Step aside, Balto, Disney+ is giving us another very good doggo his due in the Dec. 20 premiere of the streaming site's original movie based on a true story, Togo. Set against the backdrop of 1925's life-saving anti-diphtheria serum run to the town of Nome, Alaska, Togo stars Willem Dafoe as real-life dog sled trainer Leonhard Seppala (as seen in the video below) but the movie's real star is the titular Togo, a 12-year-old Siberian husky who led his team across more than 261 miles to get medicine to the people of Nome. The pup crossed the longest distance in what became known as the "Great Race of Mercy," and he deserves to be remembered as a hero, but since the far more famous Balto ran the final 55 miles of the journey, he tends to get all of the credit. Now, the film tells the true story of Togo's bravery, and just how instrumental he was in delivering medicine to a town suffering from a deadly outbreak of diphtheria.
There's no denying that Balto is still a good boy too, but it's long past time for Togo to get his share of the spotlight. After all, Balto was 3 when he ran those final 55 miles to deliver the serum to Nome. Meanwhile, his doggie co-worker was 12, and covered more than twice as many miles under much harsher conditions to pass off the serum to Balto and his team. Togo was also a literal underdog right from the start.
As a dog breeder, Seppala was only interested in the best of the best, so when Togo developed a throat condition at a young age, he attempted to give the pup away — a move that would have ended Togo's career as a lead dog before it ever got started. Luckily for the people of Nome, Togo wasn't going to give up his place on Seppala's team without a fight, and Togo reportedly jumped through a window and made his way back to the breeder's side. Soon he worked his way up the ranks to lead the pack on sledding expeditions, proving himself to be faster than his comrades, as well as an able leader. These qualities led Seppala to put his trust in Togo when news came that the isolated town of Nome was in desperate need of medicine during a treacherous winter.
With no planes or trains able to access the town, dogsled teams were assembled to move the life-saving serum across the frozen land. The expedition is no doubt full of unsung canine heroes, but Togo not only led his team across the most miles, they also traveled the most dangerous leg of the journey. At times, temperatures dipped to 50 degrees below zero and whiteouts from snowstorms obscured the trail. Through it all, Togo faithfully led Seppala and his team during the "Great Race of Mercy."
In a recent interview with People, the movie's star Dafoe shared, "It’s a beautiful story of an underdog (no pun intended) and how we can learn from adversity." Disney's official synopsis backs Dafoe up by promising a harrowing tale that will include Togo literally saving Seppala's life — so, yes, you're probably going to sob your way through most of this intense mission.
At its heart, the movie speaks to the unbreakable bond between Togo and Seppala, as they worked together to cross nearly 300 miles of icy terrain to pass the medicine off to Balto and his musher. The younger pup ended up with all of the glory, but Disney+'s new movie is set to remind the world that the people of Nome would have been lost without Togo's unwavering fortitude in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In other words, he truly was the very best boy.