The uplifting family film Dolphin Tale — starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman — tells the true story of Winter, a three-month-old bottlenose dolphin that became trapped in a fishing net near Cape Canaveral in December 2005. Most dolphins that become entangled in nets die in them. Winter survived.
Rescued by Clearwater Marine Aquarium, she began to recover. However, her tail was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated. This meant that Winter would not be able to be released into the wild after recovery. She also had to learn an entirely new way of swimming, moving her body like a snake through the water. But rescuers wanted more for her and had an ingenious prosthetic tail made for her so she could swim more normally. However, dolphin skin is very sensitive, so a new gel cushion was formed to protect the end of her body from chafing when she wears her tail. Dubbed “Winter’s Gel,” it is now used on human amputees, protecting their limbs and absorbing the pressure of the prosthetic. So a little dolphin with a will to live became a source of hope — and, indirectly, healing — for thousands of amputees.
Winter’s performances at Clearwater Aquarium have made her a sensation on YouTube. In Dolphin Tale she becomes a star, playing herself in a film based on her remarkable life.
The film adds drama to Winter’s story by portraying her rescue and recovery through the eyes of a young boy. Harry Connick Jr., who plays veterinarian Dr. Clay Haskett, says of working with Winter, “It’s an extraordinary sensation to be so close to such a majestic animal. And there’s something else that sets this dolphin apart — maybe it’s what she went through, or the fact that she survived when others wouldn’t have, but it’s a privilege just being around her.”
Needless to say, no dolphin was harmed in the making of this film. The production company took great care to see that Winter was not stressed during the making of the film. They brought in lights and cameras before shooting began so that the dolphin could get used to them. The “stunt double” is an animatronic dolphin for the scenes that were too dangerous for her. And for her own scenes, most filmed at Clearwater, Winter took to them like a marine mammal to water, even pulling pranks on the human actors, such as spitting water in the face of Nathan Gamble, who plays the boy who forms the bond with the injured animal.
“Dolphin Tale” is available starting Dec. 20 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.