The True Story of Balto, Disney's Hero Sled Dog

Posted by Christy Caplan
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'Balto' tells the true story of a heroic sled dog. Inspired by the famous canine, the true story recounts how multiple people were saved from crippling sickness in Nome, Alaska.

From History Daily, the 'Balto' film is about a "smart and determined dog, faithful and loyal to his musher, who 'braved harsh conditions' to do the impossible."

"In his honor, there is now, in addition to the popular cartoon movie, a statue of the heroic dog in New York's Central Park and an annual dog sled race that has grown to be the most popular event of its kind."

Is the movie Balto based on a true story?

Yes! This real-life story is told on the big screen.

Outside Online Magazine tells us that in the winter of 1925, a deadly illness struck the city of Nome:

"The nearest stores of medicine were hundreds of miles away, across the state's snowy interior. But you've heard this story. The 1995 movie Balto immortalized it for a generation: the eponymous dog rallied the team that brought the lifesaving serum through the Alaskan wilds, heroically saving the city's children."

History Daily confirms how Balto was born in Nome, Alaska, in 1923:

"He was named after Samuel Balto, a Norwegian explorer who relocated to Alaska in 1898 when he was hired to introduce reindeer as a livestock animal in Alaska. He took part in the Klondike Gold Rush and staked three gold claims near Nome. He was a popular character in the town of Nome and passed away just before the birth of the dog that would become his namesake."

"In 1925, an outbreak of diphtheria (a diphtheria epidemic) hit the town of Nome. The illness, which often inflicts young children, is a dangerous bacterial disease that can cause heart damage, paralysis, and death. When the epidemic struck, there were no diphtheria vaccines (the serum run was essential) in the town. Telegraphed messages were urgently sent out in an attempt to find the much-needed medicine. The closest batch of vaccines was in Anchorage, about 537 miles away. The wicked winter winds and below zero temperatures meant that boats and planes could not leave for Anchorage. People in Anchorage offered to transport the injections to the town of Nenana, but that was still 483 miles from Nome."

'Balto' tells this story as an animated adventure and the canine hero stepped up to lead his dog team.

What kind of dog is 'Balto' in the movie?

Balto is a Siberian Husky! Yet in the movie 'Balto' is a wolfdog and an outcast.

Back in the early 1970s, the Iditarod Dog Sled Race was launched. The 500-mile race involves mushers and their dog teams traveling from Anchorage to Nome, the same route that Balto took to deliver medicine (antitoxin) to the town's sickened children. The Iditarod race celebrates the sled team that Balto led.

Robert Ebert reviewed this movie, saying that you should find this movie on Netflix as it's one of our favorites. It was a box office hit, and Balto's best friend, was a Russian goose named Boris (voice by Bob Hoskins with an accent you could bottle) and a couple of polar bears (named Muk and Luk) both voices by Phil Collins, because polar bears all sound alike). Jim Cummings voices the evil dog. It was produced by Steven Spielberg.

"Most of the movie is animation, telling the story of Balto (voice by Kevin Bacon), who is half-wolf and half-dog, and an outcast in Nome because you can't quite trust a wolf. Balto is in love with a beautiful female dog named Jenna (Bridget Fonda), who belongs to a cute little girl named Rosy (Juliette Brewer)."

A statue of the heroic wolfdog in New York's Central Park to commemorate the wolf quest. This is a reason to visit New York City!

How many 'Balto' movies are there?

According to a story in Outside Online that appeared in 2019, 'Togo' -- a new movie that hit the Disney+ platform -- corrects the historical record in favor of an underdog:

"As it turns out, Balto was just one of more than 100 pups who made that lifesaving dogsled relay to Nome possible. Balto did lead the canine team over the final 55-mile stretch of the journey (he was still leading the pack when it arrived in the city itself). But a different dog, Togo, ran more than double the distance of any other dog on the team and led it through some of the riskiest spots."

Do you know anyone that lives with a Siberian Husky? Let us know what characteristics you love about this breed!

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The True Story of Balto, Disney's Hero Sled Dog