In April 1992, Walt Disney Pictures premiered something that had not been seen in six years: a big-budget movie musical. The movie, Newsies, was helmed by established choreographer Kenny Ortega in his directing debut. The story loosely follows the adventures of a group of young newspaper carriers in 1899 New York City. The “newsies” stage a strike against Joseph Pulitzer and other child labor exploiters of the day. Much of the story is advanced directly through song and dance.
The history of Hollywood feature-length musicals dates back to The Jazz Singer of 1927, reaching record numbers in 1929 and 1930. Musicals stayed strong through the mid-50s, before largely falling out of favor by the end of the 60s. Movies continued to include songs, dances, and even occasional musical numbers, but the idea of telling the story through song and dance had become a rarity. Rock musicals, where established musicians performed in movies focused on the performers’ music, gained some popularity from the 60s through the 80s.
The 1986 Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Frank Oz and starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, was a film adaptation of a successful off-Broadway musical comedy. Little Shop was a critical success, nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture in a Comedy or Musical. Its success seemed to indicate that audiences were finally ready for Hollywood to release more musicals—musical comedies at least. Continue reading Newsies: A Movie Ahead of Its Time [Gallery]