BY RACHEL TESON Many people know the story of Balto, mostly from the 1995 animated film Balto with Kevin Bacon as the voice lead. You can visit Balto’s statue in Central Park in New York City. A reward he received for being known as the dog who saved an Alaskan village called Nenana from a diphtheria epidemic. While Balto should be praised for his accomplishments, he, along with over a dozen other mushers, only covered around 20 miles out of the total 674 mile race. A twelve year old husky (considered a senior in dog years) named Togo was the true hero of The Great Race of Mercy, covering 260 miles in the most horrendous and dangerous conditions Alaska had to offer.
Directed by Ericson Core with screenplay written by Tom Flynn, Togo goes into the history of the heroic pup who was told his entire life that he was a runt and would never be strong or fast enough to be a sled dog, let alone the lead dog. Togo quickly proved to his reluctant owner Leonhard Seppoala, played by Willem Dafoe, that he could be the best sled dog in the nation. The movie, now streaming on Disney+, explores Seppoala and Togo’s relationship, and let me tell you, both of these actors should receive Oscars for their acting. My eyes and throat hurt for the next two hours after watching this film. This story is the epitome of all underdog stories; one that will move you to several tears while also making you laugh with warmth at the end.
Togo’s valiant actions saved an entire town of sick children. While the rest of the world recognized Balto as the savior, locals of Nenana heard of Seppala’s lead dog and his astounding racing capabilities and wanted a dog like Togo for their own. While Togo was never able to race much after the Great Race of Mercy, he did live on for four more years to sire many pups, whom became known as the Seppala Siberian Sleddog, named after Togo’s famous owner. This movie instantly moved to the top of my favorite movies list, and I am sure it will to many other people as well.