He's black and white and cute all over, Washington's most famous resident who's never run for office.
Tai Shan, the National Zoo's fuzzy 5-month-old giant panda cub, has been a media darling since his birth, with Web site updates on his every squirm and squeal. Now he's the focus of Animal Planet's new documentary, "A Panda Is Born." Three years in the making, the program follows the story behind the cub's arrival.
"We were trying to build a really great story, and even if there [were] no baby, we would have gone with the frustration," said Maureen Smith, Animal Planet general manager.
The show chronicles the 2000 arrival from China of Tai Shan's parents, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, their two seasons of unsuccessful panda mating and the cub's surprise birth on July 9. His rapid growth, Tian Tian's paternal indifference and Mei Xiang's maternal devotion are all part of the program.
"You wish you had more time than an hour," said executive producer Alexandra Bennett. "We wanted to get across the trials and tribulations of the zoo team, and to show how pandas are endangered, because there are so few panda babies."
The cub's keepers are as smitten with him as any panda fan, said zoo curator Lisa Stevens. "What's not to love? They are incredible creatures, embodying all the cuteness of the big pandas and then some."
-- Kathy Blumenstock
A PANDA IS BORN