The plot involves the larcenous, villainous owners of the park, who first want to exploit the relationship between Jesse and Willy, and then want to kill Willy for the insurance money. That sets into motion the predictable, but no less effective, conclusion, in which the threads of boy, whale and family are all woven together nicely.
While working at the park, Jesse encounters Willy. Willy is regarded as surly and uncooperative by the park staff, including his trainer Rae Lindley, but he saves Jesse from drowning, starting a bond, and becomes friendly with his keeper, native Randolph Johnson. Jesse then teaches tricks to Willy, and will be given a permanent job at the marine after probation. Jesse also warms into his new home
Dial (), the owner of the park, sees the bond between Jesse and Willy and plans on making a show of those two together. It turns out that Dial is greedy and has evil ulterior motives for the orca. Jesse and his friends are determined to find some way to save Willy from his impending death (you can kinda guess how from the title).