Mention Christian Bale and a lot of things come to mind. One of the best actors to play Batman, an Academy Award winner known for going deep into roles, a top star for decades, and an intense temper but still a great actor.
Yet one thing that doesn't come to mind when Christian Bale is mentioned is Disney movie Teen Idol. Yet it was the case as Bale was used in a few Disney movies in the early 1990s. One has since become a beloved cult hit, another a Disney animated classic, while the third is long forgotten but is notable for featuring this future A-list star in his younger days while still showing the talent that would make him famous.
Christan Bale had one of the best breakout roles you can ask for, starring in Steven Spielberg's 1987 WWII drama Empire of the Sun. He followed it up with a role in Kenneth Brangh's Henry V. So, not even a teenager, and already Bale had worked with two huge directors to push himself up. That led to his first-ever starring lead role in a movie that's since become a notable Disney film.
Newsies: the bomb turned cult favorite
Newsies remains one of the most fascinating Disney movies ever, not just for its production but also for its afterlife. A live-action musical based on the real-life newsboys strike of 1899 with a dozen new songs by Alan Menken, the man behind the tunes of The Little Mermaid on Beauty and the Beast? It's still amazing this ever got green-lit.
Bale plays the lead role as Jack Kelly, a newbie who organizes the newsboys into striking. It's fascinating to watch him, not just looking so young but showing off singing pipes, notably the solo "Santa Fe" where Jack dreams of a better life for himself.
The movie became a huge box office flop, earning just $2.8 million against a $15 million budget (back when that was a huge amount). But a funny thing happened when it hit home video as it began attaining a cult following. It grew after Bale became more famous and even inspired a Broadway musical.
Bale himself doesn't talk about it much in interviews, although admitted that when he filmed the western 3:10 To Yuma, he got "Santa Fe" stuck in his head. Still, it's amazing to see this is where his leading man career started.
Swing Kids: the forgotten film
The old Hollywood Pictures division of Walt Disney Productions tried to balance family-friendly fare with more adult drama. That led to experiments like 1993's Swing Kids. Set in 1938, Bale and Sean Thomas Leanord are best friends in Germany who enjoy the "swing music" setting taking over the city.
However, it's also the rise of Nazism as World War II looms. Bale is soon swayed to believe in the cause while Leonard tries to fight it, leading to a conflict. It's intriguing to see it develop even as the climax has Bale's character seeming to learn his lesson after Leonard suffers a harsh fate.
The movie got bad reviews but, like Newsies, has been better appreciated simply for showing how grim it was for younger folks to fall under Hitler's spell. It's also interesting seeing Bale in this darker role, proving he could handle more like it in the future.
Pocahontas: the Disney farewell
Wrapping up the Disney work of Bale was his voice role in 1995's Pocohantas. He was Thomas, best friend to John Smith (Mel Gibson), a mostly supportive role. His big moment comes at the end where Thomas is pushed to open fire on the tribe but listens to Smith and refuses.
Bale took a bit of a break after that before rising with more roles, including his true star-making performance in American Psycho. So, while his fame has grown since, it's still fascinating seeing when Bale was a Disney film alum and how, in odd ways, the company helped him rise to the top in Hollywood.