Disney TOGO Movie is a terrific family movie telling the real story behind the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska in 1925 and who saved the town’s children!
I attended the Cinema Society’s special screening of Disney+’s “Togo”—the untold true story that takes you across the treacherous terrain of the Alaskan tundra for an exhilarating and uplifting adventure that tests the strength, courage and determination of one man and his lead sled dog, Togo. Attending the screening were Willem Dafoe, who portrays Leonhard Seppala in the film, and Julianne Nicholson, who plays Seppala’s wife Constance. Also in attendance were director Ericson Core and producer Kim Zubick, those interviews are below!.
“Togo” premieres on Dec. 20, 2019, streaming only on Disney+.
Many of us know the story of Balto, the dog who saved a town in 1925, but did you know Balto only got the credit for this miracle because he was the last leg of a long and arduous journey? The truth is now on the big screen:
When a deadly epidemic strikes the town of Nome, Alaska, and the only cure is more than 600 miles away, the town looks to champion dogsled trainer Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) to help transport an antitoxin serum. Seppala turns to Togo, an unassuming, undersized and aging Siberian husky, to be his lead. His wife (Julianne Nicholson) has championed Togo since his days as a mischievous puppy who could dig himself out of any situation—literally and figuratively—and Seppala, having observed Togo’s loyalty and tenacious spirit, knows Togo offers his only chance of surviving this mission. Undaunted by the massive storm heading their way or his wife’s urging him not to go, Seppala and Togo set out on the deadliest leg of what becomes a larger relay involving multiple mushers and gale-force winds and a wind chill factor dipping to 70 degrees below zero (56 below zero, Celsius) with little to no visibility. It is a harrowing journey on which Togo saves Seppala from certain death, causing the veteran musher to grasp the depth and intensity of his feelings for his lead dog, even as he risks running him to his death. They complete the task in time with Togo going down in history as one of the greatest sled dogs ever, but it is this unbreakable bond between man and dog which is the ultimate prize—and which truly saves Seppala. An untold true story starring four-time Oscar® nominee Willem Dafoe as Leonhard Seppala.
The story about the real heroes is finally being told. Of course everyone involved in saving the folks of Nome in 1925 are heroes, but Leonhard Seppala and his dog crew lead by Togo, are the unsung heroes who did most of the treacherous work.
We had a small blogger group for the interview with the above three folks, and it was wonderful! The passion from all three regarding getting this movie made and the importance of the story was exhilarating!
My favorite part of the chat was about Togo himself. You see, the Seppala’s moved to Maine after this story happened. And when the folks were looking for a dog to play Togo, they wanted someone with his similar coloring. They found that dog in Nova Scotia. The Seppala’s had moved across the continent, and one of Togo’s progeny was in Nova Scotia, and without realizing, his great, great grandson got the job!
Everyone agreed this was the perfect Disney family movie, perfect for streaming with everyone ay home. It is an inspirational drama, something that we do not often see on the big screen, and with more streaming services, there is starting to be a new renaissance with these types of features. Wholesome is the word that comes to mind!
There were a number of challenges during the filming. One of the most important characters in the movie would not take any direction at all and actually controlled everything! The Weather! There was an unexpected, humongous snowstorm at the beginning of the shoot in October, and schedules had to be quickly rearranged. Julianne shared that this was a blessing in disguise as she and Willem got to film an indoor scene together, weeks before they had been planning to do so. It is a beautiful relationship scene between husband and wife, and she shared that because they filmed it early on, it helped to lead their movie relationship forward much sooner, and had a great effect on their acting together! The weather knew what it was doing!
Ericson shared that some of his takeaways from the movie were, it is OK for men to show emotion: he was thrilled to showcase Seppala’s relationship with this dog that he always thought of as the runt of the litter, but who ended up saving his life with his fierce loyalty and work ethic. It was incredible to watch!
There were other actors who were a bit of a problem – the dogs! Filming was on a tight schedule because there are many scenes with puppies, and as everyone agreed, puppies grow! There was no time to waste, so if the weather caused one scene to be delayed, they had to figure out what to shoot in the interim
Everyone agreed there needed to be a tremendous amount of flexibility in shooting this movie, the weather conditions were often harsh and unpredictable, but they managed to product a gorgeous movie, with a great story, that should not be missed! The scenes showcase nature at it’s harshest, and its finest, and both are glorious.
We all attended the after party just to get this:
The star of the movie, Willem Dafoe! I told him he did a great job, and we could see how hard he worked, they were not on a sound stage with fake winds and snow, they were out in the wild working their butts off. He said he wouldn’t have it any other way!
See the movie on December 20th, perfect for the whole family, on Disney Plus!