Disney’s latest hit ‘Togo’ celebrates a forgotten hero.
In 1925, a devastating case of diphtheria broke out in the isolated Alaskan village of Nome. The lifesaving serum was a thousand miles away, but the port was closed due to ice, and planes couldn’t fly in the deadly winter storm.
The town council tried for a plane to arrive with the serum. But with the onslaught of strong winds, it wasn’t safe. Nome’s only hope was its dog sled team. Leonhard Seppala, the musher, decided he would run his dog sled team from Nome to retrieve the serum. The governor realizing it would be perilous for one team to do 600 miles in the storm, aligned a dozen teams to checkpoints, like a relay run.
Dog sleds were chosen to transport the serum from Nenana to Nome, 674 miles. It would have taken a few weeks to cover this distance but by then most of the children would have died so an elite team of sled-dog racers tagged along in a race against time and elements of nature to relay the medicine across the perilous frozen land in blizzard conditions.
20 sled teams participated in the 1925 relay.
19 teams ran an average of 31 miles each. 1 team led by Togo ran 264 miles.
The dog who clocked most of the arduous track got lost in history. Togo, the movie, is his story.
Togo movie review
Togo (2019) is Disney’s emotional tribute to the eponymous real-life hero dog. Shuffling between past and present, the screenplay shows the special bond between musher Leonhard Seppala (played by Willem Dafoe) and Togo.
Togo is shown to be so ‘untrainable’ that Seppala tries to give him away twice but the dog was meant to lead, and so he does. How the fluffy rebellious puppy, breaks out of barns and all disciplinary boundaries alights the screen.
The screenplay, narrated via frequent flashbacks, endearingly builds upon the relationship between man and the dogs in the backdrop of gorgeous and the gory Alaskan slopes and their endless whites.
Togo had been Seppala’s lead dog since he was 8 months old; now, at age 12, and perhaps on his last days, Togo is called upon to lead the epic journey for a cause that’s bigger than any race he has ever run in.
But what about Balto?
The dog that often gets credit for eventually saving the kids is Balto, but he just happened to run the last, 55-mile leg in the race.
Togo was certainly the unsung hero but it doesn’t really paint Balto in black. The Internet really needs to calm down – it wasn’t as if Balto took claim to all the laurels and dismissed Togo to the shadows. You know who does that?
Humans. Never dogs.
As Dafoe’s character quips towards the movie’s end: “If you were lucky enough to know a great one (dog), they never really leave. They stay with you as long as you live. Harnessed to your heart, giving their all.”
Togo, Balto and every single dog who ran the great distance to save innocent children need to be celebrated. With or without a statue, they are the heroes who represent hope, valor, love and unflinching loyalty like only dogs can.
They’re all good boys!