After the movie was released, it brought the living conditions of the star orca, Keiko (Willy) to the world's attention. His tank was too small, with too-warm chlorinated artificial salt water. Keiko suffered from a weakened immune system and a skin condition around his pectoral fins. There was a monumental effort to release Keiko. A custom tank was built in the Oregon Coast Aquarium and in 1996, the whale was flown from Mexico to Oregon. He recovered well, and was moved to a sea pen in 1998. In 2002, Keiko was released into the wild after spending 22 years in captivity. Keiko became the second oldest orca to live in captivity.
Both Lori Petty and Jayne Atkinson, who play Rae Lindley and Annie Greenwood respectively, both star on Netflix's two most successful shows. Petty in Orange is the New Black and Atkinson in House of Cards.
When the film was broadcast with a Mexican dub in the United States, it was titled "Libren a Willy," which is grammatically incorrect. The correct Spanish title would have been "Liberen a Willy," or "Liberad a Willy" which is the title used in Spain.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
At the end of the film after Willy has jumped over the wall, Jesse is talking out loud, saying goodbye to Willy. The scene is very reminiscent of the end of "The Goonies" when Mikey is talking to himself and saying goodbye to One-Eyed Willie, both even sounding alike in tone of voice. Both films are set in the Pacific Northwest, and both were filmed in Astoria, Oregon.