Little is known of Newman's past, other than that he was born to Tom Newman and his unnamed wife as their second and youngest child, and the younger brother of Jessica Newman. Eventually his parents divorced, and his father fell in love with a woman named Amy, who Newman, in opposite of his sister, took very well to. Soon thereafter, his father, a hydroelectric engineer, was contracted to oversee the building of a dam in South Africa, deciding to take Newman, Jessica, and Amy along for the trip.
David Newman made his debut in the film arriving in South Africa with his family, where his father had come for work. Along the way to leopard's rest lodge, Newman was fascinated by the various animals they saw, later, after they reached the lodge, telling his sister, Jessica, to keep her voice down when she began to mock their new stepmother, Amy. At supper later, he tried some warthog at his father, Tom's suggestion, liking it and saying it tasted like chicken. Later that night, they all retired to their rooms for the night. The next morning, Newman's father woke him, Jessica, and Amy up early so that they could go on a game drive with a ranger named Brian, Newman riding with him in the front seat. When he pointed out the Crocodile river, Newman asked Brian if it actually had crocodiles in it. Suddenly he felt the need to use the restroom, telling Brian, who stopped and emptied a bottle for him. Since he didn't need to pee, Brian told him to come along with him, grabbing his rifle. Saying he didn't have toilet paper, Newman was told to use grass, which puzzled him, but they were both quickly interrupted by the sound of growling behind him, Newman being terrorfied to see a lioness appear. Getting behind Brian as told, they both moved back when he readied his rifle. When the lioness charged, Newman ran for the car while Brian attempted to shoot her, making it in time, and Brian shut himself out to keep them alive, dying before their eyes, to their horror. Held by Amy when he expressed fear that they would suffer that fate, a lion jumped on top of the car, causing the windshield to crack, before he, the female, and another lioness devoured Brian's body nearby. Later, Newman asked for and drank some water Amy gave him, that night being allowed to open a door to drink when a rainstorm started, before lightning struck a tree and scared them all. The next morning, he alerted Amy and Jessica that he saw the keys to the SUV Brian had taken with him, his sister using his camera to identify them to Amy, who then got out to get them. He and Jessica alert her when one of the lionesses appeared, her making it back just in time, but driving the SUV the wrong way. She crashed it, and it then wouldn't crank again, leaving them all stranded nowhere near the main road.
Later, after a helicopter flew by without seeing them, Jessica got out to try and get their attention, followed by Amy. After they returned when one of the lionesses was killed by a native hunter while trying to attack them, Newman asked what they were doing, being answered they were skinning the lioness. Jessica left with one to get some water, the remaining being attacked and dragged away by the last lions in her absence. Later, when Jessica got back, Newman drank some, being again dehydrated. Later that night, he was woken up by the hunter returning, and they let him inside, only for the lion to smash through the windshield, drag him out, and kill him. The next morning, things seeming more hopeless than ever, Newman asserted, to his sister mutual, that he did not want to die, but Amy declared she would not let them die and that they would use anything they had to their advantage to keep alive, giving him the task of making a list of inventory. After he finished, Newman looked out the window and saw some hyenas, one of which pulled the hunter's foot off, telling his family, who told him to stop looking and read the list. Doing so, he showed a lighter he found, believing it was Jessica's, but she denied it was, Newman asking who it belonged to, to which Amy answered it was hers and that she sometimes smoked when nervous or stressed, and they both promised to keep her secret. Later, he informed them that the hyenas had just suddenly left, then all being terrorfied to see the lion arrive. He quickly left, with them hearing a car engine on the other side of the ravine. Amy got out and drew their attention, and after one of the men coming down the hill turned out to be Tom, they were all delighted, but quickly grew fearful when the last lioness appeared close to him, attempting to warn him, but failing to be understood. However, she was killed by his guide, who was then killed by the lion, which the drove Tom under the car after they could open the door. Amy broke open the gas tank after confirming this and Newman confirmed he and Jessica trusted her, being instructed by her to make for a tree with their father when she said. Doing so, Amy then exploded the car and killed the lion after drawing it inside. Though she seemed dead as well, Amy appeared beside the fire alive, and they headed for the other car to return to the lodge.
Newman is a very polite, kind, and tender boy, who loves his family very much and, in exact opposite of his sister, took very well to his new stepmother when she married their father, right off being nice to her and getting along with her quite well. He was,understandabaly, wuite fearful when they were stranded in the wilderness in the film, fearing he might die.