Friday, February 14, 2020

Togo (2019) Movie Review

Togo (2019) Movie Review
Soundtrack Image/Link
Are you familiar with the name "Togo"?  What about "Balto"?  Does that name ring a bell?  What do you really know about these two dogs.  

I readily admit, I was surprised by the real facts when I recently watched the Disney movie, Togo, which prompted me to research the true history.  My previous knowledge of the legendary serum run to Nome was clearly very limited and had been shaped around the stories of Balto.  Imagine how shocked I was to learn the truth.

Since I love dogs, I am often drawn to movies about dogs, especially when they also feature a favorite actor like Willem Dafoe. When I saw the awesome dvd cover for the movie Togo, I was immediately drawn in and had to watch the movie.  The dvd picture is only the introduction to Togo and Leonhard Seppala.  Just look at that dog!  Isn't he gorgeous!!!  The real Togo was every bit as beautiful as the dog in the movie.  After hearing his story, all I could think was, who wouldn't want that fabulous pup!

One note of warning, ladies get out the tissues!  This is a real tearjerker that even guys will watch with you. Actually, come to think of it, bring extra tissues for them.


Togo The Lead Sled Dog of Leonhard
RDShahriar [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]



Togo (2019) - Disney Movie Synopsis


The movie is based on the true story of Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo.  Unlike many movies, Togo seems to follow the truth closely, if not completely.  It dramatizes the challenges, the sacrifices, and the risks this team took in order to bring a life-saving serum to the children of Nome, Alaska, as well as gives us a factual account of the real Togo's life. 

Togo was the runt of the litter and expected to die.  Leonhard Seppala thought it would be kinder to put the pup down, but his wife did not agree.  She personally nursed the puppy to health and Togo repaid them with a deep love and devotion that only a dog can give. 
 
Leonhard Seppala was a renowned expert musher and trainer of working sled dogs.  Due to his small size and health issues, Seppala was certain Togo could not be useful.  He actually gave him away twice, but both times Togo was returned, or made his own way back home.
 
Togo was determined to be with Leonhard whether he wanted him or not.  Much to Seppala's surprise, the other dogs were willing to be lead by Togo, even into mischief and against their masters commands.  When Seppala relented and tried Togo as the lead sled dog, they were both rewarded with a win-win compromise.  


Size didn't matter to Togo.  He had the heart and spirit of a born leader.  

In 1925, when Togo was a mature 12 year old dog, the town was hit with a diphtheria epidemic. The children of Nome, Alaska desperately needed medicine.  Due to the weather, an airplane was not an option and the train from Anchorage only went as far as Nenana, Alaska.  The city council asked Leonhard Seppala to make the trip to Nenana to pick up the serum.  

Now, think about that for just a minute!  Over 650 miles round trip, in −30 °F weather with a wind chill of −85 °F and white out storms that no man could possibly see in, on a dog pulled sled.  Only an animal with a fantastic ability to navigate a blizzard could survive.  At 12 years old, the trip alone would most likely kill Togo, but Seppala knew he was their only chance of getting through to Nenana.  No other dog in his kennel possessed the drive and ability needed in such an intense storm.  But could Seppala knowingly sacrifice his beloved Togo to save the lives of the children and adults in Nome? 

Leonhard Seppala, with Togo in the lead of his dog sled team, set out for Nenana.  While in route, the city council set up a relay to intercept Seppala and shorten the length of time it would take to get the medicine back to Nome.  


The Facts about Balto & Togo


Balto was hailed as the hero because he was the reported lead dog that brought the serum into the city of Nome.  In the end, over 20 men (mushers) and 100 dogs were involved in the relay.  Most, including Balto, ran approximately 30 miles of the trek, but they all deserve credit for their part in the mission.  

Leonhard Seppala & his winning dogsled team
during 9th_All-Alaska Sweepstakes dogsled race

University of Washington [Public domain]
Ironically, Balto was also owned and trained by Leonhard Seppala.  Seppala's wife allowed another musher, Gunnar Kaasen, to borrow Balto for the relay.    

Togo and Seppala, along with the rest of their dog team, ran 260 hard miles.  They were the team that crossed the dangerous iced-over Norton Sound and endured 3 days of blizzard weather. The team survived due to Togo's exceptional ability to navigate to safety in a ground blizzard.  If not for Togo, his dog team, Leonhard Seppala, and the serum would have been lost and dead.

Even though they passed the serum off for the last miles into Nome, I think it is clear who deserved the credit for getting the lifesaving serum to Nome.

You can watch the factually accurate movie yourself to see if you agree. 

One note of interest that the movie did not include, is that Seppala had an 8 year old daughter at the time of the serum run.  I have no desire to take away from Seppala, but as a parent myself, I suspect the fact that he had a child affected his decision to make the run for their lives and to use Togo as his lead in spite of the dogs advanced age.  After all, he had the option to use Balto himself.

At the time of publishing this review, Togo is only available for viewing on the Disney+ subscription channel.  No DVD release date has been announced.

The phenomenal music from the movie is available for purchase and downloading. 




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Togo (2019) Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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6 comments:

  1. I have been wanting to watch this movie ever since I first saw the ads for it. Now, for sure, I will watch it tonight. Dogs are just so astonishing. I'm glad his wife chose to nurse this pup back to health rather than allow for Togo to be euthanized before his life and purpose could unfold. I know I will need the tissues. Dog movies always make me feel deeply.

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  2. Sounds like a fascinating story. I've always admired what sled dogs and the men behind the dog team can do. The bitter cold would do me in in 5 minutes. Don't know how man and dogs can withstand it.

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  3. Oh thank you for giving me something to watch tonight. We are back home and feeling cold so, the chill of Alaska will make us feel warmer (maybe?). This is a movie I will definitely watch. I love feel good, spirited movies and this one is sure to fit that bill! Thank you Miss Sylvestermouse!

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  4. I've never heard this story before, and I have to see it now. You mentioned tissues would be necessary, and that's my only reluctance now, lol - trying to avoid sad movies - I'm presuming it's sad? I can't believe I haven't heard of this story before. Great review too.

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    Replies
    1. It isn't sad in the way you are probably thinking. Most often, the tears are joy or relief. I didn't step away from the movie feeling sad at all. If anything, it made me want to go adopt another dog. They really do love without limitations.

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