Troubled baby gorilla at Disney World being treated like a kid

Visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park often spot a tiny baby gorilla along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. What most of them don’t know is that she’s much tinier than she should be. Lilly was born last year at Walt Disney World, one of only 10 to 15 gorilla births each year in the United States. And she’s not growing and developing the way she should.

Lilly depends on her mother for many things that a gorilla of her age should be doing independently, and her left side seems to be weaker than her right.

Disney World scrambled for months to solve the mystery of what is wrong with Lilly, according to the Orlando Sentinel. She’s even been seen by doctors who specialize in treating human kids, and gone to a local hospital for an MRI. But, while they have ruled out many serious things that could have been ailing the baby gorilla, her caretakers haven’t found the problem.

So Disney has innovated and switched the focus from diagnosing Lilly to treating her. An occupational therapist who usually works with autistic kids comes to treat the baby gorilla once a week, and she gets therapy sessions twice daily from her trainers.

Everyone involved with Lilly attests that she’s making progress. She remains along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where you can probably see her on your next visit to Orlando. Here’s video from the Orlando Sentinel of Lilly and the progress she’s making:

New Pixar Pals parade disappoints many Disney World fans

Walt Disney World debuted a new parade – Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! – at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday. The new parade features characters from Pixar films Up! and Ratatouille that have never appeared in a Disney parade before.

New stuff at Disney is frequently met with breathless wonder by the many fans of all things Disney out there. But when it comes to this parade, reaction from Disney World fans, including many locals who turned out to see the parade’s debut, has not been good.

In the comments sections of blogs and YouTube videos about the Pixar Pals parade, Disney fans are describing the parade as “low budget,” “horrible” and “disappointing.”

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! replaces the Block Party Bash, a street party-parade hybrid that moved through the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stopped at certain points to bring the audience out to dance with characters from popular movies including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life.

The main beefs with the parade seem to fall into two categories: First, that the parade is not different enough from its predecessor Block Party Bash, and second, that the parade is too short.As for the charge that the Pixar Pals parade is too similar to Block Party Bash, well, it is pretty similar. Many of the floats are the same; the rest are simply repainted. Cast members’ costumes and props are also unchanged.

“All of the floats are recycled from Block Party Bash, merely repainted and slightly re-themed and the music isn’t original. Overall, it comes as a disappointment to many who had high hopes for the new production,” writes a blogger at easyWDW.com.

And is the parade, which has a soundtrack made up largely of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” too short? At less than 8 minutes in length, it is shorter than other Disney Parks parades, which typically clock in closer to the 15-minute mark.

Shelley Caran of OnTheGoinMCO.com describes Pixar Pals as a “lack luster eight minute blink and you missed it.”

About the only positive reaction we could find in the blogosphere comes from Ricky Brigante of Inside the Magic.net, who was a vocal opponent of the way the Block Party Bash stopped in the theme park’s walkways each day: “At least it doesn’t hog the streets for extended periods of time like Block Party Bash once did.”

So, while kids may enjoy catching a glimpse of their favorite movie characters, the overall consensus from the grown-ups seems to be that Disney’s previous afternoon “parade,” Block Party Bash, was superior.

StudiosCentral.com, a blog devoted to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park where the new parade debuted, writes: “The previous two daytime parades at the Studios, Block Party Bash and Stars & Motor Cars Parade, were far superior displays and much more of an engaging experience. … For those that have enjoyed quality Disney World parades over the years, you may find yourself disappointed and underwhelmed.”

Now that you’ve seen the video, what do you think?

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Universal Orlando announces Mardi Gras concert lineup

Thirty Seconds to Mars, Ne-Yo and Blake Shelton are among the headliners just announced for Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras this spring.

The 2011 Mardi Gras celebration happens on weekend nights Feb. 12 through April 23 at the Universal Studios Florida theme park in Orlando, Florida.

Here’s the concert lineup:

  • Feb. 12: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  • Feb. 19: The B-52s
  • Feb. 20: KC & The Sunshine Band
  • Feb. 26: Pitbull
  • March 5: Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • March 12: Foreigner
  • March 18: Neon Trees
  • March 19: Thirty Seconds to Mars
  • March 25: OneRepublic
  • March 26: Blake Shelton
  • April 1: Sean Kingston
  • April 2: Ne-Yo
  • April 9: Lifehouse
  • April 16: The Beach Boys

Universal’s Mardi Gras also includes a nightly parade with floats designed by Blaine Kern Artists in New Orleans, and, of course, lots and lots of beads.

A “French Quarter” street party serves up cajun food and musicians playing blues, jazz and zydeco.

Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is included with regular theme park admission to Universal Studios Florida – no separate ticket is required for the concerts.

Legoland California announces Star Wars attraction

Legoland California will be the first Legoland theme park to launch a Star Wars Miniland area. The Star Wars Miniland, which will have models of favorite Star Wars scenes constructed entirely of Legos, is set to open March 31.

Eight famous Star Wars scenes will be built in a 1:20 scale. The project will take more than 1.5 million Legos and, we’re guessing, a dash of The Force.

The scenes will encompass the stories told in all six Star Wars movies and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated TV series and be arranged chronologically. The models will be up to 6 feet tall, and some of them will be built to move or perform other actions when theme park visitors press buttons at the exhibit.

Legoland California also promises life-size models of Chewbacca, R2D2 and Darth Vader for family photo ops.

Two more Legoland parks – Legoland Deutschland in Gunzburg, Germany, and Legoland Billund in Billund, Denmark – will introduce Star Wars Minilands later this year.

Harry Potter park serves up 1 millionth Butterbeer

It’s not just a beverage, it’s an experience. That’s the word from Universal Orlando Resort, which said today that the company has sold 1 million Butterbeers in its Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The creamy-smooth concoction is a favorite drink in the Harry Potter books and movies, and it’s also a favorite at the theme park, where guests will wait in ride-sized lines to buy a cup. Last year, a fourth location selling the drink was added to the theme park to alleviate some of the lines.

There’s no alcohol in Butterbeer. It’s a sweet drink, which Universal says tastes of shortbread and butterscotch. I liken it to a cream soda. You can get both cold and frozen versions at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park where the Wizarding World is located.

There are lots of do-it-yourself Butterbeer recipes out there online, but Universal’s is secret. In fact, the company says it has put special security procedures in place to keep it that way.

To celebrate the 1 millionth Butterbeer, Universal passed out 1,000 free ones on the streets of the Wizarding World.