The Salt Palace Convention Center began filling on Friday morning, July 3, with hobbits, wizards, fighters and, yes, a few comic-book superheroes who might've been recycling Salt Lake Comic Con gear. Yet the Fan
tasyCon floor itself didn't feel recycled, sporting divisions into areas that made it feel uniquely interactive. Photo-op spots were strewn throughout the main display area, from the centerpiece massive steam-spewing dragon to backdrops featuring everything
from Harry Potter
's Platform 9-3/4 to a full-size Jabba the Hutt. In the center of the floor, fighters with foam swords and shields launched into melee combat; near the rear tables, you could have lunch while watching an honest-to-goodness smithy forge a new weapon.
There were fewer panels than at Comic Con; at any given time s
lot, perhaps only three rooms hosted activities. But those included previews of the final installment of the Hobbit
films, and the Salt Lake Pops Orchestra playing themes from Doctor Who
and The Hobbit
. And the celebrity special guests were out for autographs and spotlight Q&A sessions in the Main Ballroom, like actor John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark
's and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
's Sallah, and The Lord of the Rings
' Gimli), who was a delightful raconteur during his Saturday stage time and mused about the Indiana Jones
films, "1 and 3 are just better films than 2 and 4 ... I wonder why that is."
What's hard to resist about these gatherings is that they're so full of love and enthusiasm for the worlds created by the writers and other artists who work in these genres. As easy as it is to roll your eyes and the people in their Renaissance fair finery or character costumes, love of fantasy is about love of creative work, perhaps even to the point of immersion in those fantasies. I'll let them worry about when their own immersion has gone too deep, and I'll simply enjoy the ripple in a room when folks spot a genuine Hobbit
The inaugural FantasyCon kicked off with massive-scale props, special guests and a vibe just a bit different from other recent pop culture conventions.