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About The Production
"We're here because of the most amazing animal, and friend, that I've ever known.”

Dolphins and humans have always shared an intriguing symbiosis despite the natural divide of land and water. Their gentle spirits, smiling expressions and undeniable intelligence captivate us, and dolphins, likewise, seem drawn to the people who venture in or onto the oceans they call home…sometimes to their own detriment. Throughout the years, there have been many tales of dolphins saving the lives of people. In the feature film "Dolphin Tale,” a few dedicated humans join together to return the favor.

Director Charles Martin Smith offers, "One of the larger themes of the film is that we—people, animals, nature—are all in this together. We are part of an overall community that extends beyond our human family, and I think the movie speaks to that in a meaningful and entertaining way, with both humor and heart.”

The film's star, Harry Connick, Jr., who worked closely with dolphins in his role, notes, "When you look at a dolphin, you know there is a connection. You can see the intelligence in their eyes; it's almost as if they can look right through us. I felt that the whole time I was making this movie.”

"Dolphin Tale” has its origins in a story that would be almost impossible to believe if it weren't true. In December 2005, a fisherman in Florida happened on a baby dolphin that had become entangled in the ropes of a crab trap, cutting off the circulation to her tail. Critically injured, the young animal was transported to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), where she eventually lost her tail altogether, increasing the odds against her survival. However, the people working 24/7 to help Winter—as the dolphin was named—were determined to defy those odds, and Winter's own will to live trumped all the cards she'd been dealt. Her miraculous recovery was due, in large part, to an ingenious prosthetic tail. It is held on via a revolutionary sleeve made out of a supersoft, flexible, durable material, dubbed "Winter's Gel,” which not only saved her life but has since changed the lives of physically challenged people around the world.

It wasn't long before the media became aware of the events unfolding in Florida, which is how the story came to the attention of producer Richard Ingber. He recalls, "I was watching morning television when a piece about Winter came on that stopped me in my tracks. I was completely caught up in it and immediately realized the potential for a great family film that would be appealing to audiences of any age.”

Ingber, who is Alcon Entertainment's President of Marketing and makes his producing debut on "Dolphin Tale,” continues, "I started doing my homework and learning everything I could about Winter. One of the things I found so amazing is that there were many times she could have given up, but she survived challenge after challenge.”

Producer Andrew A. Kosove says, "‘Dolphin Tale' is about overcoming adversity, about persistence, and about courage—qualities that human beings can relate to at a very core level. What makes it even more special is that those qualities are seen through the experiences of an animal.”

"Andrew and I have always gravitated to these kinds of inspirational movies,” adds producer Broderick Johnson. "From ‘My Dog Skip' to ‘The Blind Side' and now ‘Dolphin Tale'…these are stories that lift people up. When you hear about Winter—and especially when you meet her—it's a life-affirming experience, regardless of your age or background or circumstance. We wanted to capture that feeling in the movie.”

Bringing Winter's story to the screen involved an amalgam of fact and fiction.

Screenwriter Noam Dromi clarifies, "Researching the true story, Richard Ingber and I saw how many elements would translate cinematically but felt we needed to anchor it in the emotional context of the dolphin's relationships with people. Who better to exemplify that than a young boy? Seeing Winter through the eyes of children gives us that sense of wonder.”

The filmmakers also enlisted screenwriter Karen Janszen, who is no stranger to animal-centric films, having previously worked on the screenplays for "Duma” and "Free Willy 2.” She reveals that she also had a very personal window onto a child's perspective of Winter's story. "I thought about my daughter, who loves dolphins the way some little girls love puppies or horses. And I've always been fascinated by their obvious intelligence and empathetic nature; there is something magical and mysterious about dolphins and their underwater world. Watching and listening to them, you have to ask: what would they say if they could actually communicate with us?”

To helm "Dolphin Tale,” the producers chose Charles Martin Smith, who has a particular appreciation for nature that dates back to his role in the acclaimed drama "Never Cry Wolf.” He later demonstrated an affinity for working with both children and animals as the director of the family hit "Air Bud.”

Ingber states, "From the first meeting, we knew Charles was the perfect person to takes the reins. He shared our vision; he immediately got that Winter's story was very heartwarming but, at the same time, a lot of fun.”

"As soon as I heard about Winter, I just knew I had to do this film,” Smith says. "I thought it was delightful and very much the kind of movie I'm interested in making. I also loved the idea of approaching it from a child's point of view because children and animals have a kind of innocence and purity, and I really wanted to emphasize that bond.”

Additionally, as Dromi points out, "It was equally important to include adult characters, some of whom are composites of the real people who rallied together to save Winter. Their knowledge and wisdom and broader perspective of life really informs the story.”

Janszen notes, "We wanted to show the remarkably strong relationship Winter fostered with people, who saw her as a sentient, feeling and intelligent being, worthy of the enormous time and energy required to help her. She pushed the humans around her to reach higher and be better…for her and for one another.”

In addition to Connick, the multi-generational cast of "Dolphin Tale” includes award-winning actors Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman, as well as young stars Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff.

Playing the title role—as only she could—is Winter herself. Smith recounts, "When we were prepping, there was the obvious question of how to depict Winter. Because of the distinctive side-to-side wiggle that she developed to swim, which is also integral to the story, the best solution was to use the real Winter. That also meant filming on location at her home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, called Clearwater Marine Hospital in the movie. The results were above and beyond our expectations.”

Before Winter could make her film debut, the production needed the cooperation of her real-life "family” at CMA, which came with certain ground rules. The CEO of the Aquarium, David Yates, confirms, "I had many conversations with Charles and the producers because, first and foremost, I had to protect Winter; we wanted it to be a positive experience for her. They also had to understand who we are and what we're about because they were pretty much going to be dropping into the middle of our operations, and we had to make sure we didn't, in any way, put any of our animals at risk. From day one, they all said, ‘This is your call; whatever you say is how it's going to be done.' It turned out t


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