Dolphin Tale practically sparkles on Blu-ray, with lots of shimmering, water-based sequences. Framed at 1.85:1, the 1080p AVC-encoded imagery is consistently gorgeous. A dimly-lit nighttime scene with Dr. Haskett talking to the kids suffers from a touch of black crush, but for the most part this isn’t a problem. Most of the movie takes place during bright daylight anyway. Detail is strong, such as the flaking paint and rust on the somewhat broken-down-looking marine facility. Dolphin Tale was shot digitally and the transfer is free of any visible problems.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is not especially showy but gets the job done just the same. A modestly budgeted film, Dolphin Tale doesn’t need to do much more than present intelligible dialogue and appropriately mixed music. Both requirements are satisfactorily met. Mark Isham’s score is situated mostly in the right and left channels and is supportive without being intrusive. Scenes featuring Winter or other dolphins swimming offer some splashy rear channel ambiance. The LFE channel is fairly quiet, but again this is not a criticism of the overall mix.
Supplementary features are not extensive, but do provide considerable background about the real story of Winter the dolphin. “Winter’s Inspiration” is the best of the bunch, an 18-minute look at some of the key differences between what really happened and what is depicted in the movie. “Spotlight on a Scene” and “At Home with Winter” are shorter but still worth watching, focusing more on the making of the movie and the challenges and benefits of working with a real dolphin. Shorter features include a deleted scene, a gag reel, and a couple of animated shorts. One, “Ormie and the Cookie Jar,” is a cute bit that is unrelated to Dolphin Tale. “The Hutash Rainbow Bridge” provides an animated expansion on a story told in the movie by Dr. Haskett.
Dolphin Tale is available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, with a code to access an Ultraviolet digital copy. It’s an excellent family movie that really earns labels such as “feel-good” and “inspirational.” The scenes featuring disabled children connecting with Winter are deeply moving. Even though liberties are taken with the true story of Winter, the presence of the real dolphin brings considerable authenticity to the project.