Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Making a movie is hard enough, but throw animals into the mix and the challenges are twofold — especially when your main mammal isn’t a trained actor. But director Charles Martin Smith wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m fascinated with both human and animal behavior, and I love being able to capture the interaction between the two on screen,” says Martin Smith, who honed his animal directing skills while working with a
Golden Retriever on the set of
For his latest film, Dolphin Tale, Martin Smith did just that — told the story of the unexpected bond between a young boy named Sawyer and Winter, a severely injured animal whom Sawyer rescues following a run-in with a crab trap. The dolphin cast as Winter was a perfect match for the storyline: Winter actually plays herself in the movie.
In 2005, a fisherman in Florida found a baby dolphin tangled in the netting of a crab trap, which was cutting off circulation to her tail. The dolphin was taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where a team of marine biologists and technicians worked around the clock to nurse her back to health — and ultimately outfitted Winter with a revolutionary prosthetic tail. Today, she calls the aquarium home, and visitors can see her there in person or watch her on a live webcam.
Supported by a stellar cast — Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr. star in the film — Winter not only exceeded expectations as a novice actor, but she also charmed everyone on set with her tender and often mischievous ways. “Winter was only about 4 months old when she was rescued, so she’s used to being around people,” Martin Smith says. “She’s extremely bright, but she also has a goofy, kid-like personality. When I first met her, I was moved by what I saw: Winter was in the water with a 5-year-old boy who’d lost his leg to cancer, and she was so gentle with him, almost as if she personally understood something about his injury.”
When it came time to film, Martin Smith admits some unique obstacles crept up — but his biggest impediment had nothing to do with Winter or her prosthetic tail. “When you work with animals, you need to understand that they are really the ones in charge, and you are shooting on their schedule,” Martin Smith says. Of course, the human actors can also throw production for a loop. To make sure that Winter and the boy who plays Sawyer were a good match, Martin Smith had them spend time together in the tank, testing out the waters, so to speak. “They got along great,” Martin Smith says. “But that’s when I learned that the actor wasn’t a very good swimmer, so we had to get him lessons fast!”
For Martin Smith, the movie is as much about overcoming physical adversity, human and animal alike, as it is about our place on the planet. “When people rescue creatures like Winter, it’s often because they’ve been hurt by man’s activity,” Martin Smith says. “I hope people come away and ask themselves, ‘What can we do to make the world a better one for animals?’ ”
Dolphin Tale opens in 2-D and 3-D at select theaters September 23. For a peek at a trailer from the movie, check out this Vetstreet link.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
An Indiana shelter with a soft spot for
seniors is making life better for a Golden
Retriever with terminal cancer.
From bringing in your puppy or kitten to
telling your friends about him or her, there
are plenty of ways to make a…
Minimize the risk of a bad trick-or-treat
interaction by brushing up on your dog’s
manners before October 31.
Dr. Jenna Ashton shares how to
determine your pet's water intake and tips
for encouraging him to drink more.
The Schapendoes (aka Dutch Sheepdog)
is known for his incredible jumping skills
and cheerful personality.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Thank you for subscribing.