Media darling Clearwater Marine Aquarium to star in new whale rescue documentary


  • Image via Clearwater Marine Aquarium
As their brand-new whale exhibit opens, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has announced an upcoming documentary following the rescue of five stranded pilot whales. Stranded: A Whale Rescue Tale will debut this summer.

The doc covers the pilot whale rescues that took place on Redington Beach in 2019. The aquarium’s animal hospital is just fourteen miles from where the stranding occurred. Using original footage from the beach and the events following, Stranded documents each step of the rescue and research into why it occurred.
  • Image via Clearwater Marine Aquarium
The team at Clearwater Marine Aquarium are no strangers to cameras. The Tampa Bay area aquarium is famous for another rescue, the dolphin Winter, who inspired a book and a Hollywood-backed feature film, A Dolphin’s Tale. A sequel to the film covered another rescue at the aquarium, a dolphin named Hope.

The Dolphin Tale films, released in 2011 and 2014, brought a spotlight to the aquarium that few animal facilities experience. The rise in attendance and interest in the nonprofit animal care facility has resulted in a massive $80 million expansion, including a brand-new dolphin habitat, and saw public areas at the facility increase fivefold.

Development of a rehab facility, also funded through the aquarium's sudden popularity in the 2010s, was to be kept under wraps for a late summer 2019 reveal but the rehabilitation efforts surrounding the pilot whales forced the aquarium to share details on the facility. The first animals at the new facility were two of the pilot whales.

SeaWorld San Diego, Marineland of the Pacific, and Marineland near St. Augustine were hot spots for film and television throughout the twentieth century. More recently, reality shows focused on veterinary care have highlighted the work done at a handful of zoos and aquariums.
Some of those initiatives have resulted in popular reality shows showcasing day-to-day operations. But such success stories remain rare in the industry placing the Florida aquarium into a category with juggernauts like the Bronx Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, and the Georgia Aquarium.

The field continues to increase. ZooTampa is featured on Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa and Disney+ released the Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom series last year. Both of those series are through National Geographic. Even as the genre grows, only an elite few are tapped to join it.

Clearwater has already seen publicity that few facilities ever enjoy. It's success so far has been mostly thanks to the Dolphin Tale feature films based on the rescue stories at the facility. Stranded will trade those Hollywood-style movies with one more akin to the animal care shows that have become popular over the past decade.

Also changing this time is how consumers will enjoy the movie. While Dolphin Tale and its sequel saw wide theatrical releases, Stranded will be released on streaming services. But first, the film will have its premiere at the aquarium’s theater which was built as part of a Dolphin Tale linked expansion. A premiere date has yet to be announced, but it should take place this summer.
  • Image via Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The aquarium will be releasing more information on where to screen Stranded: A Whale Rescue Tale in the coming months.

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