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Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd And More To Reassemble For Dolphin Tale 2

For many of us, the 2011 release Dolphin Tale was a blip on a crowded fall schedule. But the family-friendly drama, which took a cue from the 1993 blockbuster Free Willy by centering its story on a boy who forms a friendship with a lovable aquatic mammal in need, fared quite well. Critics generally praised the pic, calling it heartwarming and inspiring. Perhaps more importantly, the $37 million dollar production brought in more than $95 million at the box office, urging producers Alcon Entertainment to double dip on this dolphin saga.

THR reports Charles Martin Smith is back on board to direct Dolphin Tale 2, and Dolphin Tale stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson are in talks to reprise their roles. No mention is made of Nathan Gamble, who played the lead boy in the first film, but it is mentioned that the dolphin who played herself in the first film will return for part two.

Dolphin Tale was based on the true story of a dolphin dubbed Winter, who was discovered off the coast of Florida, badly mangled thanks to a run-in with some nasty crab traps. She was taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where it was decided an amputation of much of her tail was necessary to save her life. But how can a dolphin function without a tail? This called for her caretakers to get inventive, and push the envelope on prosthetic limbs to create the first artificial dolphin tail. There were many obstacles, but by movie's end, Winter got her tail and miraculously it worked! So where, you might wonder, is their room for a sequel?

Well, Dolphin Tale 2 will continue Winter's narrative—at least in part—but mainly will focus on the rescue of another real-life dolphin. In 2010, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium took in a baby dolphin who had been spotted off the East Coast of Florida attempting to nurse from her mother, who had died. At the time, she was estimated to be 2-3 months old, weighed 58 pounds and was severely malnourished. Robbed of her mother, Hope was also robbed of the bonding period that is necessary to teach a dolphin to survive in the wild. Today, she is thriving at the Aquarium where she and Winter can be see playing together. Like Winter before her, Hope will play herself in the movie about her life.

You can witness a recording from Hope's rescue below, thanks to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium:

Production on Dolphin Tale 2 is expected to begin this fall. Its projected release date is September 19th, 2014.

Kristy Puchko

Staff writer at CinemaBlend.