What would you get if you combined the plot of “How to Train Your Dragon” with the live-action, marine life magic of “Free Willy”? You would get Warner Bros’ 2011 family-friendly hit “Dolphin Tale,” that’s what. It’s a tale about a tailless dolphin who just keeps swimming, despite losing the lower part of her tail early in life. The movie had an all-star cast including Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, and Hollywood newcomer Cozi Zuehlsdorff. It was a critical and commercial success (based on its Rotten Tomatoes scores) and earned a tidy profit, grossing nearly three times its initial $37 million budget (via Box Office Mojo).
Unlike most Hollywood productions that are “based on a true story,” Warner Bros. did a good job keeping the movie as true to real life as the logistics of a Hollywood production would permit. They even let Winter play herself in the titular role. In the wake of the film’s success, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium received a huge financial boost due to Winter being such a popular tourist attraction. She was also a popular figure among her human counterparts with similar disabilities (via Tampa Bay Times). Winter was a beloved inspiration, and will be sorely missed by fans the world over.