The world is going crazy. We are told to practice social distancing, to avoid large crowds and to stay away from crowded spaces, including theatres, cafés and major events. What are we to do during this time? Well, for me, it’s time to sit down with the family and catch up on some of the great movies, new and old, that our favourite streaming services have to offer. Today let’s take a look at Disney’s Togo, available for streaming on Disney+.
Togo is a 113-minute family adventure movie, starring William Dafoe, Julianne Nicholson and, of course, numerous dogs that played the titular Togo. It was written by Tom Flynn and directed by Ericson Core. Core is relatively new to the director’s chair. The story is set against the backdrop of 1925-era Nome, when life-saving, anti-diphtheria serum had to be run to Alaska. Dafoe plays real-life dog sled trainer, Leonhard Seppala, a man who travels nine times farther than any other musher to bring back the serum needed to save his town.
The Good: Dafoe is great, his connection to the dogs and the way his character reacts to them being hurt or sick is bang on. If you’ve ever spent time with a musher, you will appreciate his dedication to this role. Disney also went the extra mile on this one with its CGI. The dogs were blended the right amount so Dafoe was acting and working with them often, but the dogs were never put in danger for more life-threatening scenes. This allowed the movie to give us higher stakes and some more dramatic moments that really helped pull you into the plight of this poor team.
The Bad: The movie does have some pacing issues and, though Dafoe is an engaging presence on the screen, it is a man and eight dogs for about 80 per cent of the movie. This does not give him a lot to work with and the movie lags a little bit because of it. Core tries to break this up with flashbacks throughout the movie, but these come in a little clunky and disjointed.
Is it Accurate? When movies say they’re based on a true story, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how true that story is. For the most part, Togo stays on point, following a lot of key notes from Seppala and townspeople of the time. This movie tries to correct the 1995 movie Balto, which depicts another dog as getting credit for the run. Apparently Seppala was never happy with the dog mix-up and spent much time after the run touring the United States to assure people that it was Togo and not Balto, who did the lion’s share of the work. Further to this, two key scenes in the movie that involve Togo breaking out a window and pulling the team off of Norton Sound. Both actually happened, at least, according to Seppala and his wife, Constance. On the other hand, the movie excludes Seppala’s daughter, Sigrid, who was among the many children who were at risk of contracting diphtheria.
Final Thoughts: Disney knows how to make a family-friendly adventure movie and that is exactly what this is. On a cold day, cuddled up under blankets, this is the perfect escapism to enjoy with some loved ones. If you have a chance, I recommend turning it on and absconding to a different time and place for a great adventure.
This movie gets four out of five Siberian sled dogs.