Prosthetic tail dolphin's story made into film

The true story of Winter, an injured Florida dolphin, hits theaters this week.

"The Early Show" introduced Winter, a baby Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, four years ago, CBS News correspondent and "Early Show" resident veterinarian Dr. Debbye Turner Bell reported. She was found off the coast of Florida tangled in a crab trap. When she arrived at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Winter was in dire shape.

"Bionic" dolphin getting new tail

David Yates, chief executive officer of the aquarium, told CBS News, "The first few days, we really didn't think she'd live at all. We had 24-hour around-the-clock care by our veterinary staff, our animal care staff, just like at an ER in a hospital."

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Winter survived, but her tail did not. She was left with a stump and a funny way of swimming.

So, world-renowned prosthetist, Kevin Carroll designed a prosthetic tail for Winter made of high-tech silicone and plastic.

Now, Winter can swim like other dolphins. Her inspiring story has made an international splash. Legions of fans follow Winter on her two Facebook pages (http://www.facebook.com/winter.dolphin and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Winter-the-Dolphin/267318654972) and she even has her own Twitter page.

Friday, her story hits the big screen. "Dolphin Tale" chronicles Winter's amazing journey of survival.

Yates said, "There's a lot of inspiring movies, but very few life-changing movies, and this movie will change lives. And I know that, because we see it happen with Winter and kids here every single day at the aquarium."

The motion picture stars Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman and musician and actor Harry Connick Jr. Winter plays herself.

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Yates says of the dolphin, "I do call Winter our little dolphin diva. Let's put it this way, she knows when the cameras are on. She's a very smart animal"

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium saved Winter's life, and now, thanks to her big-screen debut, Winter is likely to return the favor. Says Yates, "Our budge the last five or six years, since Winter got here, has gone up about five-or six-fold. And we think, once the movie comes out, it's likely gonna double or triple again."

Winter-themed books, t-shirts, and plush dolls have brought the once-faltering aquarium back to life. Both the faculty and Winter are thriving -- a happy ending for everyone.

Bell said on "The Early Show" that Winter, who is still growing, has been through 20 versions of her prosthetic tail and will have to have a new one made every time she grows.

"Winter wears it maybe two or three times a day for about 30 minutes," Bell said. "Not all the time."

In addition to the attention for the aquarium, the movie helped outfit the aquarium with new - more attractive - tanks.

Bell said, "Everybody has benefited from Winter's story."

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