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Movie Magic and RC – Dolphin Tale

Popular Movie Gives RC Helis Exposure — in 3D!

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale

One rainy Sunday back in October, my five year old daughter, Abigail, and I were looking for something to do together. She really wanted to go see the new movie, Dolphin Tale, and I have a really hard time saying no to her, so off we went. Little did I know that a movie about a bottlenose dolphin named Winter, who tragically lost her tail after being entrapped in a crab trap in the Indian River in Fort Pierce, Florida, would be the basis for an article in our magazine?

The movie’s 11 year old lead character, Sawyer Nelson, was a bit of an introvert struggling with the fact that his older cousin, Kyle Connellan, was leaving for the military and, like his father, fearing he might never come home. He spent most of his free time in the garage at a workbench working on radio control models, especially RC helicopters. Many times in a movie you will see props but the filmmakers often blur out product names or specific identifying markings. In this particular case, he was sitting quietly working on an Align T-Rex 450 helicopter. This was a big surprise to me and it was actually first noticed by my daughter; “Daddy, look an RC helicopter,” she said. I quickly glued my eyes to the screen wishing I could have them rewind it. Just then, I saw what appeared to be a Mikado helicopter hanging on the wall behind Sawyer with a sticker for on the side of it. The T-Rex he was working on had a set of Edge Rotorblades installed on it and a Kontronik speed control was also in close view. I remember thinking that it was so cool to see brands that I am very familiar with featured in a motion picture.

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
The T-Rex 450 was one of several helicopters used for the flight scenes in the movie. Additionally the T-Rex and some Mikado helicopters were used as props during several scenes.

Halfway through the movie, there was a scene where Sawyer was flying the helicopter outside the marine hospital and he was struggling with his friend, Hazel Haskett, who wanted to try and fly the model and was trying to take the controller away. During the struggle, the heli began to take off and fly away on its own. The scene was pretty dramatic with the TRex flying inside and around the facility. The theatre that I saw the movie at was not a 3D cinema, but I am guessing, based on the flight scene that that heli was shot in 3D and would be portrayed as flying into the crowd. For us helicopter modelers you can definitely tell that this scene was a mix of real piloting skill and Hollywood “magic”. The flight ended with the heli crashing to the ground right in front of them. It had me wondering what made me sadder, the dolphin losing her tail or the heli smashing into pieces.

During this flight scene they had a direct focus on the boy’s hands and the transmitter. I knew that it was a Spektrum brand but I was not sure of the model. Again, I really was not expecting so much RC heli activity in this movie. So, as a good journalist, I found myself back at the theatre the following weekend so I could accurately report to you that a Spektrum DX7 transmitter was, in fact, used in that scene.

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
From a scene in the movie where Morgan Freeman’s character brings a new prosthetic tail that he designed to the marine hospital so they can try it out on Winter, the dolphin.

In the final scene that featured a helicopter, Sawyer was sitting out on the deck of the Haskett family’s houseboat with Hazel as Harry Connick Jr.’s character, Clay Haskett, came out to see what he was working on. Again, the Edge Rotorblades and Align brands were very prominent in the scene.

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
A sad scene for any Align enthusiast – the T-Rex 450 awaiting repair after being crashed in the flight scene.

I grabbed my phone and searched for “ReadyHeli Dolphin Tale” and found a blog post from the owners of talking about how they were contracted to supply the props, models and pilot for the movie. Since it is very rare to not only see radio control helis in a movie, plus the fact that the brand names were prominently displayed, I wanted to reach out to Jennifer and John Greco, owners of to see if I could learn more about their involvement in the movie.

RC Heli Pilot How did ReadyHeli become involved with this movie?

ReadyHeli The Director of Dolphin Tale heard about us personally from flying helicopters, as his personal hobby interest for many years. Members of the production crew were enthralled with the positive responses of our reputation from our customers while searching online for local Florida helicopter stores. We were contacted directly by the production staff in the summer of 2010 to help assist with props, helicopter models and staff.

RCHP How long did it take to shoot the heli flight scene?

RH The scenes were shot over a two-week span of various times. While there was about five hours of footage of the helicopters being flown, it broke down to merely minutes on screen. Many days were spent making sure that Winter, the dolphin, was in a friendly mood, and wanted the cameras and crew around. She surely had her ups and downs.

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
During the flight scene, the two main characters, Sawyer and Hazel, were fighting over the Spektrum DX7 controller to gain control of the Align T-Rex 450.

RCHP Who was the pilot?

RH The pilot was a former ReadyHeli associate who we contracted out to be a part of the movie. He was on loan for about one month, but personally only spent about 10 days on set.

RCHP The flight scene seemed to be part real and part computer simulation, can you elaborate on this?

RH Yes, there were real flight sequences as well as CGI created scenes.

RCHP The flight scene ended with the heli crashing. Was that a real crash or a Hollywood prop? If, real, how many helis were used to get that scene correct?

RH That was a real crash, two helicopters were used for the scene, luckily the pilot got the crash right on the first try and we only had to cover the parts for one helicopter! (Laughing…)

RCHP What models did you supply for the movie?

RH We donated a variety of items for the set. We sent up some Align helis, including a TRex 450 Pro, and a T-Rex 550E. Also included in the prop list was an assortment of Mikado helicopters (crashed & new) like an old Logo 10, a Logo 400 and also a fully equipped Logo 600. Many of our crash parts from over the years were placed around the set, be it our personal Kontronik ESC’s, Edge Rotorblades & a few Mikado VBARs.

RCHP I saw the Align T-Rex he was working on at the bench in the garage; there was another heli on the wall that had a ReadyHeli logo on it. What other brands were represented in the movie?

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
The actors playing Sawyer and Hazel, waiting behind the scenes so they can begin shooting the heli flight scene.

RH Mikado, Kontronik, Voltz and Edge stickers were used as props in the workshop scene. The Align 450 you see in the flight scenes was outfitted with Edge Blades and Voltz batteries.

RCHP The transmitter looked like a Spektrum DX7, am I correct?

RH We sent a couple of transmitters, one as a prop for the boy to use, one the pilot had bound to the heli and one in the workshop. Editor’s note: ReadyHeli was not 100% sure which transmitter made it into the flight scene as they sent a few different models so I went back to the theatre and watched the movie a second time to verify, and it was in fact a Spektrum DX7.

RCHP I also saw a reference to Net Worth Media, is that your company too? What do they do?

RH Net Worth Media is our formal company name. Our own manufactured products fall under Net Worth Media, such as Revco RC, Edge Rotor Blades, Voltz as well as several up-coming, exciting projects we are always working on!

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
Helicopters, radios and parts were transported from the hotel to the movie set each day.
RCHP Did you get to meet the stars of the movie when you were on set?

RH While the stars of the movie were on set, the majority of the scenes we worked on, the featured actors were not around. It was shot in the hot Florida heat, and air conditioning is a favorite past time for actors when not filming.

RCHP Did you meet Winter, the dolphin?

RH Winter was actively stationed on set, and available for viewing and petting, again, when she was in her “nice” mood! Editor’s note: We contacted the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to ask about Winter and how she handled all of the commotion from filming a motion picture. They told us that she has been through a lot of trauma in her young life and she had good and bad days. She is a very friendly dolphin, but like humans, there were times when she just wanted to be left alone.

RCHP Have you ever worked on a movie before (or television)?

RH Yes, we have assisted in helicopter setups for Fleshwound Films, the makers of the “Crusty Demons of Dirt” DVD series and the TV show on Fuel “Crusty Dirt Demons”.

RCHP Do you think working with Warner Brothers on this film will open up doors for a future project?

RH We’ve been talking to the same production and product placement staff at Warner Brothers recently about up-coming projects; we’ll see where we’ll fit into future feature films!

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
A scene from the movie where characters Sawyer, and Clay Haskett (played by Harry Connick Jr.) were feeding Winter, the dolphin, just after rescuing her.
RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
Picking up the pieces after the helicopter flight scene ended with a planned crash.

RCHP Please tell us about When did you start? How? Plans for the future? How are you different than other online retailers?

RH opened November 2005 out of our home. On Easter Sunday when a Swedish customer arrived on our front doorstep with Map Quest in his hand and a parts list, we knew it was time to open a real store. (Laughing…) We now occupy approximately 7000 square feet in Jupiter, Florida. We are a family-run business that values excellent customer service over anything else, and we personally strive to do things just a little bit better. You can always expect fast, friendly service and excellent mail order prices when dealing with us. We are always looking for unique and hard to find products to offer, and prefer to sell the higher-end quality products.

For many years now, radio control helicopters have been used in TV and movies. Most of the time they are used in conjunction with camera rigs to obtain aerial footage for various scenes. In many cases it is much more cost effective for a production company to outfit a RC heli with a good pilot than it is to rent time on a real helicopter. In upcoming issues of Radio Control Heli Pilot, we will be featuring some of these amazing helicopters and interviewing their pilots to give you more of an inside look at the commercial and creative applications that this great hobby offers.

As the Executive Editor of this magazine, it was very exciting to see the use of RC helis in a movie with no efforts made to hide the company names that were represented. We are always looking to find new ways to get hobbyists involved in model helicopters and I am certain that many hobby shops, online retailers, and especially will receive numerous phone calls and visits from people who might have never considered the hobby and are looking for information on how they can get involved. As a magazine and media company, we do all we can online, in retail establishments, on newsstands and even on smart phones to expand this great hobby. It was really exciting to see the motion picture giant Warner Brothers promote the hobby in this great film as well.

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale
Winter shown with her new prosthetic tail.

I wanted to offer a special “thank you” to Jennifer and John Greco from for sharing their story with us and for being a part of the continual growth of our hobby.

In case you are wondering how the tragedy of the Winter, the dolphin, losing her tail ended… Well, you will have to see the movie to find out! It was an excellent movie that I highly recommend sharing with your family.

Edge RotorBlades, distributed by Ready Heli,, (888) 739-4354
Mikado Model Helicopters, distributed by Ready Heli,, (888) 739-4354
Kontronik, distributed by Ready Heli,, (888) 739-4354,, (888)739-4354
Spektrum, distributed by Horizon Hobby,, (800) 338-4639
Voltz Batteries, distributed by Ready Heli,, (888) 739-4354

Movie Links
The Dolphin Tale,
Clearwater Marine Aquarium,, (727)441-1790

RC Helis in Dolphin Tale