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Film / Togo

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A Disney+ original film released in 2019, based on the 1925 serum run to Nome, which previously inspired the film Balto, starring Willem Dafoe.

Sled dog breeder Leonhard Seppala is at first disappointed in his new prospect Togo, who seems impossible to train. But when he tries to leave him as a pet, the dog is so determined to get back to the job that he jumps through a closed window, and ultimately proves himself skilled enough to take the lead position, going on to a distinguished career.

In 1925, the twelve-year-old Togo is nearing retirement when word comes of a deadly diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska, which can only be stopped by delivering an antitoxin across a treacherous route of nearly 700 miles. Seppala and Togo take on the longest and hardest leg of the journey, and are pushed to their absolute physical and mental limit to get the medicine through.

Has nothing to do with the African country.

Contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Seppala called Togo by far the greatest dog he ever trained, consistently the most skilled of any team.
  • Adapted Out: Seppala actually had an 8-year-old daughter, Sigrid, at risk from the epidemic, but in the film he and his wife are childless, making his participation in the serum run come off as totally altruistic.
  • Babies Ever After: Togo is put out to stud in the last years of his life and his puppies become prized for their work drive and loyaltynote .
  • Based on a True Story: Actually subtitled "The Untold True Story," as the vast majority of the kudos fell on the dog Balto who finished the final leg and delivered the medicine, while Togo was largely ignored to Seppala's grief.
  • Canadian Western: Or Alaskan in this case, since the Northern genre has both Canada and Alaska as the setting and like any Northern, the primary antagonist ends up being the very wilderness, weather and elements itself. Even the inclusion of sled dogs, a staple of the genre introduce by Jack London appear in the film and with all these things being pulled from a true story it is an example of a real life Northern story brought to the screen.
  • Dented Iron: Togo has quite the iron will, but twelve years of sledding have battered his body so much that he will literally work himself to death if he keeps going.
  • Determinator: Togo jumps through a closed window to get back to Seppala (this actually happened), and years later during the serum run he proves he's lost none of that spirit.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: The film isn't shy about how the media lionized Balto for making the final part of the relay and actually delivering the serum while ignoring Togo's doing the vast majority before then. Though at least the people actually in the business knew full well who the biggest hero was, and he spent his remaining few years as a highly demanded stud dog.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In Real Life, Balto belonged to Seppala as well, but was seen as a mediocre work dog by him (to the point that Balto was neutered.) Gunner Kassan, the driver of the final team who naturally bonded to Balto during the run, wanted to buy Balto, but Seppala was so vexed by all the attention Balto was getting, instead sold the dog to be paraded around in various circuits. It was quite a cruel and spiteful move, especially towards a dog who was just doing his job and didn't know any better. None of this is mentioned in the film, and indeed, in most adaptations of the Nome Serum Run because it makes Seppala look like a total asshole.
  • Motive Misidentification: Throughout the film, Seppala assumes that the reason Togo always ran after him and the sled was because he was determined to be a sled dog. By the end, he realizes that it was actually because he wanted to be with him.
  • No Antagonist: The only thing stopping Seppala from delivering the medicine is one of the harshest storms to hit Alaska, and he still powers through it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Seppala can tell how bad a storm will be when Togo ignores a herd of caribou — which he'd normally chase after — and keeps running toward home.
  • Scenery Porn: The Alaskan wilderness gets plenty of time to shine. Verges on Scenery Gorn during the worst parts of the storm.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Seppala adapts the St. Crispin's Day speech to his situation while crossing the frozen sound.
    "What, my pups, are we to fear ice now? He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart. His passport shall be made. We would not die in that dog's company. Old dogs forget, but he will remember with advantages the feats he did that day. Then shall our names familiar in his mouth as household words, Seppala the driver, Fritz and Sally, Molly and Red and Togo, the great Togo in lead, be all in their flowing water bowls freshly remembered. And dogs in Nome now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here. We few, we happy few, we band of champions! Now run, my pups! RUN!"
  • Sled Dogs Through the Snow: It's an adaptation of the 1925 serum run to Nome, where sled dogs heroically transported boxes full of medicine to stop a diphtheria epidemic. A lot of the movie is developed to Togo's development as a sled dog and the famous relay.
  • Viewers Are Morons: An in-universe example occurs. A dog called Fox was actually the one to lead Balto's team. However the reporter waiting for them in Nome thinks the readers would think the article's talking about an actual fox and shifts the focus onto Balto to remedy this. This was something that Seppala actually claimed was the case in real life, but has never been confirmed and the actual driver of the sled denied.