Balto is an animated/live action film produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, that brought you An American Tail Fievel Goes West And Were Back A Dinosaur Story 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 portion of the films was shot in Central Park.
The film opens in a live-action scene with an old woman (Miriam Margoyles) and a young girl (Lola Bates-Campbell) in Central Park in New York City searching for a statue of a sled dog. The woman begins the story that happened in 1925 as the scene shifts to an animated form.
Balto (voiced by Kevin Bacon) is a wolf-dog hybrid, shunned by both humans and dogs in the town of Nome. His only friends are Boris (voiced by Bob Hoskins), a Russian goose, and Muk and Luk (both voiced by Phil Collins), 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 (voiced by Jim Cummings), 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 (voiced by Juliette Brewer) and her female husky, Jenna (voiced by Bridget Fonda). Balto immediately develops a crush on 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 (voiced respectively by Jack Angel, Danny Mann, and Robbie Rist).
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 a deadly sickness, 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 Nenana.
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 thanks to Steele. 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, Balto marks the trail by clawing trees. Later, they are stalked and attacked by a large, and vicious black grizzly bear. The bear nearly kills Balto, but Jenna (who followed them) intervenes and attacks the bear. However, the bear injures Jenna and attacks Balto again. Balto eventually tricks the bear into walking onto a frozen lake, and it falls through the ice and drowns. Balto also falls through the ice, but he is saved by Muk and Luk. However, because of Jenna's injury, Balto orders Boris and the bears to take her home. Balto eventually finds the team and offers to help them get home. Seemingly having gone crazy, Steele does not want help, and a dogfight ensues, which ends with Steele plunging down a cliff (he is apparently uninjured) without Balto having attacked once. Even with his mentally deranged state, Steele manages to make it on top of the cliff and creates a false trail to throw Balto off course. 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 heritage 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 adandoned by the other dogs in anger. 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
- Balto, voiced by Kevin Bacon, is the main protagonist, a young adult male wolf-dog hybrid (half husky, half wolf).
- Boris, voiced by Bob Hoskins, is a Russian snow goose who considers himself Balto's caretaker.
- Jenna, voiced by Bridget Fonda, is a young and beautiful, female Siberian husky. She is Balto's love interest.
- Rosy, voiced by Juliette Brewer, is Jenna's owner. She is a kind, excitable girl, and when she falls ill, Balto does everything he can to save her and the other children. Her adult self tells the tale to her granddaughter and is portrayed by Miriam Margoyles in the live action segments.
- Steele, voiced by Jim Cummings, is the main antagonist. He is a fierce and arrogant purebred Alaskan Malamute.
- Muk & Luk, both voiced by Phil Collins, are a pair of polar bears.
- Nikki, voiced by Jack Angel, Kaltag, voiced by Danny Mann and Star, voiced by Robbie Rist, are a trio of dogs in Steele's team.
- Dixie, voiced by Sandra Dickinson, is a female Pomeranian and one of Jenna's friends.
- Sylvie, voiced by Sandra Dickinson, is a female Afghan Hound.
- Additional Characters include:
- Rosy's Grand-daughter, played by Lola Bates-Campbell appears in the live action section of the film with her dog Blaze.
- Rosy's Mother, voiced by Sandra Dickinson.
- Rosy's Father, voiced by William Roberts.
- Doctor, voiced by Donald Sinden.
- Butcher, voiced by Bill Bailey.
- Telegraph Operator, voiced by Garrick Hagon.