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Balto is a 1995 animated/live action film produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, distributed by Universal Pictures, and originally released to movie theatres in 1995. Balto is based on a true story about the dog of the same name who helped save children from the diphtheria epidemic in the 1925 serum run to Nome. The live action portions of the film were shot in Central Parkmarker.

Balto is the final animated feature produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, before Spielberg co-founded DreamWorksmarker with David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg; most of the Amblimation staff was re-located to DreamWorks Animation. Universal Pictures would not release another feature-length animated film to theaters for over a decade, until Curious George in 2006. Similarly, it would be over a decade until Amblin Entertainment would produce another theatrically released animated film, which was 2006's Columbia Pictures computer-animated feature film Monster House.


The film opens with an old woman and a young girl in Central Parkmarker in New York Citymarker stopping at a statue of a sled dog. The woman explains that the dog represented is Balto and begins the story that happened in 1925.

Balto is a wolf-dog mutt, shunned by both humans and dogs in the town of Nomemarker. His only friends are Boris, a Russian goose, and Muk and Luk, two polar bears. Balto and Boris live on a grounded boat outside Nome, while Muk and Luk are occasional visitors.

One day, a dogsled race is being held. At the head end of one of the teams is Steele, a proud and fierce competitor. Balto and Boris are in Nome to watch the finish. While waiting for the teams to arrive, Balto sees a young girl named Rosy and her female husky, Jenna. He is immediately smitten by Jenna, and when Rosy loses her hat to the wind, Balto outruns the sled team and retrieves the hat to show off. However, when he tries to get closer to Jenna, she and Rosy are pulled away by Rosy's parents. Balto and Boris dejectedly leave town, but not before being antagonized by Steele and his companions, Nikki, Kaltag and Star.

The night after the race, Rosy and several other children fall ill. As Jenna worriedly watches through the hospital window, Balto approaches and attempts to flirt, but Jenna is too distressed to be receptive. Balto and Jenna enter the underfloor area of the hospital and watch the doctor give the diagnosis — Rosy (and the other children) has diphtheria, and the doctor has run out of antitoxin. An urgent request for medicine is transmitted, but sea and air routes fail and the closest rail line only goes to Nenanamarker.

It is decided that a sled team will cover the last stretch. A race is held to determine the team members. Balto enters, and easily wins. However, he is disqualified when his heritage is revealed. That night, the team (led by Steele) sets out to Nenana and picks up the medicine; however they get lost on the way back and knock out the musher. The team now has no way home.

The news reaches Nome. Balto decides to set out on a rescue mission, accompanied by Boris, Muk and Luk. On the way, they are attacked by a large grizzly bear, but (with Jenna's unexpected help) are able to escape. However, Jenna is injured, and Balto orders Boris and the bears to take her home. Balto eventually finds the team, but Steele does not want help, and a dogfight ensues which ends with Steele plunging down a cliff (he is apparently uninjured). Balto takes up the lead, but soon finds that Steele tampered with the trail markers Balto left on the way and becomes lost. Eventually the crate containing the medicine becomes untied and falls off a cliff. Balto catches it, but the ground gives way underneath him and both him and the crate drop into the abyss.

Balto wakes up at the bottom of the cliff, believing that he has failed. A large white wolf appears to him, and he turns away in shame. However, as the wolf walks away, Balto notices the intact crate nearby. He realizes that being part wolf is a strength, not a weakness, and embraces that heiritage with a howl, joined by the white wolf. Afterward, Balto manages to drag the crate back up the cliff to the waiting team. They are quickly on their way again, Balto using his sense of smell to figure out which marks are his and which are Steele's.

After overcoming several near-catastrophes, Balto makes it back to Nome. Steele - who had told the other dogs that Balto died - is revealed to be a liar and is deserted. Boris, Muk, Luk and Jenna - all of whom thought Balto was lost - are overjoyed, and the town which once shunned Balto gives him a hero's welcome.

Returning the present, the old woman and the girl read the statue's plaque lauding the courage and fidelity of the sled dogs that prevented the tragedy in Nome. After the woman explains that the trek is now honored with the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that uses the same route the dog team relay took, the girl runs off playing sled dog with her own dog. Alone for a minute, the woman, who is actually Rosy, says "Thank you Balto, I would have been lost without you."

Cast & Characters


Historical Differences

  • 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.
  • The serum was never driven by the dogs alone, and no musher was incapacitated.
  • 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 Kaasen.
  • Balto was not part wolf, he was a purebred Siberian Husky.


Cover for the Balto soundtrack CD

Soundtrack Album Track Listing

In the original United Statesmarker version, this CD had the following tracks:

  1. "Reach For The Light (Theme from Balto)" - performed by Steve Winwood (4:24)
  2. "Main Title/Balto's Story Unfolds" (4:40)
  3. "The Dogsled Race" (1:41)
  4. "Rosy Goes To The Doctor" (4:05)
  5. "Boris & Balto" (1:29)
  6. "The Journey Begins" (5:06)
  7. "Grizzly Bear" (5:23)
  8. "Jenna/Telegraphing The News" (2:22)
  9. "Steele's Treachery" (4:38)
  10. "The Epidemic's Toll" (3:29)
  11. "Heritage Of The Wolf" (5:54)
  12. "Balto Brings The Medicine!" (4:53)
  13. "Reach For The Light (Theme from Balto) (Long Version)" - performed by Steve Winwood (5:27)

Total length: 49:15 min


Two direct-to-video sequels were made by the Universal Cartoon Studios. The first, Balto II: Wolf Quest was released in 2002. This film followed the adventures of Balto and Jenna's pups, mainly Aleu who sets off to discover her wolf heritage.

The third film, Balto III: Wings of Change was released in 2005. The storyline followed the same litter of pups from Balto 2 but with the focus on another of Balto's pups named Kodi.

Neither film took any historical references from the true story of Balto (although Balto 3 does make a few references to the time and setting of the story).


Balto holds a mixed rating of 45% by critics at Rotten Tomatoes, though only 11 reviews are counted. However, the users rating is at 72%, with 304 reviews (221 fresh, 83 rotten). The film's release was vastly overshadowed by the performance of Disney/Pixar's Toy Story and, at best, did modest box office. Strong video sales lead to the release of two sequels: Balto II: Wolf Quest and Balto III: Wings of Change.

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