Catching up with Cozi and Nathan, Winter’s Pals, for “Dolphin Tale 2”


It had been three long years since Nathan Gamble and Cozi Duehlsdorff, the two kids who befriended Winter the injured dolphin, made “Dolphin Tale” with the world’s first dolphin with a prosthetic tail.

Would Winter remember them for the sequel? You really don’t know for sure, Cozi says. But she and Nathan want to believe.

“There was a time when we were filming a pool scene where me and Winter were just chilling, between takes, in the water with a trainer,” says Nathan, already a veteran child actor (“The Dark Knight”) when he was cast in the original film. “I tilted my head to the left, and Winter bubbled and let herself sink way down in the pool. I thought that was weird, but her trainer said ‘Oh my gosh, Nathan, that was one of the commands we taught you to give her in the first film! You tilt your head, she bubbles and sinks to the bottom.’ So she remembered this thing we’d had her do in the first film, years before. Isn’t that cool?”

The two young players — just 12 when they made the first film, 16 now as “Dolphin Tale 2” comes out — sound perfectly sincere when talking about Clearwater Aquarium’s little disabled dolphin and how the movie they made about her changed their lives. It has nothing to do with their careers as child actors, but everything to do with Winter and what she means to the disabled who travel to the Gulf Coast of Florida from all over the country to see her.

“After the first film, we signed on as spokespeople for the aquarium,” Cozi says. “We get to come back there, three times a year, and meet a lot of the kids that Winter and ‘Dolphin Tale’ inspired. So I’ve met many children with disabilities. It’s a special privilege, but it’s so hard, because so many of these kids don’t have much time left. It puts your life into perspective, and in my case, I think it’s made me more mature and more empathetic, hopefully.”

It’s not every child, much less a child actor, who meets hundreds of people with injuries or cancer patients who have lost limbs, at such a young age. But when “Dolphin Tale” became the sleeper hit of 2011, that responsibility came with the territory. Nathan says that “When I was filming ‘Dolphin Tale,’ I really didn’t see, first-hand, the larger impact that this little injured dolphin has had on people. But after the movie came out, I had people coming up to me, telling me how inspired they’d been, how it touched on something their family had been going through. Very emotional. It got me pumped up to do the second film, because I realized how important Winter is to a lot people, and how these movies get that message to more people.”

“Dolphin Tale” opened to tear-stained reviews written by jaded movie critics shocked to be touched by a very simple kid-friendly film about an injured dolphin, taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s hospital, where dedicated staff and a prosthetic limb designer willing to think outside the box concocted a replacement tail for the one she’d lost in a crab pot (trap). The true story was fictionalized, and the most important fictional elements were the two kids who devote themselves to Winter, Sawyer and Hazel, played by Nathan and Cozi.

They were “the toughest roles to cast,” opined Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, “but both young actors are terrific.”

“I think we were all shocked at how much that film touched people,” Nathan says. “You hope you’ve made a hit, but this one connected in a way I hadn’t expected.”

“I was talking about this with Nathan, and not one of these children has a frown on their face when they come there,” Cozi says.” They’re all so special, and so grown up. It’s an odd thing to get used to, meeting people even younger than me who are so mature. It has to be their perspective. They’re going through such horrific things. It makes you grow up. Just being around them makes me grow up, a little, too.”

The sequel reflects the celebrity bestowed on Winter and the little aquarium in Clearwater, the big crowds for Winter, the improved financial state of the aquarium and its turtle and dolphin hospital. But “Dolphin Tale 2” is “more serious, because everybody’s grown up some and Winter’s problems are different this time (a companion dolphin dies in the film),” Nathan says.

“As you grow up, relationships grow deeper,” Cozi adds. “So the second film is just as much about the humans as it is the animals.”

And the young players, like their characters in the film, are facing big life decisions themselves. Do they want to attempt the transition from child actor to young adult roles, or take the time off to go to college? Nathan, a Tacoma, Washington native, seems more committed to the career at this point, “but you never know.”

But Cozi, who sings the closing credits song (“Brave Souls”) for the movie, is already talking about going to college to pursue a teaching degree, perhaps staying active in theater. “I’d love to make it to Broadway, someday!”

And both say they are as committed as ever to the plucky dolphin and the aquarium that saved her.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Catching up with Cozi and Nathan, Winter’s Pals, for “Dolphin Tale 2”

  1. If you think the Blavkfish Nation will stand for this horrible attempt at captivity propaganda, you haven’t been watching SEAWØRLDs quick decline into a nose dive that resulted in 30% of their value to drop in one day. Do not attempt to make this crappy movie about a handicapped and abused dolphin be anything than what it is: a money grab at the detriment of the poor dolphin who had the unfortunate luck to be “rescued” by The aquarium who now uses her to gain fame. Inagine this movie being made about a handicapped girl who to endure long shooting days and hectic retakes with a storyline that’s a complete lie? In the film a character states “captivity is wrong!” So how are you, producers and director, sleeping at night attempting to fool children into believing this dolphin goes free. Shame on you. And get ready to get Blackfished.

  2. Teresa Wagner says:

    It’s rather disgusting that two dolphins that were rescued are now being used and exploited to make humans more money, rather than giving them the peace and quiet they deserve in a sea pen. How many LONG hours of training and taping did this second movie take? And how many hours a day are they touched by strangers and forced to listen to loud music to entertain humans who gawk at them all day? Exploitation at its worst.

  3. Julie Dulak says:

    Winter is a dolphin who suffered the loss of her tail after being rescued in 2006 and has since then been heavily exploited. Everyday she is touched by strangers, forced to perform, and must constantly listen to loud speakers and screaming people. Winter lives in a small run-down concrete box lacking basic natural elements and spends her free time floating motionlessly. Instead of working to improve her life, Florida allocated $5 million of their state budget to produce a second movie about her. What started off as a rescue and rehabilitation has turned into a source of pure profit for Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the state of Florida.

  4. Tip Burrows says:

    She’s not a porpoise. She’s a dolphin. Who had the misfortune of losing her tail at an early age. What purpose is she serving other than to enrich the Clearwater Aquarium and the state of Florida? She is subjected to blaring music and crowds every day and made to perform for them. WHY? This aquarium’s original purpose was for rehab and release. Obviously Winter can never be released but why is she denied a more comfortable and spacious environment and why is she made to perform and entertain? Why can’t she have a spacious pool with appropriate stimulation and care and companions. Not thousands of gawkers and blaring music and yelling screaming crowds and kids. Every single person involved with these movies has contributed to her further misery and exploitation. I did not see the first movie and I won’t see this one and am urging all my friends not to watch it either. It’s the worst example ever of a rescue gone bad. Come on Clearwater Aquarium, remember your roots and get back to them and stop exploiting this poor little dolphin for financial gain. NO more Winter dolls or movies. No more performances. Let her live the best quality life she can with no more stress and demands placed on her and THEN we can celebrate and laud your organization again for being responsible and humane.

    • What are you, 11? Look up porpoise. If you’re too thick to even get the basics correct, why bother with your long-winded rant? You are seriously misguided if you think that sea life rehab centers, raptor centers where wild birds incapable of surviving in the wild are kept and interact with people who otherwise would never see them, don’t serve a social purpose. People put a higher value on wildlife that they understand and empathize with. Winter can barely get around, she’s been living on borrowed time since her accident, and as social as porpoises are, her role at Clearwater is a fitting one making the best of a bad situation.

      • Quorndawg says:

        By your logic it’s amazing we know anything about dinosaurs since we are unable to interact with any live ones.

  5. Captive dolphins having their food supply messed with so they do tricks.

  6. Dr. Kenneth Chong says:

    It’s always about money. The same is happening with Raju the Elephant. Pimping animals for gain is reprehensible especially when it is profit oriented.

  7. Haiku for Peace says:

    It’s utterly shameful,Keeping this innocent Dolphin in captivity like this. This is not an example of Dolphin care,but is rather,Highly damaging to their well-being and protection. All Dolphins should be free. Swimming in the ocean. #emptytheTanks

  8. Deborah Watkins says:

    Please provide a peaceful environment, limit contact with strangers and provide activities for benefit not entertainment. Send message of compassion not exploitation.

  9. Jools Orca says:

    Shameful and brazen exploitation of dolphins. You are sending out the wrong message completely – captivity is NOT ok. Rescued then sent to an aquarium so stupid people can gawp and man-handle isn’t rescue.
    We are coming after you in a big way. You know how Blackfish changed the way people viewed orcas in captivity, your propaganda production will be in our hands and you’ll regret the day you came up with the idea.

  10. Andrew Miller says:

    Winter is a Bottle Nosed Dolphin, .Anybody that helps injured and disabled Animals has to be applauded but as soon as you replace their welfare with profit you cross the line. Just because these Animals are confined and unable to survive in the wild doesn’t mean they can be used as a prop, for any reason. Their lives should remain as natural as is practical and not subjected to loud music and screaming people and doing the things they would not do naturally in the wild

  11. Natalia says:

    People need to realize the facts and quit letting Hollywood spin the truth. EDUCATE yourselves about the reality of captive dolphins. The dolphin’s “smile” is really just the shape of his mouth. It’s not a real smile.

    • Plainly, a lot of people who have never been to Clearwater have confused a rehab aquarium with animals unable to survive in the wild, with Sea World. Half these notes are from abroad. Hey, France and former French territories buy dolphins from Taiji, home of “The Cove.” That’s a REAL issue worth chewing on.
      The idiot who said Winter is “better off dead” sums up all your arguments for you. Winter would be dead, were it not for this place. “Exploited?” Maybe you can make that argument. You haven’t here.
      And “Porpoise with a purpose” is a play on words. Climb out of your myopia and deal with it.

      • Natalia says:

        The argument for “Exploited” has been not only been made, but scientifically proven.
        So you “deal with it”. The informed public understands the difference between rehabilitation and captivity for profit.

  12. joo says:

    Outrageous exploitation of an intelligent animal for financial gain. The poor creature would be better of dead than suffer the intolerable life of a capitive in isolation and at the mercy of human voyeurs. #Emptythetanks

  13. “Would Winter remember them for the sequel?” If you had any idea about cetaceans you would know they have the best memory in the entire animal kingdom, so , yes, they remember the cast that made them do take after take to get it right…the lights, pressure and noise…they remember the accident that led them to the aquarium who now makes them do unnatural tricks in a tiny pool for dead fish, they remember the family that she will never see again, and as soon as she figured it out that she can take her own life (something else we share with them is the ability to commit suicide) she will make that choice. This is not a living, this is not education, this is NOT entertainment, this is a slow painful and abusive death. Open YOUR eyes. This movie is getting Blackfished whether you want it or not its happening and there; a laundry list of reasons why this poorly-written PR spin for the captivity industry is not going to work. Everyone on the cast is getting Blackfished too. The Aquarium crossed the line when she becomes the show pony and not just left alone to rest and recuperate.

    • Dear Maral Kalinian;
      I never cease to be amazed by the nitwits who try to pass themselves off as “experts” through the anonymity of the Internet. So I looked you up to call your bluff. Costume designer? You don’t know Jack about dolphins.
      And you are no different from the landlocked Iowans, Londoners and assorted other knee jerks out there (IP addresses tell all), pushed by some online outrage machine website, hurling abuse at this simple story about two child actors and the dolphin that these movies are built around.
      I don’t know how things play out where you live, but here in Florida, we have Sea World. We have Marineland. We have at least one other “attraction” that falls under the heading of exploiting sea mammals for corporate gain.
      Then we have Mote Marine Research facility in Sarasota. We have the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys, the Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary, and similar injured raptor centers. And we have the Clearwater Aquarium, a rescue and rehab center that also has fish and turtles and a couple of dolphins that people can come see. The animals they can get back into nature, they rehab and send on their way. Injured ones they do not.
      I live in a marina and see dolphins every day. One in particular comes up and checks me out when I’m having cocktails in the evening. Same one. We interact, on some basic level. I am no expert, but I know more about cetaceans (lemme guess, you saw “Star Trek: The Voyage Home” and learned a new word!) from simple interaction and observation than you do.
      And that is beside the point. Sea World, one thing. Clearwater Aquarium, another. A dolphin largely immobilized by a crab pot (trap) injury isn’t going to live in a five acre pool. If you had any experience of the world aside from “Black Fish,” you’d realize that.
      I have written about Sea World, “The Cove,” “Black Fish,” etc., but wouldn’t pretend for a second to be an expert. But I know the difference between rehab center aquariums and Sea World. You do not. I have the dolphin and Taiji expert from “The Cove” noting that power plant emissions poisoning the lagoons where dolphins live (where I live) are a problem to him, Clearwater Aquarium is not.
      Now, short of you actually VISITING the place you’re slamming, I’d suggest you go back to the day job. There’s a sewing machine with your name on it.
      And for those having trouble reading between the lines, when somebody “in the business” rags on a movie they didn’t work on, perhaps they took a moral stand and had no interest in working on it. Or perhaps they have ulterior motives — grudges, etc. No idea which, but that’s what I think of your expertise and credibility.

  14. Natalia says:

    Very well put, Maral. Thank you for an insightful and knowledgeable post.

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