Celebrating Winter the Wild Dolphin

Kevin Carroll, Juli Goldstein, Stephen McCulloch

Developing the Wild Dolphins iPad app with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute brought us (Polymash) into the true story of Winter, the star of the movie “Dolphin Tale”.

Our friends from Harbor Branch invited us to the Clearwater Premiere to celebrate the release of the movie with them.  While the story surrounding Winter’s rescue and rehabilitation in the movie is fictitious, much about the actual story of Winter herself, particularly her rehabilitation, is a fair representation of what actually happened according to the people involved in Winter’s real life journey.

It was a joy to meet some of the people who were part of both the true story and those who were part of the movie itself.  I’d like to introduce you to just a few of them here.

Susan Mazza and Dan Strempka

Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, the creators of Winter’s prosthetic tale, from Hanger Prosthetics, were as warm and gracious in person as we experienced them in contributing their story to the app.  They expressed their joy in being part of the Winter’s miraculous story, their beautiful relationship with Winter, as well as their gratitude for the incredible team of people who care for her and the people who rescue and care for dolphins every day.  Their significant investment in Winter has clearly been a labor of love and in the process has contributed significantly to the people their company, Hanger Prosthetics, serves.

Megan Daviis, Ricou Browning, Jr, Stephen McCulloch

Ricou Browning, Jr., a famous underwater filmmaker, marine consultant, and stunt consultant for the movie, shared this was the first time in about 20 years he has worked specifically with Dolphins.  Perhaps it is only fitting because his father Ricou Browning co-created Flipper.  When I asked him what was one of the highlights of his experience in making this movie he shared it was working with Nathan Gamble, who plays one of the lead characters, Sawyer, and watching as he grew more and more comfortable in swimming with Winter.  He went from being hesitant in the water to dancing with her side by side in the water.  The footage in the film of Nathan swimming with Winter was some of the most memorable and moving for me.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, my hosts for the evening, Megan Davis, Associate Executive Director. Stephen McCulloch, Program Manager of the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program, and Juli Goldstein, Veterinarian, a.k.a. The Dolphin Doctor.  The app was Megan’s idea.  She contacted Polymash and continued to do whatever it took to make this app possible from that moment on.  Steve and Juli were an integral part of the team that rescued and has cared for Winter from the beginning.  They are on call 24/7 to rescue and care for Marine Mammals and are leaders in their fields.  You will see both of them prominently featured in the App and much of the content is the result of their work at harbor Branch.  To learn more about the project itself and the contributions of the other team members who made this app possible click here.

Note If you watch the movie trailer you will see an excerpt of the footage of Winter’s rescue provided by Harbor Branch.  Want to see more?  The longer version of this exclusive footage is available from within the app.

Laila Harris and her sister

Laila Harris, who wears a prosthetic leg in real life, and visits winter in the movie, along with her sister.  Both of these girls lit up the room!  I had the privilege of talking with their very proud father.  He shared about how much his girls have taught him and how they inspire him everyday.  He commented how Leila has so gracefully dealt with such difficult things has given him great perspective on his own challenges in life.

So how was the Movie?

You might be wondering if I liked the movie.  The answer is a resounding yes!  Honestlly.  Actually I didn’t know if I would and wondered why they didn’t just tell the true story.  While fictitious I think the story line served to convey the inextricable link between dolphins and humans and our extraordinary relationship with these highly intelligent and charismatic animals.  It also gave all of us an experience of the difference Winter is making every day in the lives of people who have lost limbs or ability to use them. The moving interactions between Winter and people who can relate to her story is a reminder that communication and connection is far more than an exchange of words.  The movie’s story of healing and courage is universal.  I can’t wait to take my 11 year old daughter to see it, especially because 2 of the heroes are her age!

My recommendation…Definitely go see it.  And after you do you’ll want to know more about Winter and about Wild Dolphins.

Good thing there is an app for that!