Togo. Dir. Ericson Core. Walt Disney Studios. 2019

Promotional poster centring Togo and Seppala

In Togo (2019)[1], directed by Ericson Core, the eponymous canine hero recovers from a potentially devastating injury, portrayed as being due to Togo’s incredible relationship with trainer Seppala. Core utilises the emotional score composed by Mark Isham, as well as focusing on the ‘love story between a man and his dog’[2]. This sequence cements the relationship between them within the movie and subverts typical expectations of masculinity, animal training and pet-keeping.

Movie still showing Togo licking Seppala

            Togo relies on the anxiety induced by the prospect of its hero dying. During this sequence the audience has begun to fear the worst about Togo’s recovery. Core shows the remarkable spirit of the animal through Togo’s recovery and insistence at being at Seppala’s side, focusing on the bond between trainer and animal. The scene starts with a wide shot of Togo running over the crest of the hill towards Seppala. Whilst this is a generic shot in movies surrounding pet-keeping, where there is an expected intimacy between human and animal, here it speaks to the blurred boundaries between Seppala, a trainer seeing dogs as a commodity, and Togo, the rambunctious dog whose stubbornness forced him into Seppala’s home. It cuts to a medium shot of Seppala looking over his shoulder at Togo, then to him facing forwards, stopping the dogs, showing the separation between them and Togo. In an extreme-wide shot, Seppala leaves the team of dogs, turning as it cuts to a medium tracking shot focused on his expression. The scene changes to a flashback of Togo as a puppy, the stark white snow contrasted by soft lighting of summer as a wide tracking shot follows Togo running towards the camera, then cuts back to the present-day Togo doing the same, concluding the bildungsroman. The flashback sequence shows the relationship come full circle – young dog versus old dog, stubbornness versus independence. Trainer and dog meet in an expression of affection at the conclusion, Seppala smiling in a close-up as Togo licks his face. The wide shots in this scene place Seppala and Togo as equally important to each other, subverting typical relationships between men and dogs in films, with men usually portrayed as masters and dogs as subservient to them. Togo is free-spirited and stubborn, outwitting Seppala throughout the film. This scene shows despite Togo directly challenging Seppala’s masculinity, Seppala accepts Togo as his companion and more than a working dog.

            The sequence is scored by ‘Forgive Me’[3] by Mark Isham. The title of the track refers to Seppala’s guilt over Togo’s injuries, literal in meaning and befitting the importance of their relationship. Seppala’s fears over Togo’s decline are unfounded as the ‘underdog’ proves by losing his limp and regaining health. The diegetic sounds of Seppala’s voice and Togo’s breathing are noticeably audible outside of the score, linking forgiveness to them. Seppala has finally accepted Togo as his companion, and this sequence within the film shows the extent of the bond they have formed.

Still showing Togo and Seppala embracing

Through the utilisation of camera shots and sound, Core creates a tender and emotional sequence showing the relationship between man and dog, focusing on the relationship between the characters and this sequence shows the ‘love story’[4] between them.

[1] Togo, Ericson Core (Walt Disney Studios, 2019) <> [Accessed 13th November 2021]

[2] IMDB, Willem Dafoe Explains the Love Story Behind ‘Togo’, Recorded Interview, IMDB, 12 December 2019, <> [Accessed 13th November 2021]

[3] Mark Isham, ‘Forgive Me’, Togo (Original Soundtrack) (Walt Disney Records, 2019) [Digital Album]

[4] Togo, Ericson Core (Walt Disney Studios, 2019)


Core, Ericson, dir., Togo (Walt Disney Studios, 2019) <> [Accessed 13th November 2021]

IMDB, Willem Dafoe Explains the Love Story Behind ‘Togo’, Recorded Interview, IMDB, 12 December 2019, <> [Accessed 13th November 2021]

Isham, Mark, Togo (Original Soundtrack) (Walt Disney Records, 2019) [Digital Album]