‘Dolphin Boy’ gets picked up by Disney

Documentary, which tells story of mute Israeli Arab teen’s rehabilitation via communication with dolphins, is the animation giant’s first acquisition in Israel

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Dolphin Boy, Morad, is healed by the dolphins of Eilat after undergoing a violent attack in his village (photo credit: Amos Nachoum)
Dolphin Boy, Morad, is healed by the dolphins of Eilat after undergoing a violent attack in his village (photo credit: Amos Nachoum)

Walt Disney Animation Studios has bought the rights for “Dolphin Boy,” an Israeli-made documentary film about Morad, an Israeli Arab teenager who was healed by Eilat’s dolphins after turning mute following a violent attack.

The purchase is the first that Burbank, California studio has made in Israel. It intends to turn the story into a feature film.

The award-winning documentary was produced by Dani Menkin, Yonatan Nir and Judith Manassen Ramon, who worked on it for four years after hearing Morad’s story.

The 16-year-old, from the Arab town of Qalansawe in central Israel, had stopped speaking after being attacked by his peers. Given his lack of progress, doctors were suggesting placing Morad in a local mental institution.

Dolphin Boy's Morad (photo credit: YouTube screeenshot)
Dolphin Boy’s Morad (photo credit: YouTube screeenshot)

Instead, his father sold his horse farm and headed down to Eilat with Morad, having heard from his son’s doctors about the possibility of dolphin therapy. Morad ended up staying at Eilat’s Dolphin Reef for four years, learning how to communicate first with the dolphins and then regaining his ability to communicate with people.

The negotiations for acquisition rights to “Dolphin Boy” lasted for well over a year, and contracts were signed this week, according to Hadas Schapira, who is handling the public relations for the film. The adapted screenplay for “Dolphin Boy” will be written by Justin Zackham, in collaboration with Menkin, Nir and Hansen Ramon.

Nir and Menkin, who co-wrote and directed the documentary, said they were “pleased and excited to be part of the great success of Israeli film and television in the international area.”

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