Follow TV Tropes


Friendly, Playful Dolphin

Go To

"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, 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. Tame dolphins are usually trained to be like this, and stories of friendly behaviour by wild dolphins abound and predate dolphin training. However, random wild dolphins are often as hard to predict as a random human stranger, and like any other animal, they can be dangerous. Experts recommend keeping your distance from them.

Sometimes overlaps with Heroic Dolphin, or Sapient Cetaceans, or both. Compare Sweet Seal, Playful Otter, and Warm-Hearted Walrus for other friendly sea mammals.

Contrast with Devious Dolphins.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Keyop in Battle of the Planets befriends a playful dolphin.
  • Haru from Real Drive loved to swim with a dolphin as a boy.
  • Tiffa in After War Gundam X goes swimming with some dolphins at one point. It helps that one of their number is apparently a psychic Newtype dolphin, allowing Tiffa to telepathically communicate with it.
  • Kemono Friends: Bottlenose Dolphin is this to a T. She hangs out with other playful sea mammal Friends like California Sea Lion, and she will play with anything that looks fun. When Kyururu persuades the sea mammals with a new kind of game, Dolphin was immediately won over.

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • Carlos, Greed's eventual best friend, from Survivor: Not Amestris.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Averted in Day Of The Dolphin, when two dolphins are trained to assassinate the President.
  • Desperados (2020): During Wesley and Sean's boat ride, they meet a dolphin and Wesley is delighted when it comes to her, but it quickly becomes clear the dolphin is just horny and trying to hump her while she mistakenly thinks it's just hugging her.
  • Dolphin Tale definitely applies this trope strongly to Winter, and indicates it for other aquarium dolphins as well.
  • Eye Of The Dolphin is about a 14 year old who bonds with a wild dolphin.
  • Early in Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey before the villains arrive, Daigo and Reina are shown bonding in a waterpark, where Reina in a post-kaiju world is a dolphin tamer and swims with her dolphin "pals" before a large audience.
  • Gorgeous: As Buu lives near a fishing village, one of her regular "friends" is a bottlenose dolphin who regularly surfaces to play with her. Later she becomes acquainted with her new boyfriend, the wealthy tycoon Chan, whose mansion has an indoor pool containing domesticated dolphins, with Buu delightfully jumping in to play with them.
  • Ticket to Paradise: Gede takes the Cottons and Wren out to swim with dolphins. While the pod they find is friendly to the women, David jumps in aggressively and gets attacked. Gede has to assure him that it's never happened before.
  • Zeus and Roxanne, the movie about the friendship between a dog and a dolphin.

  • 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 who 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 humanitynote  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 who becomes friends with dolphins and learns how to communicate with them.
  • There's also another book called Dolphin Song which is the second book in The White Giraffe series. The main character, a girl called Martine — who holds a special gift with animals — falls overboard during a storm while on a school trip aboard a boat. Several other students also fall overboard, and they are all rescued by a pod of dolphins who remain friendly to them throughout.
  • 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 friends 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 behavior and social structure ensues.
  • Animorphs:
    • The series portrays the dolphin mind as inherently joyous and playful. The gang sometimes have trouble getting control over the morph for a few minutes because of this, although they still enjoy using it.
    • This even becomes a bit of a plot point in the final book of the series — Jake is suffering from some pretty heavy PTSD, so his friends trick him into morphing a dolphin as a kind of intervention.
  • In The Last Hero Evil Harry Dread (a wannabe Evil Overlord) was conned into buying a pod of these for his Shark Pool.
    "I should've known better when Johnny No Hands told me they were sharks that hadn't grown all their fins yet, but all they did was swim around squeaking happily and start beggin' for fish. When I throw people into a torture tank it's to be torn to bits, not to get in touch with their inner self and be one with the cosmos."
  • The Dolphins of Pern, part of the Dragonriders of Pern series, is about a group of people discovering the fact that "shipfish" are actually genetically engineered dolphinsnote  who had been brought to Pern as colonists. They are hard workers when it's something they consider important, but otherwise they are carefree and love to play with each other and humans.
  • Spellsinger: Dolphins are portrayed as slackers who don't care about anything but playing with "toys" (basically anything that amuses them, since unlike other sapient species they neither need nor have the capacity to make clothing or tools) and telling dirty jokes and awful seafood puns.
  • Neo-dolphins in the Uplift series are definitely playful, if lecherous, but "friendly" varies from 'fin to 'fin, just like other people.
  • Subverted in the Revelation Space Series novel Chasm City. The first of the Sky Haussman flashback episode introduces you to children Sky and Constanza, who evade their parents' oversight to go visit the dolphins who are kept in the spaceship they live in. That looks very cute and slightly cliché... until you meet the dolphins, who after being used as experimental subjects by a radical transhumanist group and then kept and bred in captivity for centuries, have turned sadistic and totally psychotic.
  • Dolphins in The Bad Guys are portrayed as chipper and happy, yet not too bright. They're among one of the automatically "cute" animals in the world as well, along with also being known for not wearing any clothing.
  • The Mermaid Chronicles: Mermaids and dolphins have always been allies. Groups of friendly dolphins swim and play near Mermaid Island, including a dolphin Dylan has named Flipper.
  • Song of the Dolphin Boy: The first time Finn swims in the ocean, he meets a dolphin who wants to play with him. Finn chases the dolphin for a while, then takes turns with him leaping out of the water.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Darwin the Dolphin on Seaquest DSV.
  • Flipper the dolphin is a playful friendly dolphin, apart from being a helpful Heroic Dolphin.
  • 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.
  • The Ultra Series managed to have a dolphin kaiju in its massive menagerie of different monsters, that being Leilons the dolphin monster from Ultraman Tiga. Like most monsters, Leilons merely attack human facilities in search for food and nesting ground, and the penultimate battle between Ultraman Tiga and Leilons is more slapstick than threatening, what with Leilons trolling Tiga by squirting water on the Ultra's face, and then humping the Ultra with its bubble-like stomach while cackling all the way.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Blue Planet, out of all the species of uplifted Sapient Cetaceans inhabiting the water planet of Poseidon, common dolphins are said to have the best relations with humans. They're described to be the more fun-loving species and have an endless curiosity for human culture to the point that Interspecies Romance between the two is relatively common.

  • 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 
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure: A dolphin gets trapped in a fishing net and beached early in the game, and Alba has to collect people to help; when a dolphin comes to the beach a few days later, everyone thinks it's the same one trying to thank Alba for helping it.
  • Aquapets 101 Dolphin Pets is a game where you can raise 101 different types of dolphins and play with them.
  • In Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, you'll encounter friendly dolphins who'll let you ride on their backs, giving you a speed boost in water.
  • 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.
  • B.L.U.E.: Legend of Water for the PlayStation is a scuba-diving game where you spend 80% of it's runtime underwater, where your dolphin sidekick accompanies you in various levels, serving to provide backup or distraction when you're attacked by predators or leading you to clues and exits.
  • Helena swims with a dolphin in her Dead or Alive 3 ending cinematic.
  • 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.
  • In the Sierra game EcoQuest, befriending a dolphin is what leads the main character on his adventure.
  • 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.
  • In King's Quest 4 also by Sierra the main character, Rosella, finds herself stranded on a remote desert island but is rescued after summoning the help of a friendly dolphin who carries her back to the mainland.
  • 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.
  • Minecraft populates its oceans with pods of dolphins, which are passive mobs that like playing around with any dropped items, bestow a nearby player with a swim speed buff, and can lead them to treasure if fed with fish. Attack one, though, and the whole pod descends on you.
  • Petz Wild Animals Dolphinz is about training and taking care of dolphins. Petz Dolphinz Encounter allows the player to swim with wild dolphins.
  • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet introduced the dolphin Pokémon Finizen, a cute, playful dolphin with the ability to sense emotions that evolves into the Heroic Dolphin Palafin.
  • In Robot Unicorn Attack, a dolphin appears for each 5,000 points you earn. (They don't really do anything.)
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens: The "Winner!" win screen shows Plink riding a presumably-a-toy dolphin for reasons of cuteness.
  • 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.
  • Mike rescues a dolphin in the second stage of StarTropics. It returns the favor at the end of the game.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario World: Goggle-wearing dolphins show up in the hidden level Donut Secret 3. They don't harm Mario (intentionally) and can be used as platforms. And Yoshi can eat them.
    • Mario Party 8: The dolphins in Goomba's Booty Boardwalk are all friendly, and help a character get closer to Captain Goomba's treasure when they land on certain Event Spaces. There's also one dolphin who can take a character landing on a special bonus space to a mystical island with another treasure chest.
    • Mario Party 9 has Dolphins that appear on the Blooper Beach board that the players chase down. When the players catch up to them, they reward the current Captain with Mini-Stars. These same Dolphins appear in the minigame Ring Leader to give the players a ride, during which the players can score points by jumping through rings floating above the water.
  • Wadanohara has two: Dolphi, one of the main character's familiars and party members, who is shy but a sweetheart wanting to help the titular heroine, and Sal, a member of the royal court who is cheery and helps the cast as much as he can. On the other hand is the evil orca Idate, and Sal himself is later revealed as a salmon shark and demented rapist who also happens to be the traitor of the Kingdom.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • ENA has Phindoll, an energetic pink low-poly dolphin with a penchant for trigonometry jokes. He helps ENA reach the Great Runas so she can make her wish, even changing the ritual required to reach him from a fight to staining some water red once he realizes that she's feeling stressed.

  • Initially played straight in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja when a pod of dolphins rescues Agent Bearclaw from the middle of the ocean. Averted when they shoot him after reaching land. To be fair, he deserved it.
  • Strongly averted in Awful Hospital. Dolphins are the gleefully sadistic and violent servants of the Old Flesh, but even the Parliament, as best we can tell, can't do much more than point them in the desired direction and get out of the way as the dolphins destroy anything and everything they come across for no reason beyond 'fun'. Also, they reproduce parasitically and emerge from their hosts in a manner not dissimilar to a chestburster. This is a running theme in Bogleech's works; see Mortasheen below.

    Web Original 
  • Averted (and combined with a dose of Humans Are the Real Monsters) in Mortasheen by Jonathan Wojcik. The 'Dolfury' monster is said to be a genetic combination of dolphin and human that was deemed 'too violent and cruel' to watch over human livestock by its octopus-vampire creator, who tried and failed to have them exterminated. They're regarded in-universe as one of the few examples of 'true evil' in a setting where Blue-and-Orange Morality is so prevalent that 'evil' as a concept practically doesn't exist anymore. Also, like Wojcik's other example above, they reproduce parasitically.

    Western Animation 
  • Hank Hill meets an overly friendly playful dolphin in an episode of King of the Hill.
  • Fluke, AQUAMAN's dolphin sidekick in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He's one of the few beings Batman outright despises, because he's too friendly. Slightly less friendly when Starro comes along.
  • In Flipper and Lopaka, Lopaka is Flipper's best friend and they go on many adventures together.
  • Zoom the White Dolphin is about a white dolphin who is friends with two children who live with their sailor uncle.
  • Inverted in one of The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XI", where an army of dolphins kill or kick everyone out of Springfield.
  • The Action Man (2000) episode "The Triton Factor" has Action Man befriend an amiable dolphin he names Triton.
  • On Star Trek: Lower Decks, the Cerritos has two Beluga whales who otherwise play the trope straight, being friendly towards the rest of the crew and inviting people to swim with them. Preferably naked.

    Real Life 
  • Some scientific explanations of wild dolphin behavior 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. 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.
  • There was an Australian surfer who went under the breakers and lost his board, only to be saved by a lone dolphin who not only kept him afloat and guided him towards the shore, but also chased off a shark.
  • Opo the friendly dolphin of Opononi.
  • Tiao started out friendly but eventually (accidentally) killed a swimmer who was harassing him.
  • Fungie the Dingle Dolphin.
  • There are a number of instances of orcas (which are a species of dolphin) behaving friendly and playfully toward humans. One notable example is Keiko, the orca who starred in Free Willy. Even after he was released to the wild, he was very friendly toward humans, and even let children ride on his back. Unfortunately, this meant that he failed to fully adapt back to the wild and died at the age of 27.
    • Despite this, captive orcas can still be dangerous animals if maltreated. Tilikum, for example, has killed three people while in captivity. He is believed to have been severely traumatized by his capture at the age of 1 and by the early years of his captivity, which he never fully recovered from.
  • Wild orcas, like other dolphins, do exhibit curiosity and even playfulness towards boats, with behaviors ranging from approaching to seemingly putting on a show of breaching and splashing to bowriding. Unfortunately, one group of orcas in the waters off the Iberian peninsula seems to see boats as a threat and have taken to ramming and disabling them on sight, usually targeting and making off with the boat rudders. Or at least that's how some biologists see this; others surmise that these orcas are engaging in overblown play behavior, thus still technically playing this trope straight—the "playful" part at any rate.
  • Dolphins have at times displayed what is known as "fad" behavior, where one or several individuals will exhibit or do something that serves no real purpose and entire pods will pick up on the trend. Like human fads, it usually gets old and fades away with time. This is particularly seen with wild bottlenose dolphins "tail-walking"note  and one group of northern resident orcas "wearing" salmon on their heads or rostrums. The rudder-stealing orcas mentioned above might also be guilty of this but the trend has yet to show any signs of dying down.
  • Bottlenose dolphins have been observed playing with and prodding pufferfish into releasing small amounts of tetrodotoxin note . The reason? Apparently to get high from it! That's right, dolphins are the sea's answer to potheads.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Friendly Dolphin, Playful Dolphin


Kimulo and Matt

(Note: Technically they're beluga whale, but close enough) Kimulo and Matt really want people to swim with them. Preferably naked.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / FriendlyPlayfulDolphin

Media sources: