In many ways, Disney’s 1992 musical “Newsies” should have been a surefire hit. Boasting an incredible array of songs written by the greats Alan Menken and JAC Redford, and featuring Christian Bale, Bill Pullman and legendary actors Ann-Margret and Robert Duvall, the fine production made all the right choices, but, unfortunately, failed to ignite the box office. The Kenny Ortega-directed pic only grossed $2.8 million against a $15 million budget, making it one of the biggest bombshells of the ’90s live-action era from Disney.
What went wrong? For starters, at 121 minutes, “Newsies” is way too long, especially given its story – centered around the 1899 Newsboys Strike – and the characters aren’t that engaging. And while the songs are great, the film’s overall style doesn’t translate as well to the big screen as it does to the stage, which is likely why the Broadway musical was much more acclaimed.
Years later, critics have been kinder to “Newsies,” with its story about the power of the press resonating more than ever with modern viewers. Though its slow pace, scenic aesthetic, and clunky storytelling may be too hard for audiences to overlook.