The most exciting thing about this year’s FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, according to founder Dan Farr, is the celebrity lineup, with (as of Wednesday afternoon) 78 film and TV performers — the largest group of famous faces and voices the event has ever seen.
FanX — which runs Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 22-24, in the Salt Palace Convention Center — has a reputation for the size of its audiences. In past years, upwards of 100,000 people have attended the three-day event.
It also has a reputation among celebrities, Farr said, for being “one of the more exciting conventions.” That’s because the fans are so good, and strike the balance between being passionate and polite, he said.
Farr said the actors represent a range of fandoms, appealing to younger and older audiences alike.
“We try to bring in some nostalgic actors and people from properties in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s to keep things applicable to multiple age groups,” Farr said.
On the more nostalgic side, for example, “Happy Days” actors Anson Williams and Don Most are scheduled to appear, as well as former “Brady Bunch” kids Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen. The oldest property represented might be Disney’s 1942 animated classic “Bambi”; Peter Behn, who as a child voiced the rabbit Thumper, is scheduled to attend.
For younger fans, there are three stars from “Stranger Things” — series regular Gaten Matarazzo, along with season 4 standouts Eduardo Franco and Grace Van Dien — and six from “Cobra Kai”: Jacob Bertrand, Tanner Buchanan, Thomas Ian Griffith, Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser and the longtime villain, William Zabka.
Farr noted that both “Stranger Things” and “Cobra Kai” are fresh shows with nostalgic elements. The first is set in the ‘80s, and references horror and science-fiction movies of that era; the second is a spinoff of “The Karate Kid” franchise. Shows like that, Farr said, help make the convention a family affair, spanning generations.
Farr said it’s difficult to pick just a handful of notable guests — but he named a few who should have broad appeal:
William Shatner: Capt. James T. Kirk from the original “Star Trek.”
Steve Burns: The original host of “Blue’s Clues.”
Charlie Hunnam: Played Jax Telller in “Sons of Anarchy,” also starred in “Crimson Peak” and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”
Kevin Smith: Indie film director of “Clerks” and “Mallrats,” recognizable as Silent Bob in his films.
Giancarlo Esposito: Played Gus Fring in “Breaking Bad,” and currently appears on “The Mandalorian.”
Cary Elwes: Starred as Westley in “The Princess Bride,” and was a star in the “Saw” horror franchise.
Bryce Papenbrook: An American voice actor popular in anime, such as “Attack on Titan.”
Dante Basco: Best known for playing Rufio in “Hook.”
Other notable guests include: Xochitl Gomez, who played the teen heroine America Chavez in “Doctor Strange in the Multitude of Madness”; AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys; Henry Thomas from “E.T.” and “The Haunting of Hill House”; Leslie David Baker from “The Office”; Diana Guerrero from “Orange is the New Black”; and Anthony Michael Hall from the ‘80s classic “The Breakfast Club.”
Farr touted one of the consistently most popular events at each convention: The “Twisted Toonz” panel, in which cartoon voice actors read through a movie script — they never announce which one in advance — in their various character voices. The panel is set for Saturday, Sept. 24, in the Salt Palace’s Grand Ballroom.
“People love it, and it’s a huge hit for us,” Farr said.
Usually leading the panel is Jess Harnell, the rock star of Hollywood voice actors — best known as Yakko Warner on “Animaniacs,” as well as “Transformers” and many other shows. Among the other voice actors likely to take part are Nolan North, star of the “Uncharted” video game franchise, and Ross Marquand, who starred in “The Walking Dead” and appeared as Red Skull in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”
A full schedule of panels on all three days is available at fanxsaltlake.com. All panels are covered under the convention ticket price, as is access to the vendor floor.
FanX is approaching its 10th anniversary, Farr said, and after all this time, he says his favorite part is seeing how unifying fandom is for people.
“I love the energy of fandom, it’s so powerful,” Farr said. “I love seeing people have those experiences. In a lot of ways, I believe I’m living vicariously through them when they have those experiences.”
FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention happens Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 22-24, at the Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City. Three-day passes start at $50, and go up to $295 for a three-day VIP pass. Single-day and multi-day tickets packages are also available, at varying price levels. Go to fanxsaltlake.com for information.