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Newsies 20th Edition Blu-Ray

Classic Review: Newsies (1992): 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray - Page 2

By Albert Gutierrez

Author's Note: The screen captures included in this review are from the 2002 DVD, and should not be indicative of the video quality on the 2012 Blu-Ray.

Bonus Features:

The Blu-Ray includes a commentary with the filmmakers: director/co-choreographer Kenny Ortega, producer Michael Finnell, writers Bob Tzudiker & Noni White, and co-choreographer Peggy Holmes. This was recorded for the 2002 DVD, when the idea of Newsies on Broadway was still but a dream. Fortunately, it's now a dream come true, as Newsies now plays at the Nederlander Theatre, after a successful trial at the Paper Mill Playhouse last fall. Other than that dated piece of wishful thinking, most everything else remains relevant to the production. We get a thriving discussion about the making of the film, covering many aspects - one such anecdote is how they enjoyed shooting material with Robert Duvall, since it gave them a break from the noisy kids! - as well as general appreciation for the film.

A sing-along track is also included, with special text available during eight songs (reprises included). The still featured above is from the DVD version, the Blu-Ray will naturally offer that image in high-definition. Sadly, there's no Mickey the Bouncing Ball.

Three documentaries follow, two made during the film's original release, and a third in 2002. First up is "Newsies, Newsies See All About It" (21:44), a Disney Channel special that took viewers behind the scenes during the making of the film. It's hosted by Max Casella (Racetrack), Aaron Lohr (Mush), and Arvie Lowe, Jr. (Boots), though we also hear from much of the cast, as well as director Kenny Ortega. The narration from Casella, Lohr, and Lowe play up on how fun the production was, even in spite of their mandatory schooling, intense rehearsals, and early morning starts. Some of the more interesting pieces of footage include Christian Bale's deleted lasso sequence for "Santa Fe," unused lyrics from "Carryin' the Banner," and the cast singing together in the recording studio.

Up next is "Newsies: The Inside Story" (19:28), which is more crew-focused than the previous documentary. A variety of personnel are interviewed here, ranging from director Kenny Ortega and co-choreographer Peggy Holmes to production designer William Sandell and costume designer May Routh, along with several members of the cast (both adults and newsies). This is a more upfront and technical documentary, the kind that you'd expect to see on DVDs today, and there's less of a promotional feel than in "See All About It." Of the two, you can learn from this one, but enjoy the other more.

Finally, "The Strike! The True Story" (18:54) gives us a look at the real-life newsies strike. We learn more about the historical figures and incidents that Bob Tzudiker and Noni White used in Newsies, ranging from real-life strike leader Kid Blink (on whom Jack Kelly is partly based) to Pulitzer's actual resolution for the strike: rather than lower the price back down, newsies were allowed to sell back to the "World" any papers they couldn't sell throughout the day. Also covered is the overall effect of child labor in New York City, with participation from historians and authors on the subject.

Two trailers are offered for the film, the first (2:08) initially sells the film for its dramatic story, then for its musical splendor. The second (1:44) places Newsies in the same vein as past Disney hits: Beauty and the Beast (1991), White Fang (1990), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), The Little Mermaid (1989), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Neither are restored, so we get to see how Newsies looks when it's old, faded, and in pan&scan.

Finally, a "Storyboard to Scene" comparison (6:14) shows various clips from the beginning of the film, blending back and forth with the original storyboards. Most comparisons usually go for the split-screen method so we can see both options together, but this version also works quite well. Also available on this featurette is commentary from production designer William Sandell.

Funny, I thought it was slang for Aladdin!

The DVD contains one feature not on the Blu-Ray: "Talkin' Newsies." This was a quick and easy text feature, in which you could go through thirty-two slang phrases used in the film, and get a modern-day translation. Some ranged from the obvious ("axed" is newsies for "asked"), while others were period-specific, such as "shoot the bull" for "to be a journalist." My favorites include "Not on borrowing terms" for "unfriendly" and "Wha'da 'Ya Hear, Wha'da 'Ya Sa?", which simply means "Hi."

Not included on either DVD or Blu-Ray, but worthy of viewing for any Newsies fan is the 1991 short film Blood Drips Heavily on Newsies Square. This was shot during production, directed by Michael Goorjian (Skittery) and starring Mark David (Specs) as Don Knotts. It's quite amusing to watch, most of the cast shows up, saying and doing things that would never make it into a Disney movie. More information can be found (as well as a short clip) at Goorjian's website.

"Nevah feah, Brooklyn is heah!"


Whether you've picked up Newsies on DVD or Blu-Ray, you will find a satisfactory transfer and audio mix, with little complaints from me beyond its heavy grain. Each disc offers a healthy selection of bonus material, near-identical on both formats. It's not as in-depth as, say, a Platinum or Diamond Edition of Disney's animated films, but what is offered is welcome. The commentary and three documentaries will be of great interest to fans of the film, while also containing material that will allow casual viewers to appreciate its production.

If anything could improve this set, it would be the inclusion of deleted scenes (some of which are documented here), as well as hearing from the cast today in a new documentary or commentary track. Also, given the huge success of Newsies on Broadway, I'm surprised Disney didn't produce a documentary focusing on its creation, especially after the fine "From Page to Stage" documentary they made in 2009 regarding Mary Poppins's stage musical.

I've been a fan of Newsies for nigh on seven years now, having first watched the film in 2005. It's become one of my favorites, which I always enjoy recommending to casual Disney fans only familiar with the animated classics. I once referred to it as "The Disney Animated Classic That Never Was" in my Saturday Matinee column, and indeed, it is.

All the qualities that made many of us love the Renaissance Era animated films can be found in Newsies. Jack Kelly is the likable and attractive lead just as Ariel and Belle were before him, and as Aladdin would be later in the year (1992). He's got his own "I Want" song in "Santa Fe," appropriately placed in the first act (like "Part of Your World" or "Belle") when such a ballad won't slow down the pace of the film. Our resident villain - Joseph Pulitzer - is irascible and ill-tempered, but never really a threatening character to the audience. And there's fun, lots of fun, whenever the story blends into a dance number to enhance an idea. "The World Will Know" becomes as effective a message as "Under the Sea" in The Little Mermaid. "King of New York" is as celebratory as "Prince Ali" of Aladdin. "For Once and For All" anchors the third act just as "Savages" does in Pocahontas. Newsies is as fun as a Disney animated film, and made with the same polish and spectacle as their live-action musicals of yore.

Film: 4 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Video: 3.5 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Audio: 4.5 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Bonus Features: 3.5 out of 5 Mickey Heads

Average: 3.875 out of 5 Mickey Heads

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Disc 1 Review

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