Dolphin Tale (2011) and Dolphin Tale 2 (2014) are movies inspired by the true story of a bottle-nose dolphin named Winter who was rescued off the Florida coast and taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she is fitted with prosthetic tail after she lost her natural tail after becoming entangled in a rope attached to a crab trap (source: Wikipedia).
On Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s website, you can see scenes of Winter’s amazing true story. There are footage of the actual rescue, and viewers can follow her through the trials of losing her tail, learning to swim without a tail, and the miracle of swimming again with her new prosthetic tail.
What’s really amazing about this story is that the tail research is now helping human amputees.
The movies (please note that the plots contain spoilers):
Dolphin Tale (2011)
The story commences with the main character, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and his older cousin who his greatly looks up to Kyle (Austin Stowell), watching a swim meet. There Kyle sparks conversation with his former coach, (Russ Blackwell) about Kyle’s impressive swim records and he talks of going to the Olympics. This upsets sawyer because the only way to pay for training is for Kyle to deploy to the military. Later on the boys are at Kyle’s going away party and sawyer stays distant from the party. His mother talks to a neighbor explaining that Sawyers academic performance in school is poor therefore he is required to attend summer school to raise his grades. Kyle finds Sawyer in his workshop inside the garage to say his goodbyes and gives him a pocket knife. The next day Sawyer watches Kyle leave and heads to school on his bike. On his way, he finds a fisher telling Sawyer to call the marine hospital. Further looking, he finds the Dolphin on the store bleeding out, tangled in rope, and tail lodged in a crab trap. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Sawyer cuts the dolphin free but is unable to free her tail. While doing so, he comforts the dolphin by whistling and forms an instant bond. The crew arrives and that’s when he initially meets the crew and more importantly meets Hazel, the doctors daughter. Sawyer, unable to concentrate in school, ditches, and goes to visit the dolphin. He meets again with Hazel and she explains that she has named the dolphin Winter. He introduces himself to the crew and then heads home. Over the next several days, Sawyer skips school to visit Winter and becomes close with the staff. One day however, he finds Hazel crying and asks what is wrong. She explains that Winters tail is severally damaged and must be amputated. Winter is unable to swim and must be carried 24 hours a day. She soon however learns to swim using a windshield type method this soon becomes a problem when Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.)says that winter is forming deadly deposits in her body that is killing her. Along with that, the aquarium is in severe financial dept and is being bought out. After returning home due to a severe spinal injury, Kyle stays at a rehabilitation clinic for military amputees. There Sawyer meets Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman.) and gets the idea to make Winter a prosthetic tail. He agrees and goes on making two trial tails both being a failure. After an epiphany, Sawyer realizes why it hasn’t worked and Dr. Cameron makes a final tail that works. Upon the happy news, Dr. Clay breaks the news that the aquarium is officially bankrupt and is closing down. Unable to just let is happen, Hazel and Sawyer make a plan to save the hospital with a benefit carnival. The carnival proves to be a great success and the aquarium is saved and the animals have homes again (source: IMDb).
Dolphin Tale 2 (2014)
It has been several years since young Sawyer Nelson and the dedicated team at the Clearwater Marine Hospital, headed by Dr. Clay Haskett, rescued Winter. With the help of Dr. Cameron McCarthy, who developed a unique prosthetic tail for the injured dolphin, they were able to save her life. Yet their fight is not over. Winter’s surrogate mother, the very elderly dolphin Panama, has passed away, leaving Winter without the only pool-mate she has ever known. However, the loss of Panama may have even greater repercussions for Winter, who, according to USDA regulations, cannot be housed alone, as dolphins’ social behavior requires them to be paired with other dolphins. Time is running out to find a companion for her before the team at Clearwater loses their beloved Winter to another aquarium. Written by Warner Bros.
Fun facts about the movies Dolphin Tale & Dolphin Tale 2
This is the fifth movie featuring both Morgan Freeman and with Ashley Judd. The first four were Kiss the Girls (1997), High Crimes (2002), Dolphin Tale (2011), and Olympus Has Fallen (2013).
In between the two Dolphin Tale movies, Harry Connick Jr. and Kris Kristofferson played father/son roles in Angels Sing (2013).
Originally, the aquarium rescued Hope before Panama died. They were paired together, but when Panama died, Winter was paired with Hope.
Rufus was played by two pelicans, Ricky and Lucy. You can visit them at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
For the scenes with Hope, she was digitally shrunken to be the size of a baby dolphin.
Mandy the dolphin was played by the aquarium’s third dolphin, Nicholas.
Mavis the turtle was played by Harold, a resident green sea turtle at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The SEA Semester Sawyer went to actually exists.
Nathan Gamble had his hair dyed dark brown to match Ashley Judd. He is originally blonde.
David Yates, CEO of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, was in two scenes in the film. One with Bethany Hamilton and the other at Sawyer’s party.