Togo is a 2019 American drama adventure film directed by Ericson Core and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The film centers on Leonhard Seppala and his titular sled dog in the 1925 serum run to Nome to transport diphtheria antitoxin serum through harsh conditions during an epidemic of diphtheria.
Official release poster
|Directed by||Ericson Core|
|Produced by||Kim Zubick|
|Written by||Tom Flynn|
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||Martin Pensa|
The film stars Willem Dafoe, Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Michael Gaston, Michael McElhatton, Jamie McShane, Michael Greyeyes, Thorbjørn Harr, Shaun Benson and Nikolai Nikolaeff. It was released on Disney+ on December 20, 2019.
In 1913, Seppala and his wife Constance welcome a newborn Siberian Husky pup. While Seppala insists on immediately retiring him due to his small and weak state, Constance convinces him to raise him with the rest. The puppy Husky turns out to be a handful as he constantly escapes the kennel to usurp Seppala's dog team while he is out training them. After trying to get rid of the Husky twice, Seppala decides to have him run with the others where, to his astonishment, he discovers that he is energetic enough to outrun the other dogs. He decides to call him Togo, after admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, and fully trains him to the point where he successfully wins the All Alaska Sweepstakes, earning both Togo and himself some local fame.
In 1925, a diphtheria outbreak occurs; mostly affecting children. Mayor George Maynard plans to have the serum flown in from Nenana, but this proves to be impossible due to the severity of the weather. Eventually, Seppala is convinced to take Togo and the other dogs to collect the serum and race back. Constance becomes concerned due to Togo being 12-years-old (old for dog age), but Seppala insists on going. Seppala and his team tread through stormy weather and take a break at an outpost where a local doctor named Atiqtalik tells him that Togo is tired. Seppala continues on for miles; taking a dangerous shortcut across the now frozen Norton Sound.
Eventually, Seppala meets up with a fellow musher, Henry Ivanov, who was bringing the serum back and he is able to leave the next day. Seppala and his team head across the Sound again where he is forced to have Togo pull a piece of ice that they are stuck on as the Sound begins to crack apart. Reuniting with Atiqtalik, she tells him Togo is dying. Nevertheless, Seppala gets his team back to Joe Dexter's outpost as he, Togo and team recuperate. The serum is passed off to fellow musher Gunnar Kaasen who arrives back in Nome. A reporter, confusing him for being the sole musher, announces his dog Balto as the hero who saved Nome, disappointing Constance.
Seppala returns to Nome later, where the entire town come to his house to celebrate Togo's success. Seppala later becomes upset when a cured girl named Sally deduces that Togo is dying. Seppala intends to continue training his dogs without Togo (who gained a small injury during the run), but he refuses to stop and chases down Seppala who welcomes him with open arms. Over the next two years, Togo welcomes puppies of his own that prove to be famous in their own right. Togo eventually passes away in 1929 with Seppala continuing to train dogs. A title card at the end reveals that while Balto had received a statue in his honor, Togo is remembered for making the longest run and for being the true hero of Nome.
- Willem Dafoe as Leonhard Seppala
- Diesel as Togo
- Julianne Nicholson as Constance Seppala
- Christopher Heyerdahl as Mayor George Maynard
- Richard Dormer as Dr. Curtis Welch
- Adrien Dorval as Bill Clark
- Madeline Wickins as Sally Burdett
- Michael Greyeyes as Amituk
- Nive Nielsen as Atiqtalik
- Nikolai Nikolaeff as Dan Murphy
- Thorbjørn Harr as Charlie Olsen
- Catherine McGregor as Sarah Foley
- Michael McElhatton as Jafet Lindeberg
- Paul Piaskowski as Max Adams
- Michael Gaston as Joe Dexter
- Shaun Benson as Gunnar Kaasen
- Jamie McShane as Scotty Allan
- Zahn McClarnon as Tulimak
- Brandon Oakes as Henry Ivanoff
- Steven McCarthy as Dev Burdett
On October 28, 2015, it was announced that Walt Disney Pictures was developing a film about the 1925 serum run to Nome focusing on the sled dog Togo and his owner Leonhard Seppala. The screenplay was set to be written by Tom Flynn and the production was to be overseen by Jessica Virtue and Louie Provost for Disney.
On May 16, 2018, it was announced that Ericson Core would direct the film, that Kim Zubick would serve as a producer, and that the film would debut on Disney+. Additionally, it was further announced that Willem Dafoe would star in the film as Leonhard Seppala, the owner of Togo. On December 10, 2018, it was reported that Thorbjørn Harr had joined the cast of the film.
Most of the dogs featured in this film are from The Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc. kennel located in Canmore, AB. Hugo and Mackey from Snowy Owl were used throughout the movie as stunt doubles for the face of Togo, Diesel.
The movie, for the most part, remains faithful to the story of Leonhard Seppala and Togo. Two of the more "cinematic" moments in the film that actually did happen in real life include Togo escaping his second owner by jumping through a glass window and Togo using his strength to pull Seppala's sled out of the Norton Sound. The movie however, excludes Seppala and Constance's daughter Sigrid who was among the many children who was at risk of contracting diphtheria. Seppala's reaction to Balto getting the credit is not shown, though Constance is shown to be rather annoyed by the news. In real life, Seppala openly voiced his disapproval of the dog hero mix-up. In addition, the film depicts Seppala's sled team as being composed of 11 dogs, with Togo as the only lead dog. In real life, there were only 6 dogs on Seppala's team, and Togo was assisted in leading by another dog named Fritz. Also, in the film, Gunnar Kaasen's team is composed of only 10 dogs. In real life, Kaasen's team consisted of 13 dogs. Also, Balto strongly resembles the way he looked real life, except that he has blue eyes as opposed to the dark brown eyes that he had in real life. The movie also depicts Togo living out the rest of his days with Seppala while in real life, Togo was given away to a fellow musher named Elizabeth Ricker in Maine. On parting with his best dog, Seppala stated, "It was sad parting on a cold, gray March morning, when Togo raised a small paw to my knee as if questioning why he was not going along with me. I never had a better dog than Togo. His stamina, loyalty, and intelligence could not be improved upon. Togo was the best dog that ever traveled the Alaska trail." Seppala did visit Togo a couple of times and was by his side when he was euthanized.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% and an average rating of 7.31/10, based on 32 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads: "An endearing and exciting underdog story that benefits greatly from its stars (canine and human alike), Togo is a timeless tale, well-told." At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Writers Guild of America Awards||February 1, 2020||Television: Original Long Form||Tom Flynn||Nominated|||
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