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The True Story Behind Disney's 'Togo'


Army.ca Dinosaur
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The True Story Behind Disney's 'Togo'

In the winter of 1925, a deadly illness struck the city of Nome, Alaska. The nearest stores of medicine were hundreds of miles away, across the state’s snowy interior. But you’ve heard this story. The 1995 Disney movie Balto immortalized it for a generation: the eponymous dog rallied the team that brought the lifesaving serum through the Alaskan wilds, heroically saving the city’s children. Since 1925, Balto has earned universal acclaim, legions of fans, and a commemorative bronze statue in New York City’s Central Park.

But Togo, a new movie that hits the Disney+ platform on December 20, corrects the historical record in favor of an underdog. As it turns out, Balto was just one of more than 100 pups who made that lifesaving dogsled relay to Nome possible. Balto did lead the canine team over the final 55-mile stretch of the journey (he was still leading the pack when it arrived in the city itself). But a different dog, Togo, ran more than double the distance of any other dog on the team and led it through some of the riskiest spots.

Togo, which stars Willem Dafoe, promises to chart the life of the historically overlooked pup who made the crucial delivery of medicine possible. For all the true dogsledding aficionados out there, we broke down the real history of Togo and Balto’s now legendary run to Nome.

The saga began when a doctor diagnosed the first case of diphtheria, a deadly illness, in a young boy in Nome in January 1925. The city, located approximately 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle, had a population of just under 1,000. Diphtheria was called the “strangling angel of children,” because it releases a toxin that shuts down its victim’s windpipe. Young children were especially vulnerable to it.

In the winter of 1925, Nome had a supply of antitoxin, the serum then used to treat diphtheria, but it had all expired. (A vaccine was later developed that has virtually eliminated the disease.) The town’s single doctor and four nurses watched helplessly as a three-year-old boy died, soon followed by a seven-year-old girl. They worried that the fatality rate for those infected would be 100 percent. Several years earlier, a flu epidemic had killed off half of Nome’s indigenous population.

Nome’s medical team put out a call for help—and found that the nearest supply of serum was in a storehouse outside Anchorage. Trains could bring it to within around 700 miles of Nome, and the team hoped bush planes could take it from there. But that week, record-setting cold weather and gale-force winds swept across Alaska, grounding the only rickety planes in the area.

The people of Nome realized that sled dogs would have to carry the 20-pound package of medicine to their city through the storm. It was the only way.



Staff member
Directing Staff
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Maybe Balto’s statue should be torn down, if he was such an effort appropriating canine. No place in history for that kind of animal.



Army.ca Veteran
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Balto just had a better PR firm.

Beta was also way better than VHS