Dolphin Tale (2011) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A story centered on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.

  • A lonely and friendless boy finds and untangles a hurt dolphin that is caught in a crab trap. He becomes very attached to the dolphin when the tail must be taken off to save the dolphin's life. The boy believes the dolphin would be able to swim normally if it was given a prosthetic tail.

  • Fatherless smart rascal Sawyer Nelson's gloom already landed him in summer school, where he makes no effort when his closest kin, Florida home town's swim champion Kyle Connellan, leaves for Afghanistan to have the army pay for studies he can't afford. Ditching class at the beach, Sawyer spots a dolphin caught in a fishery net, helps untangle it against adult angler's bad advice, watches oceanography Dr. Clay Haskett's marine animals rescue team take charge, and follow them to the center, which is in dire financial trouble. Intruding, he meets and befriends Clay's imp daughter Hazel, who helps him discover the listless, dangerously tail-wounded dolphin somehow only reacts to the boy's presence and thus earns exemption from the outsider entry ban. Even Sawyer's nurse mother is impressed by his dedication to the smart dolphin, enough to take him off summer school despite teacher Doyle's doubts if he can pass just by essay. The tail must be amputated, and Kyle returns desperate with an amputated leg, but the broken cousin's veterans hospital prosthesis expert Dr. Cameron McCarthy offers hope to reboot both lives with custom-made artificial limbs. All seems lost when a hurricane wrecks the center's building, yet Sawyer and many friends come up with a daring plan.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The story commences with the main character, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and his older cousin who his greatly looks up to Kyle (Austin Stowell), watching a swim meet. There Kyle sparks conversation with his former coach, (Russ Blackwell) about Kyles impressive swim records and he talks of going to the Olympics. This upsets sawyer because the only way to pay for training is for Kyle to deploy to the military. Later on the boys are at Kyles going away party and sawyer stays distant from the party. His mother talks to a neighbor explaining that Sawyers academic performance in school is poor therefore he is required to attend summer school to raise his grades. Kyle finds Sawyer in his workshop inside the garage to say his goodbyes and gives him a pocket knife. The next day Sawyer watches Kyle leave and heads to school on his bike. On his way, he finds a fisher telling Sawyer to call the marine hospital. Further looking, he finds the Dolphin on the store bleeding out, tangled in rope, and tail lodged in a crab trap. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Sawyer cuts the dolphin free but is unable to free her tail. While doing so, he comforts the dolphin by whistling and forms an instant bond. The crew arrives and thats when he initially meets the crew and more importantly meets Hazel, the doctors daughter. Sawyer, unable to concentrate in school, ditches, and goes to visit the dolphin. He meets again with Hazel and she explains that she has named the dolphin Winter. He introduces himself to the crew and then heads home. Over the next several days, Sawyer skips school to visit Winter and becomes close with the staff. One day however, he finds Hazel crying and asks what is wrong. She explains that Winters tail is severally damaged and must be amputated. Winter is unable to swim and must be carried 24 hours a day. She soon however learns to swim using a windshield type method this soon becomes a problem when Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.)says that winter is forming deadly deposits in her body that is killing her. Along with that, the aquarium is in severe financial dept and is being bought out. After returning home due to a severe spinal injury, Kyle stays at a rehabilitation clinic for military amputees. There Sawyer meets Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman.) and gets the idea to make Winter a prosthetic tail. He agrees and goes on making two trial tails both being a failure. After an epiphany, Sawyer realizes why it hasnt worked and Dr. Cameron makes a final tail that works. Upon the happy news, Dr. Clay breaks the news that the aquarium is officially bankrupt and is closing down. Unable to just let is happen, Hazel and Sawyer make a plan to save the hospital with a benefit carnival. The carnival proves to be a great success and the aquarium is saved and the animals have homes again.

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