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The Magic Years
Disney through the eyes of teens
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Adrienne Krock, editor

The Newsies

"They'll see it as a challenge!"

Newsies DVD. (© Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

Those were the words of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer when he raised the distribution cost of newspapers at the expense of newsboys. And boy, was he right! When the poor working boys heard about the price increase, they decided to strike.

Led by Jack Kelley and his friend David Jacobs, the newsboys were encouraged to stand up for themselves, and newsboys from all over New York joined in the fight. With the help of Bryan Denton, a reporter for the New York Sun, the strike is spread to all the working children in the area, revealing the city's harsh reliance on child labor.

Based on the actual events of the newsboys' strike of 1899, Disney's musical, The Newsies provides a fun, yet realistic, look into the rough lives of the New York newsboys. Topped off with terrific music and choreography, we see the price increase through the newsies' eyes. Starring Christian Bale, Max Casella, and David Moscow, this musical is one of the greatest to ever hit home video. In May 2001, Disney brought this sleeper back to store shelves.

While The Newsies didn't win any big awards, it won many fans across the country, including Roger Ebert. With those loveable New York accents and characters like Spot Conlin, Racetrack Higgins, Mush, and the Delancey brothers, who could deny the delightfulness of this movie? Unfortunately, the reviews for this movie were anything but positive. Granted, it may not be the best Disney movie ever to see the theater, but there is something special about it that the "trained professionals" can't seem to see.

In this film, we're shown "how the mighty can fall," and taught that we need to stand up for our rights, and that we can win, no matter how low we are on the totem pole. We're entertained by the newsies' humor, charmed by Max Casella's accent, and even tickled with a little romance for those mushy at heart.

Upon seeing this movie for the first time, I immediately purchased the soundtrack and then went back for the songbook. The music stays in your head and touches you so deeply. You want to reach out and high-five the newsies in "King of New York," and it's hard to watch Jack sing "Santa Fe" without getting teary-eyed. Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, with a little help from J. A. C. Redford, have created a five-star soundtrack. You might recognize Alan Menken's name from The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and many other award-winning Disney productions.

Even with the help of these creative composers, however, the movie's score received sour reviews from the professionals. Why? I'm not sure. None of the crictics seem to have legitimate excuses for their crummy thoughts on the movie, or the music. But when you ask viewers for a review, the majority will say it's a must-see.

One thing that critics and fans do agree on is the actors: The cast of The Newsies is truly one of the most spectacular in any musical to date.

So where are the young men now? You might recognize Christian Bale (now an older Jack Kelley) from the new movie Reign of Fire, or recognize his voice in Pocahontas as John Smith's friend, Thomas. Max Casella starred in the TV series "Doogie Howser" before playing Racetrack Higgins in The Newsies. He was part of the original cast of The Lion King on Broadway, playing Timon, and recently co-starred as Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man, also on Broadway. Marty Belafsky, who played Crutchy, was recently in Pearl Harbor, and Men in Black II.

There are too many newsies to list here, but others have appeared in movies such as Charlie's Angels, Forbidden City, and Captain Corelli's Mandolin, starring Nicolas Cage. In fact, a few of them have met up with each other again in movies after their newsboy days. Kenny Ortega, who directed The Newsies, also choreographed Ferris Beuller's Day Off.

Bill Pullman, who played the friendly reporter, has gone on to be in movies such as Independence Day, While You Were Sleeping, Sleepless in Seattle, Titan A.E., Mr. Wrong, and Casper, among many others.

I think this is an excellent movie, and one my brother and I can enjoy together. The CD is the perfect thing to lay in bed and listen to when everyone else is asleep.

Perhaps you have thoughts on the movie that you'd like to share? E-mail me, and let's compare notes!



Jewel's FastFact: In 1971, the year Walt Disney World opened, only 10,000 people visisted the Park. However, the numbers soon rose to over 10,000 guests an hour.

Questions, comments, or suggestions? E-mail me at


"Extra! Extra! Read all about it!"

These days, the only place you might see a newsboy is in the movies.

But back in the 1800s, tens of thousands of copies of newspapers were sold in New York City by an army of young newsboys, who hawked them from street corners. The newspapers were sensational in the way that today's gossip tabloids are, and they were the way most people found out what was going on, since it was before the age of television and the Internet.


My name is Jewel.

I am 13 years old, and a typical junior high student. I live with my mom, dad, and little brother. My family and I have annual passes to Disneyland so we go quite often. I love school, and science has always been a favorite subject of mine. I am in band and hope to be involved in music for the rest of my life.

Right now, my career goal is to become a deejay. In my mind, that is the coolest job in the world! My hobbies include: listening to and playing music, reading, writing, messing around on the computer and hanging out at Disneyland. We have seven cats (four of them found us), a black Labrador, and I have a goldfish.

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