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Kidzworld is On the Set of Dolphin Tale!

By: Lynn Barker

We’re visiting with Winter the dolphin and her actor friends on set in Florida!

Kidzworld went to sunny Clearwater, Florida to meet Winter, the remarkable dolphin who, as a baby, got her tail caught in a crab trap. Unable to swim and dying, she was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where workers worked diligently to keep her alive and nurse her back to health.

WINTER swims with her newly attached tailWINTER swims with her newly attached tailCourtesy of Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment

When Winter’s injured tail fell off, her medical team thought she was doomed until a man with a prosthetics company volunteered to make her a tail. There were several versions until the perfect tail was developed. Now Winter, who still resides at the aquarium, can swim and leap with the best of her pals. The research has also helped human patients who have lost limbs.

NATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson feeds WINTER with HARRY CONNICK JR. as Dr. Clay HaskettNATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson feeds WINTER with HARRY CONNICK JR. as Dr. Clay HaskettCourtesy of Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment

Alcon Entertainment and Warner Brothers decided to bring Winter’s tale to the screen and we’re at the aquarium to watch the action with director Charles Martin Smith and actors Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr. We meet young actress Austin Highsmith who plays Phoebe, one of Winter’s trainers, and teen actors Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer, Ashley Judd’s son who discovers the injured dolphin in the movie, and newcomer Cozi Zuehlsdorff who plays Harry Connick’s daughter, interact in a tank with the real Winter and a really convincing animatronic version of her made by special effects wizards at KNB in L.A. They affectionately call her “Robo-Winter”.

WINTER the dolphinWINTER the dolphinCourtesy of Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment

Cutest thing ever? We see Winter in an adjoining tank, watching Harry and Nathan do a scene with her animatronic stand-in and she doesn’t like it! She is poking her little bottle nose as close as possible to the action, watching every minute and wiggling. “Hey, I’m the star! Why is that lookalike doing my scene?”

NATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson and WINTER the dolphin take an underwater swimNATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson and WINTER the dolphin take an underwater swimCourtesy of Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment

Later, on “land” at the edge of the tank, Morgan Freeman, playing the fellow who invents the “fake” tail, is showing the first version to Harry Connick who plays Clay, a Marine Biologist at the aquarium. Morgan’s character says he made the tail from “parts of an old Buick”. We think he’s kidding but the device is so weird-looking, we’re not sure!

 In the water AUSTIN HIGHSMITH as Phoebe and HARRY CONNICK JR. as Dr. Clay Haskett attach the tail to WINTER as NATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson and BETSY LANDIN as Kat hold Winter while MORGAN FREEMAN as Dr. Cameron McCarthy In the water AUSTIN HIGHSMITH as Phoebe and HARRY CONNICK JR. as Dr. Clay Haskett attach the tail to WINTER as NATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson and BETSY LANDIN as Kat hold Winter while MORGAN FREEMAN as Dr. Cameron McCarthyCourtesy of Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment

Fascinated by Winter, we watch her interact with an older buddy dolphin named Panama and note that even without her tail prosthesis, she can wiggle through the water quite well. Leaping is out of the question but the prosthesis lets her accomplish even that.

NATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson and AUSTIN STOWELL as KyleNATHAN GAMBLE as Sawyer Nelson and AUSTIN STOWELL as KyleCourtesy of Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment

Fun facts learned on set: Morgan Freeman is passionate about ocean conservation. Harry Connick jokes that Winter is a diva but not as much as Morgan Freeman. Nathan said that Winter “reads people’s auras” and Cozi says Winter’s skin feels “like a 3-D bookmark”.

Delighted with meeting Winter and watching the love and care going into the 3-D adventure, we buy a “Winter” t-shirt from the aquarium gift shop to support Winter’s care and look forward to seeing her “tale” in theaters this September. Keep checking back for on set interviews and more aquatic fun as we get closer to September.

 

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