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Blu-ray Review: Dolphin Tale

Posted on Friday, January 13, 2012 and updated on Monday, January 16, 2012 5:57 PM

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Front Cover ArtworkDolphin Tale
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
113 Minutes

List Price: $35.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

This movie is also available from Amazon on Movie-only Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, and on 3D Blu-ray.

Available 12/20/2011

Rated PG

Click here for additional movie details, including the full plot summary, cast listing, trailers and videos, photos, reviews of the movie, and links to the official movie web site and more.

  TheatricalThis Disc
Video Format:
Digital Video
Red One MX
1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1.78:1

Dolby Digital

DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1


Movie: BD-50 (x1)
DVD: DVD-9 (x1)
UltraViolet Digital Copy

Disc Contents

  • Upfront Ads (AVC HD DD2.0, can be skipped one at a time, but main menu is unavailable)
    • Joyful Noise in theaters (2:32)
    • Florida Tourism (0:32)
  • Movie
  • Special Features (AVC HD DD2.0)
    • The Hutash Rainbow Bridge (2:26)
    • At Home with Winter (13:22)
    • Dolphin Tale: Spotlight on a Scene (7:17)
    • Winter's Inspiration (18:08)
    • Ormie and the Cookie Jar (3:59)
    • Deleted Scenes: Winter Meets Panama (2:21)
    • Gag Reel (2:49)

About the Movie

In an inspiring story of the bond between animals and humans, a boy named Sawyer discovers an injured dolphin, who is brought to a marine hospital and named Winter. Unfortunately, her injuries cost Winter her tail, without which she may not survive. But with Sawyer's devotion, a marine biologist's (Harry Connick Jr.) and the brilliance of a prosthetist (Morgan Freeman) charged with creating a new tail, Winter may receive a second chance at life.

A technical review of this title appears below. Check out the Reader Reviews page for Dolphin Tale to read my thoughts of the movie itself.

How Does it Look?

Still from the movie (not an actual screenshot)

Like most recent Blu-ray releases, I did not notice any artifacts like excessive edge enhancement or noise reduction. Given the Florida setting, I thought that they could have made a little more effort to show Clearwater in a more picturesque light. There are some movies that are so wonderful to look at, it makes you want to book a trip just to see the same places yourself, but this movie could have been filmed anywhere, and for all I know, maybe it was.

That said, I never noticed any issues with the picture quality that distracted from enjoying the movie.

How Does it Sound?

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is at times subtle and at other times quite dynamic. Being the type of movie that it is, there is more dialog than ambience, but there are times when the surrounds light up in what seems to be a purposeful use to emphasize a scene to exaggerated effect.



This disc contains seven extras in the Special Features menu: three featurettes, a deleted scene, a gag reel, and two animated shorts. totalling about six and a half minutes of material. They are presented in high definition, but with stereo sound.

The featurettes are interesting simply because of the star of the show. Winter's real life story is more interesting than the manufactured drama in the movie, so it's good to see more information about the dolphin that made the tale.

The deleted scene was deleted for good reason, as it doesn't help the movie, but it's there for your viewing curiousity. The gag reel is pretty standard stuff. Nothing amazing, nothing shocking, nothing memorable.

The animated features are interesting. The first is an illustration of the Hutash Rainbow Bridge story that is part of the movie. The second is an odd sort of short about a pig and a cookie jar. While it seems odd to have a short about a pig with a movie about a dolphin, taken on its own, the short is entertaining. Be sure to watch it all the way through for the final payoff.

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I was disappointed to see that one wasn't included in this package. Being able to watch the trailer helps one to appreciate how the movie was marketed during its theatrical release, and it's unfortunate when such a simple and obvious extra is not included. Fortunately, we have the trailer and other videos on our Trailers & Videos page if you are interested.

Digital Copy

There is a second disc which contains the DVD version of the movie as well as a Digital Copy. The inclusion of a DVD version of a movie in the Blu-ray package is something that we encourage more studios to do with their releases. It provides an additional level of value to the buying consumer by giving them the ability to play the movie in other rooms/vehicles where a Blu-ray player does not yet reside. I did not view the DVD extensively, so I cannot judge its video or audio quality. It contained no extras, just the movie and the ability to select a language.

Fans of the movie might enjoy the digital copy, as it would allow you to download the movie and enjoy it many times on your portable device. This is the first title I've reviewed that implements the Digital Copy via the UltraViolet system. UltraViolet is intended to provide universal access to a digital copy of a movie, so you can stream or download the movie on a variety of devices, including a PC, phone, or tablet device.

An insert card in the Blu-ray package contains instructions for accessing the digital copy and an access code. The documentation says that the access code must be entered by 12/20/2013. It appears to offer unlimited streaming and three downloads. Delivery of streaming and downloads are available for three years from date of redemption.

After signing up for a Flixster account, and then signing up for an UltraViolet account, I was able to enter the 12-character access code. I tried to do this via an iPad, but the Flixster web site produced an error that said that mobile devices were not allowed to access the provided web site address. In a day and age when dependence upon traditional computers is declining, such a requirement seems antiquated.

Once entering the code, the movie was available in my Flixster movies list. I could stream or download the movie on the PC, and I chose to stream it. Video quality through the Flash-powered web page was poor, sub-DVD quality poor. Streaming to the iPad was very easy to access, but the video quality was worse than the PC version, which was disappointing to say the least. Downloading the 1.6 GB file to the iPad took a little time, but the results were worth it. Video quality was much better, probably comparable to DVD's converted to the iPad's native format.

Other Aspects

Bookmarking is not supported, and there is no resume capability either.

The resume feature is very useful for those of us who are not able to watch an entire movie in one sitting (especially since bookmarking is not provided on this disc), and I wish that more studios would implement it on their releases. Resuming playback is one of the biggest usability problems with the Blu-ray format that studios need to recognize and support.

I think it would have been interesting to include some more information and features about Winter, the real dolphin that is the subject of this movie. The end credits show some real footage of Winter's rescue and rehabilitation, but how cool would it be to have a live webcam view of Winter's tank that is featured on seewinter.com? Studios have failed to leverage BD-Live functionality with any great success, but having a live webcam feed would have been a great feature to reward purchasers of the movie. 

After watching quite a few movies that were missing them, it's unfortunate to see the return of upfront ads on this title. Advertising on a disc that someone has purchased is a slap in their face. They can be skipped, but they shouldn't be there in the first place. I can see the logic of putting ads before rental copies, but not when the consumer has supported the studio with a purchase.


Dolphin Tale is an enjoyable movie and being kid-friendly means that it has lots of repeat viewings potential. That, combined with the easy access to streaming/downloading the digital copy, makes this title worth buying. It would be nice if there was a BD-Live section, but given the lack of innovative uses for that feature, I guess it's not that big a loss. However, if BD-Live access was there, it would always be possible to supply value-added features at some point in the future if the studio so wished. Without that ability, you have to make your choice of purchasing based on the features included in this title, and those features just barely make it worth buying.

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.


Check Prices on Amazon.com

A copy of this title was provided at no cost by the movie studio/distributor for the purpose of this review. No expectation of the results of this review were set as a condition of receiving the item.

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