'Woody' and 'Buzz Lightyear' Star at Annual Epcot Flower Fest

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Gene Duncan, Walt Disney World

"Toy Story 3" heroes Woody and Buzz will have top billing at the 18th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which opens tomorrow in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The 75-day festival showcases more than 100 whimsical topiaries from March 2 through May 15.

The 7- and 8-foot-tall Pixar characters from the Oscar-winning "Toy Story 3" are planted at the Future World front-entrance garden, surrounded by a sand castle, playground toys and a strawberry-scented field -- where Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear is supposed to smell like strawberries, just like his big-screen character.

"It created unique challenges," festival horticulture manager Eric Darden says about the exhibit, "and it's meticulous work. Woody is skinny, and it was a challenge to create his legs. The detail on Buzz is pretty daunting."

Another exhibit in the festival is the "Cars 2" display at the World Showcase plaza, with "Cars" characters Mater and Lightning McQueen parked beneath a black-and-white checkered arch. The movie sequel is due in theaters June 24.

HGTV is one of the sponsors of the event, so visitors can plan to see favorites from the popular television network, including Genevieve Gorder, Vern Yip and nine other HGTV design gurus. Yard Crashers' Ahmed Hassan and Curb Appeal: The Block's John Gidding will appear in April.

Other attractions include workshops and talks by master gardeners, Disney horticulturists and a mix of TV and radio personalities, authors and educators. A staple, Bambi's Butterfly House, will more than doubles in size. At the new Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden, favorite Disney Fairies will pose for photos and sign autographs. HGTV has a Sustainable Beauty Garden with ideas for home gardeners.

Every weekend, different bands will perform at the open-air America Gardens Theatre. Jose Feliciano is scheduled to kick off the series this weekend. Davy Jones and Chubby Checker & The Wildcats are also scheduled to appear later.

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