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Did you know dolphins need to be in a pool with other dolphins? It's a law, because they're so social... like us... or me, anyway.
—Hazel, from Dolphin Tale

In most media, especially most fiction, dolphins are portrayed as playful creatures, who will easily befriend humans and like to play around in the water with them.

In real life, the extent of this varies. Dolphins can be trained to be like this, but one shouldn't expect this from wild dolphins, who are often hard to predict. Hence, experts recommend keeping your distance from them. This trope wouldn't have gotten its popularity if not for applying rather well to some dolphins, but the dolphins it's based on are the ones people see in aquariums and zoos; whom the label "trained" tends to apply to. They aren't going to be a representative sample of dolphins as a whole.

See also Heroic Dolphin, though dolphins can be portrayed as playful but not heroic, or heroic but not playful. Sometimes overlaps with Sapient Cetaceans, though cetaceans can be dolphins or whales, and also, dolphins can be portrayed as sapient but not playful, or playful but not sapient.

Examples of Friendly Playful Dolphin include:


Anime and Manga


Classical Mythology

  • Boys riding dolphins were a common mottif in Roman and Greek art and literature and in latter art inspired by Classical themes. In some of the stories, the boys are in fact gods or demigods. Palaimon and Cupid are common choices. However, there were also stories of mortal boys that befriended dolphins and rode them. Pliny the Younger's letter include such a tale of a boy in the North African town of Hippo. According to the tale, while swimming, the boy was befriended by a dolphin that allowed him to ride it.


Film

  • In Blood Dolphins, Ric O'Barry claims that he brought a TV to the end of a dock, and the dolphins (that he had trained) would watch Flipper with him.
  • Dolphin Tale definitely applies this trope strongly to Winter, and indicates it for other aquarium dolphins as well.
  • Averted in Day of the Dolphin, when two dolphins are trained to assassinate the President.
  • Eye of the Dolphin is about a 14 year old who bonds with a wild dolphin


Literature

  • In Into the Deep by Ken Grimwood a marine biologist learns from her dolphin friends that there is an earth threatening disaster.
  • In Whispers from the Bay Mike Connely becomes friends with talking dolphins that show him their "top secret world".
  • Dolphin Boy is about a boy who won't speak meets a lost dolphin. Trapped in loneliness, a bond of friendship grows between them that leads the way to happiness and freedom for both the boy and the dolphin.
  • Dolphin Boy Blue takes place in the sparkling blue waters of the Australian ocean, a boy and a dolphin develop a very special friendship
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this trope is why dolphins are a Superior Species - while humans went around having wars and inventing the wheel, dolphins just splashed about in the water having a good time. Their final message to humanity[1] was misinterpreted as 'a sophisticated attempt to jump through a hoop while whistling The Star-Spangled Banner'.
  • In The Magic Treehouse: Dolphins At Day Break, Jack and Annie are saved by friendly dolphins that allow Jack and Annie to ride them.
  • Dolphin Tale: The Junior Novel is, as is apparent from the title, based on the movie.
  • Riding the Storm Dolphin Diaries 3 involves a girl finding buried treasure with her dolphin friend.
  • Dolphin Song is about a girl a becomes friends with dolphins and learns how to communicating with them.
  • A diver becomes friends with a dolphin pod after saving one of their babies in Dolphin Freedom
  • Fast-Talking Dolphin is about a boy who befriends a dolphin that can talk and needs the boy to use his skills to save his life.
  • In Dolphin Knight a girl bonds with a dolphin knight who helps her overcome her fear of water
  • Johnny Clinton is taken on an under sea tour by intelligent dolphins in Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke
  • In Aka by Tristan Jones the protagonist conan is saved from drowning by dolphins
  • Maddy's Dolphin is about a girl who bonds with a talking dolphin. They have been freinds ever since the dolphin saved maddy from drowning.
  • The young adult novel The Music of Dolphins features a girl raised by a pod of dolphins. Discussion of dolphin behaviour and social structure ensues.


Live-Action TV

  • Darwin the Dolphin on SeaQuest DSV
  • Flipper the dolphin is a playful friendly dolphin, apart from being helpful.
  • Dolphin Cove introduced a man and his son and emotionally-disturbed daughter who move to Australia, where the daughter develops a special rapport with two wild dolphins.


Toys

  • Flash the Dolphin was one of the original nine Beanie Babies, and at least three have followed (Docks, Echo, Starboard). There are also several orca Beanie Babies.


Video Games

  • In the Sierra game EcoQuest, befriending a dolphin is what leads the main character on his adventure.
  • Petz Wild Animals Dolphinz is about training and taking care of dolphins.
    • Petz Dolphinz Encounter allows the player to swim with wild dolphins.
  • Aquapets 101 Dolphin Pets is a game where you can raise 101 different types of dolphins and play with them
  • The Endless Ocean games naturally feature dolphins and larger cetaceans from various locations. You can befriend certain dolphins.
    • Endless Ocean Blue World allows much more interaction with dolphins. You can tame them and take them with you on dives, where they can tow you faster than you can swim and help find items. You can also teach them to do tricks and put on shows at your island. You tame two species during the story, and can tame more with sidequests later. This game is also somewhat notable for simply having dolphins other than Bottlenose dolphins.
  • Final Fantasy VII has a dolphin that will help you get to Junon.
  • Wave Race 64 has dolphins appearing in certain courses, most notably in Dolphin Park, in which the tutorial consists of following a dolphin. A code allows you to ride a dolphin in that course.
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, there's a dolphin that's trapped under an anchor in grimy toxic water. Swimming up into the ship and slamming the button to drag the anchor off of him causes him to thank you by leaving behind a Jiggy.
  • Mike rescues a dolphin in the second stage of StarTropics. It returns the favor at the end of the game.
  • Helena swims with a dolphin in her Dead or Alive 3 ending cinematic.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has yellow dolphins that swim alongside the train while it's going over water. They squeak and jump out of the water when you blow the whistle, and they are adorable. If you keep blowing your whistle, they give you hearts to heal your train.
  • In Robot Unicorn Attack a dolphin appears for each 5.000 points you earn. (They don't do anything.)
  • Sonic Adventure features dolphins that jump around you in Sonic's Stage One, Emerald Coast, if you're looking in right place at the right time. The appearance of these dolphins and their numbers seems to be performance based, or it might be random.
  • The first two Ecco the Dolphin games nearly avert it (the lone exception being Ecco being challenged to jump really high by a podmate), since the dolphins in question are in the middle of a war with space aliens, but Ecco Jr. is about baby dolphins romping around, and Defender of the Future has a few playful minigames.
  • Goggle-wearing dolphins actually show up in the game Super Mario World.


Western Animation

  • Hank Hill meets an OVERLY friendly playful dolphin in an episode of King of the Hill.
  • Aquaman's dolphin in Batman the Brave And The Bold.
  • In Flipper and Lopaka Lopaka is Flippers best friend and they go on many adventures together.
  • Zoom the White Dolphin is about a white dolphin who is freinds with two children who live with their sailor uncle.
  • Jimmy the Baby Dolphin from Flushed Away.


Real Life

  • Some scientific explanations of wild dolphin behaviour subvert this. For example, male dolphins typically leave the pod when they mature to pursue a solitary life or a life with other males. Sometimes, when males refuse to leave the pod, the females will push the males above the water line and expose them to the sun. Too much sun-exposure can be very uncomfortable for the dolphins, so this convinces the males to swim away. Sometimes, they will do the same thing to humans, possibly mistaking the humans for males that refuse to leave the pod. Of course, humans aren't threatened by prolonged exposure to the sun, so they think the dolphins are swimming with them, when really the dolphins are trying to drive them away.
  • Dolphins blow bubble rings.

Notes

  1. So long, and thanks for all the fish
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