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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.

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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 ( and 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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