People tend to look negatively upon sequels, especially animated sequels as being
inferior to the original product. This isn’t without reason, as sequels are often pushed out the
door with far less thought and effort then the movies that spawned them, with executives
attempting to milk as much viewership out of the product’s reputation as they can. The reason I
believe this is so often been a problem with animated films is because of how animation is
believed to be for children, and children make for such a rich demographic who are seen as
willing to eat anything up without questioning its quality.
Even though I disagree with this viewpoint, whenever I think of an animated movie I
liked growing up, I have to question my own judgement about whether it was really as good as I
remember or if it will fail to stand the test of time. One such movie I remember very fondly,
which happens to also be a sequel, is Balto: Wolf Quest. I actually grew up with the sequel movie
rather than the original, which I didn’t see until I was an adult. I decided to do a bit of a
throwback review this week for a sequel I still believe, even after watching it earlier this week,
gets far less credit then it deserves.
Balto, the original movie, deals with a straight-forward but heavily fictionalized version
of the historical wolf-dog and his heroic efforts to lead a sled team bringing medicine to the
people of Nome, Alaska. If I could compare it to anything, I’d have to draw a parallel between
this movie and Don Bluth’s Anastasia. Both movies feature historical figures and events that are
heavily distorted from how they actually happened, but still manage to thrill and entertain and
most importantly, tell a good story. That said, the first animated Balto movie is fairly par for the
course for what it is, and it might be hard to imagine that such a movie could lead to any quality
sequels without stretching its source material.
Balto: Wolf Quest almost certainly does stretch the material beyond belief, to the point
where the fabric gives way and the contents spill out in a completely original, unexpected
direction. The sequel movie stars the fictional daughter of Balto, Aleu, as she and her father
embark on the titular vision quest to discover her destiny. What makes this sequel unique is the
complete change in atmospherics from the original. Rather than being a colorful but down to
earth adaptation of a historical event, this movie plunges us straight into a mystical world of
ghostly creatures, strange dreams and even apparent magic. Eventually, Balto and Aleu find
themselves placed in charge of deciding the fate of a starving wolf pack, which will in turn help
decide Aleu’s true destiny.
This radical departure from the original story is ironically what saves this movie from
being just another lazy sequel. A description of all this may seem a bit strange for those only
familiar with the first film, but in motion it makes for a graceful, deeply spiritual adventure that’s
as much a journey of the heart as of the body. I was bizarrely transfixed by this movie as a child,
and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it still holds up even today. If you’re looking for a new
but old animated movie to watch with your children or even just for the sheer sake of watching
it, I highly recommend Balto: Wolf Quest as an example of an animated sequel done right.
3.5/5. There’s some conspicuous CG here and there that hasn’t aged as well as the rest of
the movie, but at the same time there are parts of this movie where the animation is still stunning,
5/5. The bold new direction that this sequel takes from its predecessor only does it favors,
as it manages to be compelling and atmospheric at the same time.
3.5/5. Kevin Bacon does not reprise his original role as Balto here, his voice instead
being filled by career voice actor Maurice LaMarche, although the difference is hardly
noticeable! I was surprised that Aleu’s voice acting was much more grating then I remember as a
child, which is what prevents this from having a higher score.
Final Score: 4/5
Written by Alisa Pescosolido