Directed by: Ericson Core
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Thorbjørn Harr, Michael Gaston, Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Michael McElhatton
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Release Date: 20 December 2019
Running Time: 113 Minutes
The story of the sled dog, Togo, who led the 1925 serum run, but was considered by most to be too small and weak to lead such an intense race.
Togo is an upcoming American drama film directed by Ericson Core, produced by Kim Zubick, written by Tom Flynn and starring Willem Dafoe that is set to debut on Disney+.
The film will debut on December 20, 2019.
Togo centers on “two key figures in the 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the Great Race of Mercy, in which dog-sled teams relayed to transport diphtheria antitoxin serum through harsh conditions over nearly 700 miles to save the Alaskan town of Nome from an epidemic.”
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.
Principal photography for the film commenced on September 21, 2018 and finished in February 2019 in Calgary, Canada.
Most of the dogs featured in this film are from The Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc. kennel located in Canmore, AB. Additional dogs used for Togo cast. Mask of dogs were dyed to resemble each other throughout the movie.
Togo Movie Trailer:
Togo Movie Review:
A Man, His Dogs and a Very Bad Storm
We don’t talk about it much, what with all the cultural space we’ve devoted to Marvel and Star Wars and Pixar, but Disney loves making movies about sled dogs. From “Iron Will” to “Snow Dogs” to “Eight Below”, the studio’s executives clearly have a soft spot for rugged frontier tales of tough Arctic men and their canine companions. The latest entry in their unofficial Sled Dog Cinematic Universe, “Togo” (streaming on Disney Plus beginning Dec. 20), adds two new perks: its basis in fact and the presence of its star, Willem Dafoe.
Tom Flynn’s screenplay draws its inspiration from the 1925 serum run, in which antitoxins were transported more than 600 miles, in the midst of a deadly winter storm, to stay a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska. The dog that completed the run, Balto, got the fame and the glory (and his own, earlier big-screen vehicle) but Togo was reportedly the real hero, running 264 miles of the route under the guidance of his trainer and musher Leonhard Seppala (Dafoe).
The first half is somewhat derailed by a baffling dual-timeline structure, flashing back to Seppala and Togo’s initial conflicts (“That is not a sled dog!” Seppala announces, all but winking at the viewer). There are no real stakes or doubts – we know they end up getting along — and these stretches serve only to stall the momentum of the primary narrative.
But when “Togo” gets going, it goes. The ever-earthy Dafoe forges a believable bond with the well-trained dog, and closing scenes (along with their hero shots and heavy strings) are genuinely moving. The set pieces, particularly a near-tumble off a cliff and a terrifying run across cracking ice, are impressively executed – visceral and scary enough to make this streaming-only release seem like a real missed opportunity.
Once upon a time, Disney released movies like this in theaters. But today, tentpole movies reign supreme, and most everything else is relegated to streaming. That’s a shame, as Ericson Core (who is both the director and cinematographer) does right by his wide, open spaces, painting imposing pictures of snow-capped mountains and rolling vistas. A film of this scope will, presumably, lose something on an iPad.