The real hero of the 1925 serum run was Togo. The 12-year-old husky led his sled dog team through 260 miles of blowing Alaskan blizzard to deliver emergency diphtheria serum to Nome. Balto received most of the fame because he led the final 55 miles.
After the serum run, Gunnar Kasaan, the musher, sold Balto on a nationwide tour. Afterward, the real Balto and his team were sold to a movie producer named Sol Lesser, who made a movie called Balto's Race to Nome (1925), eulogizing Balto. After that, the team was sold again and put on exhibit as a kind of curiosity show. The dogs were abused, neglected, and forgotten until a Cleveland businessman named George Kimbal, with the help of Cleveland school children, bought the six remaining dogs for the then astounding sum of $2,000, which they raised in two weeks. The dogs were brought to the Cleveland Zoo and lived out their lives in peace. When Balto died in 1933, he was stuffed and put on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
There are many differences between the movie and what really happened, such as: *The sled run to get the medicine was actually a relay, and Balto was only the leader of the last team to carry the medicine to Nome. The longest and most hazardous distance was traveled by the team led by Togo. *This film portrays Balto as a wolf hybrid. Balto was actually a purebred Siberian Husky. *Balto was never an outcast as shown by the film, but was instead born in a kennel owned by the famous musher Leonhard Seppala, where he grew up until he was deemed fit for pulling a sled, Seppala was also the owner of Togo, whom he personally used during the relay, Balto was instead used by one of his workers, Gunnar Kasaan. *The real Balto was neutered by Seppala when he was only a few months old, meaning the puppies he has in the sequels never came to be.
Kasaan staggered into Nome at 5:30 A.M. on February 2, 1925. His dogs were cold and exhausted, their feet torn and bloody. But the serum was delivered. Kasaan handed it to the only physician in Nome, Dr. Curtis Welch of the Public Health Service. And then he began to pull the ice splinters out of his dogs' feet.
After the mission's success, Balto and Gunnar Kasaan became celebrities. A statue of Balto, sculpted by Frederick Roth, was erected in New York City's Central Park on December 17, 1925, just 10 months after Balto's arrival in Nome. Balto himself was present for the monument's unveiling. The statue is located on the main path leading north from the Tisch Children's Zoo. In front of the statue a low-relief slate plaque depicts Balto's sled team, and bears the following inscription: "Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925. Endurance . Fidelity . Intelligence"
Partially deaf and blind, and suffering from arthritis in his rear legs, Balto was being cared for by the team's keeper (in the Cleveland Brookside Zoo), "Captain" Curley Wilson. There were concerns about his failing health in 1933, until a kindly veterinarian, Dr. R.R. Powell (a member and trustee of the Cleveland, Ohio Balto Committee), offered to ease Balto's suffering. Wilson accepted for the zoo, and carefully moved Balto over to Dr. Powell's animal hospital. Powell insisted on caring for Balto free of charge, stating it was an honor to care for him in his last hours. On Tuesday, March 14, 1933, he injected Balto with a drug to "put him to sleep". Balto died at 2:15 PM, under the loving care of Dr. Powell and Curley Wilson. He had died of natural causes... old age. His body was stuffed and mounted by a staff taxidermist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it stands (with Balto's original lead) to this day.
The film's release was vastly overshadowed by the performance of Disney/Pixar's Toy Story (1995), and, at best, did modest box office. This led to the closure and disestablishment of Amblimation, but it quickly garnered a strong cult following and is now regarded as a classic. Strong video sales lead to the release of two sequels: Balto: Wolf Quest (2002) and Balto III: Wings of Change (2004).
The last feature by Amblimation, the animation studio run by Steven Spielberg in the early 1990s. The studio closed after Spielberg co-founded Dreamworks with David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and most of the Amblimation staff relocated to Dreamworks Animation.
In New York City's Central Park stands a bronze statue of Balto, paid for by penny collections from children. Many Siberian Husky aficionados resent the fact that it was this dog, rather than Togo, whose likeness is sculpted. The statue symbolizes the boundless courage of all the dogs who made the tremendous journey against the greatest of odds. Togo or Balto - he faces north, forever dreaming, perhaps of his immortal run in the service of mankind.
Within five days of the arrival of the serum, the diphtheria epidemic was halted. It was the last major outbreak of the disease in North America. And so, out of the Great Race of Mercy to Nome, was born the modern sled race we call the Iditarod.
During his travels in the east, Seppala left some of his animals with Harry Wheeler of Quebec, who began breeding them. All currently American Kennel Club-registered Huskies can trace their ancestry back to this foundation stock.
The final leg of the serum relay was not run by Seppala and Togo, but by Gunnar Kasaan, who reached Nome on Groundhog Day. Kasaan was driving Seppala's second string of dogs, using a dog named Balto as the lead dog. In Seppala's considered opinion, Balto was a second-rate dog. For once, Seppala was wrong.
Balto, who has suffered bad press as "just a freight dog", surpassed himself in the Great Serum Run. When Gunnar Kasaan became lost on the ice of the Topkok River, it was Balto who scented out the right trail (in 50 mph winds) and brought the team back safely. If it had been left to Kasaan, the entire team would have plunged through the ice.
After the team's hurried arrival in Nome, on the early morning of February 2 (5:30 AM local time) Gunnar Kaasen halted the team in front of the Miners and Merchants Bank on Front Street. Dazed, exhausted, and nearly overwhelmed from the ordeal, he stumbled up to the front of the team, where a few witnesses said he collapsed, muttering (about Balto) "Damn fine dog".
Businessman George Kimble worked together with the newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, to bring Balto and his team to Cleveland. On March 19, 1927, Balto and six companions were brought to Cleveland and given a hero's welcome in a triumphant parade. The dogs were then taken to the Brookside Zoo (now the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo). In 1998 the Alaska Legislature passed HJR 62- 'Bring Back Balto' resolution. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History declined to return Balto; however, in October 1998, Balto left for a five-month stay at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art which drew record crowds.
The final animated feature produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, before he co-founded DreamWorks with David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Most of the Amblimation staff were re-located to DreamWorks Animation.
Musher Gunnar Kaasen's team was the last of several involved in a 1,348-mile relay of the serum, during which many dogs died from exhaustion, frostbite and general exposure. Kaasen and his dogs, led by Balto, traveled 106 miles through subzero temperatures and icy blizzards and arrived in Nome in the early morning hours of February 2, 1925. They were the subject of much attention later that day by the press, photographers, and a French film crew.
Steele is named after North-West Mounted Police Superintendent Samuel B. Steele; one of the famous contingent of Mounted Police charged with keeping order during the chaos of the 1896-1899 Klondike Gold Rush.
News of the serum run and the many children saved by the efforts of the men and their dogs spread quickly across the nation and Balto became a heroic symbol to many. A statue of his likeness was erected in Central Park in New York City as well as in Anchorage, Alaska. He was even cast in a few Hollywood movies of the day and with other members of the teams, he eventually became a part of a one-of-a-kind exhibit in a Cleveland Zoo.
4 years earlier, Bob Hoskins (Boris the Goose), Phil Collins (Muk and Luk) and Steven Spielberg (executive producer) worked on a previous project. The movie was Hook and was directed by Steven Spielberg. Bob Hoskins played Mr. Smee and Phil Collins played Inspector Good.