LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The heroes of “Toy Story 3” have left the toy box. Woody and Buzz Lightyear meet arch-enemy Lotso the teddy bear on the Future World playground for the 18th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 2 through May 15, 2011, at Walt Disney World Resort.
The popular Disney•Pixar characters hit the sandbox as seven- and eight-foot-tall topiaries at the Epcot front entrance flower bed featuring a sand castle, strawberry-scented field and playground toys. Created by Disney gardeners and topiary experts with bold strokes of seasonal color, the topiary display marks the first time that “Toy Story” characters have been featured at the festival. It’s also the first time in seven years that the front-entrance floral spectacle showcases all-new topiary characters, says festival horticulture manager Eric Darden.
“It created unique challenges,” Darden says, “and it’s meticulous work. Woody is skinny, and it was a challenge to create his legs. The detail on Buzz is pretty daunting.” And the buzz on the pink-floral Lotso (a.k.a. Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear) is that he will smell like strawberries, just like his big-screen character, when guests stroll by.
This year’s festival showcases more than 100 expertly crafted topiaries, and another show-stopper will be the brand-new “Cars 2” display at the World Showcase plaza, Darden says. Large floral topiaries of “Cars” characters Mater and Lightning McQueen will park their colorful chassis beneath a black-and-white checkered arch. To complete the scene, gardeners will create floral flags representing Japan, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – destinations of the car characters in the sequel due in theaters June 24.
And Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and pals appear in topiary splendor among a Hundred Acre Wood wildflower display between Future World and World Showcase. They’re just in time to spread the happy news about the “Winnie the Pooh Movie” debuting summer 2011.
New in the Park!
An expanded Bambi’s Butterfly House, a new Healthy Living Garden, special gardener appearances on a new Festival Center stage and first-time Flower Power performers add fresh twists to the 18th annual festival:
· A roomier-than-ever Bambi’s Butterfly House grows three-fold this year in its new location along Imagination Walkway by Innoventions West in Future World. It’s the first time the popular garden has expanded since its 2005 debut, and guests will see more butterflies than ever, Darden says.
· The Healthy Living Garden invites park guests to join in fun activities designed for improving their health and well being. Areas of the garden, presented by Syngenta, focus on healthful eating, fitness, relaxation and meditation. An adjacent children’s play area keeps it all in the family.
· A new Festival Center stage brings nationally recognized garden personalities to the festival twice daily.
· Rapunzel lets down her hair at Rapunzel’s Tower in the Tangled Magical Garden inspired by Walt Disney Pictures’ animated film, “Tangled,” located between the Germany and Italy pavilions.
· Flower Power grows with new-to-the-festival pop acts. Melissa Manchester, March 25-27 (Don’t Cry Out Loud), Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., April 8-10 (You Don’t Have to Be a Star) and Juice Newton April 15-17 (Playing with the Queen of Hearts) are set to light up America Gardens Theatre with their timeless tunes.
· A new Festival Special Weekend is slated for May when Disney?Pixar presents a Pixar Animation Studios celebration in conjunction with the upcoming “Cars 2” big-screen debut set for June 24.
Throughout the festival, elaborate floral beds and entertaining exhibits will decorate the park landscape and showcase the extraordinary talents of Disney gardeners. A blooming Guerlain Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion returns with its never-ending “love story” of the relationship between plants and perfume. At the Japan showcase, the art of bonsai will mesmerize guests who stop at the pavilion’s vermilion torii gate.
· Flower Power concerts – Popular bands will rock the open-air America Gardens Theatre every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. Jose Feliciano is scheduled to kick off the concert series March 4-6. The Flower Power lineup also will feature pop favorites such as Davy Jones, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, and Paul Revere & the Raiders.
· The Festival Center– Guests can shop for festival merchandise, attend demonstrations and get ideas and tips from master gardeners. Includes Disney Gardening at Home and other presentations.
· Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden –Fabulous Disney fairies alight to greet young fans who enter this whimsical garden designed with play structures for children ages 2-5.
· Disney Gardening at Home presentations – Disney horticulturists will share gardening tips and lead guests in a hands-on, take-home activity.
· Special Festival Weekend Celebrations – An Art in the Garden celebration of plein air artists is scheduled March 25-27; the popular I Dig Bugs event is set for April 15-17; and a Fresh from Florida Farmer’s Market salute is slated for April 29-May 1. A date will be announced for the May Disney?Pixar weekend celebration.
More information about the 18th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is available by calling 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639) or by visiting disneyworld.com/flower. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.