Dolphin Tale (2011) and Dolphin Tale 2 (2014) are films based on the true story of Winter, a bottle-nose dolphin rescued off the coast of Florida and taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she is fitted with a prosthetic tail after losing her natural tail after becoming entangled in a crab trap rope.

Scenes from Winter’s incredible true story can be seen on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s website. There is film of the actual rescue, and viewers can follow her through the hardships of losing her tail, learning to swim without one, and then swimming with her new prosthetic tail. Sadly, Winter the Dolphin passed away on 11 November 2021, due to an intestinal abnormality, according to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter the Dolphin’s incredible rescue story has inspired millions of people all around the world. Her spirit will live on forever in our hearts, and her legacy will continue to inspire.

The fact that Winter’s prosthetic tail research is now also assisting human amputees, is quite remarkable.

The movies (please note that the plot descriptions contain spoilers):

Dolphin Tale (2011)

Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and his older cousin, Kyle (Austin Stowell), are watching a swim meet when the narrative begins. Kyle strikes up a chat with his former coach (Russ Blackwell) about his great swimming records, and he mentions his desire to compete in the Olympics. Sawyer is irritated by this because Kyle’s only chance to pay for training is for him to join the military. Later, the boys are at Kyle’s farewell party, and Sawyer remains away from the festivities. His mother informs a neighbor that Sawyer’s academic performance at school is low, and that he must attend summer school to improve his grades.

Kyle visits Sawyer in his garage workshop to say his goodbyes and presents him with a pocket knife. Sawyer watches Kyle leave the next day and rides his bike to school. On his journey, he comes across a fisherman who advises Sawyer to contact the maritime hospital. He sees the Dolphin on the store bleeding out, tied in rope, and his tail trapped in a crab trap as he searches further. Sawyer frees the dolphin but is unable to free her tail while waiting for the ambulance.

He calms the dolphin by whistling while doing so, and they create an instant bond. When the team comes, he meets them for the first time, and more significantly, he meets Hazel, the doctor’s daughter. Sawyer, unable to focus in school, abandons his studies and travels to the dolphin’s home. He meets up with Hazel again, and she informs him that she has given the dolphin the name Winter. He goes home after introducing himself to the crew. Sawyer skips school for several days to visit Winter and develops close with the staff.

He does, however, come upon Hazel crying one day and inquires as to what is wrong. Winter’s tail has been severely wounded and must be amputated, she explains. Winter is unable to swim and is need to be held at all times. However, she quickly learns to swim utilizing a windshield technique, which becomes a problem when Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) claims that winter is creating lethal deposits in her body that are killing her. In addition, the aquarium is in serious financial trouble and is being sold. Kyle stays at a military amputee rehabilitation clinic after returning home owing to a severe spinal injury.

Sawyer meets Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) there and gets the idea to construct a prosthetic tail for Winter. He accepts and proceeds to make two trial tails, both of which fail. Sawyer discovers why it hasn’t worked after an epiphany, and Dr. Cameron creates a final tail that works. Following the good news, Dr. Clay announces that the aquarium has gone bankrupt and will be closing down. Unable to stand by and let this happen, Hazel and Sawyer devise a scheme to save the hospital by holding a benefit carnival. The carnival is a huge success, and the aquarium is spared and the animals are given new homes.


Dolphin Tale 2 (2014)

Winter was saved by Sawyer Nelson and the dedicated crew at the Clearwater Marine Hospital, led by Dr. Clay Haskett, several years ago. They were able to save her life with the help of Dr. Cameron McCarthy, who created a remarkable prosthetic tail for the injured dolphin. Their battle, though, is far from over. Winter’s surrogate mother, the elderly dolphin Panama, has died, leaving Winter without her lone pool-mate in her life. The loss of Panama, on the other hand, might have much more serious consequences for Winter, who, according to USDA standards, cannot be housed alone because dolphins’ social behavior necessitates their being paired with other dolphins.

10 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.