero
- Pie Eater - David Sidoni
- Specs - Mark David
- Swifty - Kevin Stea
- Bryan Denton - Bill Pullman
- Medda Larkson - Ann-Margret
- Mayer Jacobs – Jeffrey DeMunn
- Esther Jacobs - Deborra-Lee Furness
- Sarah Jacobs - Ele Keats
- Mister Snyder - Kevin Tighe
- Weasel/Wiesel - Michael Lerner
- Joseph Pulitzer - Robert Duvall
- Oscar Delancey - Shon Greenblatt
- Morris Delancey - David Sheinkopf
- Seitz - Charles Cioffi
- Judge Monahan - William Boyett
- Mr. Kloppman - Marc Lawrence
- Ten-Pin - Kevin Smets (as Kevin Michaels)
- Governor Theodore Roosevelt - David James Alexander
- Flip Top Wilson - RJ Harrington
- "Prologue" – Racetrack Higgins
- "Carrying the Banner" – Newsies
- "My Lovey Dovey Baby" – Medda Larkson
- "Santa Fe" – Jack Kelly
- "The World Will Know" – Jack Kelly and Newsies
- "Seize the Day" – David Jacobs and Newsies
- "Seize the Day (Chorale)" – Newsies
- "King of New York" – Mush Meyers, Racetrack Higgins, Spot Conlon, Kid Blink, Jack Kelly, Boots, Les, Snipeshooter, David Jacobs, Bryan Denton, and Newsies
- "High Times, Hard Times" – Medda Larkson and Newsies
- "Santa Fe (Reprise)" – Jack Kelly
- "Once And For All" – Jack Kelly, Bryan Denton, David Jacobs, Les Jacobs, Sarah Jacobs
- "The World Will Know (Reprise)" – Les Jacobs, Racetrack Higgins, Newsies, and Company
- "Carrying the Banner (Finale)" – Company
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 30%. However, Newsies has since gained a measurable cultural fan base. Christian Bale is reportedly not a fan of the film. He said: "Time healed those wounds. But it took a while." He's also acknowledged that while it was not a commercial success, its fanbase is surprisingly large, saying: “You say something bad about Newsies and you have an awful lot of people to answer to.”
The film was not a commercial success when first released; ranking among the highest-costing and lowest-grossing Disney live-action films in the studio's history. Movie critic/historian Leonard Maltin 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!: The Musical
- Main article: Newsies (musical)
Disney Theatrical Productions produced a stage musical based on the film that played at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey starting on September 25, 2011 through October 16. Starring Jeremy Jordan as Jack and Max Ehrich (Fenmore, The Young and the Restless) as an understudy for Jack. Newsies!: The Musical contains songs from the movie, as well as several new numbers. The songs "My Lovey Dovey Baby" and "High Times, Hard Times" were left out of the stage adaptation.
The Paper Mill Playhouse version included new songs "The News Is Getting Better" that was replaced on Broadway by "The Bottom Line" and Don't Come a-Knocking" that was replaced on Broadway with "That's Rich", and the "I Never Planned on You/Don't Come a-Knocking" Medley and "Then I See You Again" sung by Katherine and Jack was replaced with "Something to Believe In". "Fansies" was the term dubbed to fans of Newsies during the Papermill Playhouse run of the show during Newsies Fan Day, where cast members of the movie and the original musical cast met with fan before the show.
The musical opened to previews on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre for a limited engagement from March 15, 2012 to March 29, 2012 in previews and from March 30, 2012 to June 10, 2012 in its official engagement. This was later extended through August 19, 2012 after just the first weekend of previews and then extended again, this time to an open-ended run. On September 19, 2011 the cast, accompanied by composer Alan Menken, performed "Seize the Day" and "Santa Fe" on The View. They performed "King of New York" in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Corey Cott is currently playing newsboy leader Jack Kelly on Broadway.
The show went on to earn eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, winning Best Choreography and Best Original Score.
The actual Newsboys Strike of 1899 lasted from July 20 to August 2. The leader of the strike was a one-eyed young man nicknamed "Kid Blink," who spoke with a heavy Brooklyn accent that was often phonetically transcribed when he was quoted by newspapers. Kid Blink is featured in the film as a minor supporting character, while the role of strike leader is given to the fictional Cowboy. The actual strike ended with a compromise: The World and Journal agreed to buy back all unsold copies of the newspapers. The history of the newsboys strike of 1899 is told in David Nasaw's book Children of the City: At Work and at Play (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985; Oxford University Press, 1986).
Young Artist Award (1993)
- "Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture"
- Christian Bale
- David Moscow
- Luke Edwards
- Max Casella
- Marty Belafsky
- Arvie Lowe, Jr.
- Aaron Lohr
- Gabriel Damon
- Shon Greenblatt
- Ele Keats