Balto’s just a wild mutt
To those who call Alaska home.
Half-wolf, half-dog, he is the butt
Of jokes and scorn all over Nome.
His comrade Boris, who’s a goose,
Has raised him since perhaps his birth,
And, though his warnings are profuse,
Balto wants to prove his worth.
He races well and angers Steele,
A lead sled dog and “glory hound,”
Who taunts his nemesis with zeal
Whenever Balto is around.
But Jenna and her human Rosy
Like poor Balto nonetheless.
When the two canines get nosy,
They learn Rosy’s in distress.
She and other kids in Nome
Have caught diphtheria, indeed.
A sled dog team must now bring home
The antitoxin that they need.
Steele’s the lead dog for the trek.
A blizzard causes them to stray,
Nearly brings about a wreck,
And hurts their musher, by the way.
As Rosy worsens, Balto goes
To find the team and be their guide,
But, when he does, he is opposed
By Steele’s resentful, selfish pride.
Yet Balto still does take the lead,
Though Steele attempts to get them lost.
The team braves dangers that impede
But pushes on at any cost.
Managing to bridge the gulf
Between his dog and lupine sides,
Balto taps his inner wolf
And proves himself the best of guides.
At last, the sled team makes it home,
And Balto’s hailed a hero true.
He saved the kids and proved to Nome
Just what an underdog can do.

Balto, the last of Spielberg’s Amblimation films, is not nearly as well known as that other classic 1995 cartoon Toy Story, but it is still a lesser classic that I fondly remember from my childhood. The characters are rather stereotypical (the misunderstood hero, the sympathetic girlfriend, the silly comic relief sidekick, the arrogant antagonist), yet most of them are both lovable and memorable, and the voice actors bring them to life. The best aspect of the movie is its placing these familiar archetypes within the real-life story of Nome’s 1925 diphtheria outbreak and the origin of the Iditarod sled race. The stakes are set high as Rosy’s health is shown declining, and, though anyone who knows the tale will find the ending predictable, the journey is nonetheless fun and exciting. The best scene is easily the avalanche/ice cave/stalactite part, which might have provided some inspiration for similar scenes in Ice Age. Its live action beginning and end also serve to make it unique.

That being said, the story is nowhere near historically accurate (Balto was a purebred Siberian Husky and only ran part of the distance to Nome); this makes Balto one of the multiple animated films that have indulged in revisionist history, such as Anastasia, The Road to El Dorado, and Pocahontas. Though the animation is better than previous Amblin productions, like An American Tail and The Land Before Time, it was not up to Disney’s standards at the time. Despite these flaws, including some very unrealistic elements (how on earth did that medicine not break?), Balto is an adventure that can be enjoyed by the whole family and certainly has been by mine.

Best line: (Boris the goose, after a harrowing escape) “Balto, I was so scared. I got people bumps.”

VC’s best line: (Boris again, with advice) “Let me tell you something, Balto. A dog cannot make this journey alone. But maybe a wolf can.”

Artistry: 4
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 4
Originality: 4
Watchability: 5
TOTAL: 29 out of 60

Tomorrow: #331: WarGames

© 2014 S. G. Liput