LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Goofy catches a topiary wave while Mickey Mouse and gal pal Minnie chill at the "beach" for the 15th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 19-June 1 at Walt Disney World Resort. Last year's popular 60-day event has sprouted runners and expands to a full 75 days with its first-ever March launch, offering oceans of floral fantasy and gardening fun.
As guests enter the park near Spaceship Earth, they'll spot a 14-foot Goofy topiary riding a 6-foot wave of flowers and plants. Sandcastles, palm trees and starfish will surround Mickey and Minnie topiaries posed on a floral beach towel spread upon a sandy "beach." At World Showcase Plaza, Disney topiary specialists will craft a volleyball beach scene starring Donald Duck and Daisy. Nearby, a topiary Pluto will frolic with topiary sand crabs while colorful Stitch from "Lilo and Stitch" keeps watch from a lifeguard stand.
Other new festival fun in store includes:
Peter Pan's Neverland Garden, a children's area, will open along Imagination Walkway from Future World to World Showcase. The pirate ship-themed garden will feature whimsical topiaries of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinker Bell and Tic Toc Croc, as well as a shaded play structure.
The islands of World Showcase Lagoon will sprout gigantic, multi-hued topiary flowers.
Sweeping Future World flower beds planted on the shores of East and West Lakes will take the shape of nautical flags representing letters (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.) that spell a message to be decoded by guests.
The zany Three Caballeros -- Donald Duck, parrot Jose Carioca and Panchito, the Mexican charro rooster -- will come to life as topiaries to celebrate their new Epcot show, "Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros" in the Mexico pavilion.
Other beloved Disney characters like Lady and the Tramp and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will make topiary appearances for perfect photo ops in the park.
In all, there will be up to 70 topiaries -- plus 30 million blooms, artfully designed floral beds, expertly crafted bonsai trees and lush rose gardens -- gracing the 300 acres of Future World and World Showcase. And Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden returns with hundreds of butterflies in a walk-through screened enclosure featuring a live exhibit showing how caterpillars form a chrysalis and emerge as butterflies.
To keep flowers and plants at their peak, Disney's horticultural team will plant two crop rotations during the fest, allowing for a more brilliant floral display for the festival's duration, says Disney horticultural manager Eric Darden.
Beyond the dazzling displays of blooms, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is known by gardening aficionados for its celebrity guest speakers, hands-on seminars and innovative planting demonstrations and exhibits such as a new Florida-style outdoor living display.
Each evening, Flower Power concerts will rock the park with live entertainment from top acts of the 1960s and '70s. Featured acts will include The Guess Who, Davy Jones, Jose Feliciano, Petula Clark, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and other crowd pleasers.
More festival highlights include:
The Festival Center, where guests can find program guides and festival merchandise, attend speaker presentations and demonstrations and ask gardening questions of the experts.
Themed weekend events such as I Dig Bugs, Art in the Garden, Mother's Day and Doll and Teddy Bear weekends.
The popular Great American Gardeners series featuring gardening celebrities and authors from across the country.
The family-oriented Growing Future Gardeners area, complete with colorful (and tasty) planting ideas for kids and parents.
A Lift and Sniff Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion showcasing flowers and plants used to create several Guerlain perfumes.
Disney Gardening at Home presentations during which Disney horticulturists share tips and secrets for at-home gardening.
Kids' activities, including the new Peter Pan's Neverland Garden, Pluto's Play Zone with climber, Disney character meet-and-greets and daily ladybug releases.
More information about the 15th 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.