"Dolphin Tale 2" Makes Fewer Waves: a Veterinarian's Review

By any measure, Dolphin Tale would be a tough act to follow. 

Released in 2011, the feel-good movie was a fictionalized story inspired by the true tale of Winter, a young bottlenose dolphin who lost her tail due to complications from being entangled in a crab trap line. Rescued by Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, Winter overcame obstacles and was fitted with a prosthetic tail that helped her swim again.

With the movie release, Winter became an inspiration to many people, especially those with disabilities, attracting record-breaking attendance and worldwide attention to the facility. So much attention, in fact, that the organization has plans for a $68 million expansion.

Although the sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, can’t offer quite as unique a plot, it still has an important message. 

The movie opens with the death of Panama, Winter’s 40-year-old female dolphin companion. Because dolphins are social animals, the staff must find another female dolphin to relieve her isolation or Winter will be shipped to another facility.

A Different Kind of Aquarium

As with the first movie, many of the scenes were filmed at the real Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It’s important to note that Clearwater Marine Aquarium isn’t a swim-with-the-dolphin organization with questionable capture practices or an aquatic theme park offering staged animal performances, like so many facilities in the news of late. Rather, it's a nonprofit devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured marine animals, as well as education and research.

The film does a good job portraying a potential dilemma for caregivers at facilities like this one. On the one hand, Dr. Clay Haskett, played by Harry Connick Jr., knows that the isolated dolphin is stressed, and if a suitable companion can’t be found, the USDA will send her to another facility within a month.

At the same time, management reminds him that they need Winter to help draw the crowds that provide the funding that supports their mission to help injured animals and advance research and education. It’s a tough balancing act.


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