Balto (film)

This article is about the film. For the character, see Balto (character). For the sled dog, see Balto.

Theatrical release poster by John Alvin.
Directed by Simon Wells
Produced by Steve Hickner
Screenplay by
Story by Cliff Ruby & Elana Lesser
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Jan Richter-Friis
Edited by
  • Renee Edwards
  • Nick Fletcher and Sim Evan-Jones (supervising editors)
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 22, 1995 (1995-12-22)
Running time
77 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $11.3 million[1]

Balto is a 1995 American live-action/animated Adventure film directed by Simon Wells, produced by Amblin Entertainment and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is loosely 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 at Central Park in New York City. The film was the final animated feature produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio. Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Bonne Radford acted as executive producers on the film. Although the film's theatrical run was overshadowed by the success of the competing Pixar film Toy Story, its subsequent strong sales on home video led to two direct-to-video sequels: Balto II: Wolf Quest (2002) and Balto III: Wings of Change (2004).[2][3] This was the last film to be made from Amblimation. It was filmed in 1994.


In New York City, an elderly woman and her granddaughter are walking through Central Park, looking for a memorial statue. As they seat themselves for a rest, the grandmother tells a story about Nome, Alaska back in 1925, which shifts the film from live-action to animation.

Balto, a wolfdog hybrid, lives on the outskirts of Nome with his adoptive father, a snow goose named Boris, and two polar bears, Muk and Luk. Being half-breed, Balto is ridiculed by dogs and humans alike. His only friend in town is a red husky named Jenna whom Balto has a crush on and her owner, Rosy. He is later challenged by the town's favorite sled dog, Steele, a fierce and arrogant Alaskan Malamute.

That night, all the children including Rosy fall ill with diphtheria and the doctor is out of antitoxin. The local wireless operator relays news of the outbreak, and word travels to the territory capital at Juneau, where the governor orders antitoxin to be sent to Nome. However, severe winter weather conditions prevent medicine from being brought by sea or air, and the closest rail line from Juneau ends at the small village of Nenana, some 600 miles east of Nome. A dog race is held to determine the best-fit dogs for a sled dog team to get the medicine. Balto enters and wins, but Steele exposes his wolf-dog heritage, resulting in him being disqualified. The team departs that night with Steele in the lead and later picks up the medicine successfully, but on the way back, conditions deteriorate and the disoriented team ends up stranded at the base of a steep mountainside slope with the musher knocked unconscious.

When the word reaches Nome that Steele and his team are missing, the town prepares for the worst. The wireless operator turns out the signal lamp on the street set for the team, and Balto witnesses a carpenter in town beginning to build coffins for the children. Balto sets out in search of Steele and his team, along with Boris, Muk and Luk. On the way, they are attacked by a huge grizzly bear, but Jenna, who followed their mark tracks, intervenes. The bear pursues Balto out onto a frozen lake, where it falls through the ice and drowns, while Muk and Luk dive in to save Balto from a similar fate. However, Jenna got injured and cannot continue on. Balto instructs Boris and the polar bears to take her back home while he continues on alone; grateful for all he's done so far, Jenna gives him her bandanna and Boris gives him some advice. Balto eventually finds the team, but Steele does not want his help and attacks him until he loses his balance after snatching onto Jenna's bandanna and falls off a cliff. Balto takes charge of the team, but Steele, refusing to concede defeat, throws them off the trail and they lose their way again. While attempting to save the medicine from falling down a cliff, Balto himself falls.

Back in Nome, Jenna is explaining Balto's mission to the other dogs, but they don't believe her. When Steele returns, he claims the entire team, including Balto, is dead; he uses Jenna's bandanna as supposed proof. However, Jenna sees through his deception and assures Balto will return with the medicine, but the others remain skeptical. Using a trick Balto showed her earlier, she places broken colored glass bottles on the outskirts of town and shine a lantern on them to simulate the lights of an aurora, hoping it will help guide Balto home. When Balto regains consciousness, he is ready to give up hope, but when a large, white wolf appears and he notices the medicine crate still intact nearby, he realizes that his part-wolf heritage is a strength, not a weakness (proving Boris' advice), and drags the medicine back up the cliff to the waiting team. Using his advanced senses, Balto is able to filter out the false markers Steele created. After encountering further challenges from escaping an avalanche caused by Star's sneeze and icy cave, and losing only one vial, Balto and the sled team finally make it back to Nome. A pity-playing Steele is exposed as a liar and abandoned by the other dogs, ruining his reputation. Reunited with Jenna and his friends, Balto earns respect from both the dogs and the humans. He visits a cured Rosy, who thanks him for saving her.

Back in the present day, the elderly woman and her granddaughter finally find the memorial commemorating Balto, and she explains that the Iditarod trail covers the same path that Balto and his team took from Nenana to Nome. The woman, who is revealed to be Rosy, repeats the same line, "Thank you, Balto. I would have been lost without you," before walking off to join her granddaughter and her Siberian Husky, Blaze. The film ends with the Balto statue standing proudly in the sunlight.

Cast and characters

Historical differences


The film was theatrically released in the United States on December 22, 1995 and then international theatres on January 13, 1996 when it first premiered in Brazil.[2] Its release was vastly overshadowed by the performance of DisneyPixar's Toy Story. But the film did end up recouping its small budget and did modest business at the box office.[3]

Box office

The film ranked 15th on its opening weekend and earned $1,519,755 from a total of 1,427 theatres.[9] The film also ranked 7th among G-rated movies in 1995. Total domestic gross reach up to $11,348,324.[3] While the film was not as successful at the box office, it was far more successful in terms of video sales. These strong video sales led to the release of two direct-to-video sequels: Balto II: Wolf Quest and Balto III: Wings of Change being created, though neither sequel received as strong a reception as the original film.

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews upon release. According to review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 50% rating based on 24 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "The animation is great, but Balto's details and its plot are so-so".[10] Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review, describing the film as "a kids' movie, simply told, with lots of excitement and characters you can care about". He gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. However, others, such as Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today, criticised the film for its lackluster voice work, particularly from Bacon, and its story.[11] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, calculated an average score of 52/100 based on 10 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Despite getting mixed reviews, this film is known to have a strong cult following on the internet, most notably on DeviantArt and the furry community. [12][13][14]


Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released 1995
Recorded 1994-1995
Genre Classical, Pop, Modern classical [15]
Length 54:30
Label Universal
Professional ratings
Review scores

Balto: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack of the film, composed by James Horner.[15]

Track listing

No. TitleWriter(s)Performer(s) Length
1. "Reach for the Light"  Cynthia WeilSteve 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 (Long Version)"  Cynthia WeilSteve Winwood 5:27
Total length:


Two direct-to-video sequels of the film followed, made by the Universal Cartoon Studios. The first, Balto II: Wolf Quest, was released in 2002 and follows the adventures of one of Balto and Jenna's pups, Aleu, who sets off to discover her wolf heritage.[17] The second, Balto III: Wings of Change, was released in 2004. The storyline follows the same litter of pups from Balto II but focuses on Kodi as part of a U.S. Mail dog sled delivery team.[18] Unlike the original, neither films took any historical references from the true story of Balto.


  1. Balto at Box Office Mojo.
  2. 1 2 "Balto (1995)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  3. 1 2 3 "1995 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  4. 1 2 3 Aversano, Earl. "Balto - Balto's True Story". Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "The True Story of Balto - Facts". Animation Source. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  7. 1 2 Vrhovec, Maj. "The Real Story of Balto - Alpha Howl Library". Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  8. Aversano, Earl. "Togo - Balto's True Story". Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  9. "Balto - Box Office Data, DVD Sales, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers". Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  10. "Balto - Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  11. Ebert, Roger. "Balto Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  12. "WikiFur: Balto".
  13. "Balto (1995) Channel Awesome Community Forums". Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  14. "DeviantArt search results for Balto".
  15. 1 2 "James Horner - Balto (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  16. "Balto Soundtrack Album". LetsSingIt. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  17. "Balto: Wolf Quest (Video 2002)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  18. "Balto III: Wings of Change (Video 2004)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-04-06.

External links

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