Brave dog saves kids in fun but tense fact-based film.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: May 18, 2003
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1995
  • Running Time: 78 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Since the movie is based on a true story, kids will learn some lessons about the role dogs play in Alaska's rural communities.

Positive messages

Positive themes of friendship, acceptance of those who are different, bravery, and selflessness.

Positive role models

Friends help each other save the day. Their friendship is almost as important as the main character's heroic deeds, because they encourage him to believe in himself.

Violence & scariness

This adventure contains plenty of peril: from dogs falling off of snowy cliffs to children who are so ill that their lives hang in the balance. We see small coffins being fit for those kids who might not make it through the epidemic. Dogs growl and fight. Some kids will be scared of Steele, the bully, and the grizzly bear. There are also bonks on the head given for comedic effect.

Sexy stuff

Some flirtatious behavior between dogs. "I know where all of the bones are buried," says Steele to Jenna when he is trying to get her to go out with him.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are thrills aplenty in Balto, an animated adventure based on a true story about rural Alaskan kids with a serious illness. Youngest viewers might not understand the threat that looms over the town, but older kids will get the gravity of the situation when they see small coffins being fit for those kids who might not make it through the epidemic. Dogs growl and fight and are in peril; some kids will be scared of Steele, the bully, and the grizzly bear. On the positive side, the movie promotes acceptance and reinforces the value of friendship.

What's the story?

Based on a true story, BALTO centers on a brave dog who saved the lives of Alaskan children with diphtheria when he brought medicine to them through the snow. Half wolf, half domesticated dog, Balto (voiced by Kevin Bacon) has a hard time fitting in with either species. A jealous rival frames Balto for theft, ensuring that Balto will not be chosen to lead a rescue mission. But when the rescue party gets lost, Balto steps in to save the day, with the help of his friends, a Russian goose (voice of Bob Hoskins) and two polar bears (both voice of pop star Phil Collins).

Is it any good?


Though it's not the most original or beautifully animated kids' movie out there, Balto is engaging, and kids will probably be quite entertained. There are some good laughs, and the voice performances are well done. Be aware that there is some peril and scary scenes involving the mean dog Steele and a grizzly bear encounter. Kids may also get upset when they see the small coffins that are being made for kids who might not survive the epidemic. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Balto's struggle to fit in. Was it fair of the other dogs not to accept him? Can you think of examples this type of unfair judgment that you've witnessed?

  • How did Balto's friends help him in difficult times? Are your friends there for you when you're having problems?

  • How could you find out more about the dog who inspired this movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 22, 1995
DVD release date:February 19, 2002
Cast:Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda, Kevin Bacon
Director:Simon Wells
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:78 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bydpsg January 9, 2010
It's a feel good movie in the end. I got it based on the write-up here that did not mention how much tension there is. There are some scary parts (for even my sensitive 6 year old boy)...some frightening scenes with a mean bully antagonist dog (Steele), a very scary grizzly bear encounter and the general sad and suspenseful theme that the children are about to die if the dogs don't bring back the needed anti-toxin. It was a happy, feel good ending and a sweet story - obviously embellished from reality to make it into an exciting kid movie...but could spark an interest in learning more about the real Balto and the Iditarod. I felt that there was a fair amount of focus on romance and the girl dogs trying to win Steele's attention and Steele and Balto kind of vying for another dog's love...but it wasn't a huge deal. Only mildly stereotypical at times. I just don't see the need for it personally. My 3 year old who is sensitive and hasn't seen many movies loved it in the end and just covered her eyes a few times so I think it's fine for 3 and up but probably best for 4 or 5 and up if your kids are really sensitive to scary stuff.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great messages
Parent of a 6 and 6 year old Written byjagness April 9, 2008

More to life than ABC's

Lots of "edutainment" videos teach letters, numbers, colors, etc.; but for complex social issues there are not many sources. If you want your children to grasp honor, duty, self-sacrifice, humility, dedication (I could go on. . .) Balto is one of the best sources out there. Balto is based on a true story, so the example he sets is tangible and teachable. I plan to take my soon-to-be 5 year old twin boys to the Cleveland Museum where Balto's history is kept alive. Hopefully this will spark an early interest in doing "research"! Best of all, adults can watch Balto without being bored so it truly is a family film.
Adult Written byRed_Wolf April 9, 2008

Balto - Turely a magical film!

Based on a true American legend, the story takes place in 1925 in a small, snow-covered town of Nome, Alaska. There lives an animal by the name of Balto. He is part wolf, part dog. He lives as a tramp and a loner. One day, the community started to break out with a certain sickness. Quick action had be taken now in order to obtain the special medicine needed to cure it - but the nearest provider was over 650 miles away. The only way to retrieve the medicine across the frozen, harsh terrain was to set out on a dog-sled team. This would be no easy task. They need to find the best dogs for the mission. Even if they do, they have to face the most severe threats of the Alaskan plains. Time is of esence. Determinded to get the medication, Balto, along with is friends, set out on a dangerous adventure that would be mean the difference between life or death. Moral content: The story comes together as one big quest, won over with courage, perseverance, and love. I believe the main character, Balto, is an ideal figure on how a hero should be. He is humble in his ways and strives to do what is good, dispite his downcast (and somewhat hated) reputation by the town. His friends, though few, are loyal to him and stay by his side. Violence: Very brief; Balto is grabbed and thrown at a jagged wall of rocks, which leaves him passed out momentarily. Steel falls off a steep cliff and is banged along rocks and debris on his way down. Sexaul content: None. Though, it's a little intimate when Jenna lays herself over Balto to warm him up.Language: Mild threats; Steel tells Balto that he'll turn him into a "cat toy" and that he'll "tear him apart". Summary: This has to be one of the best animated films I've ever seen. Unforgetable characters, lessons of bravery, humility, and endurance, a beautiful musical soundtrack, and the quest to save others. It didn't score high at the box office, but it has scored high with many Christian and morally oriented families, and it will continue live and pass down as a beloved, classic Universal Studios films. Balto gets my two paws... eh, two thumbs up!


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