There are fans of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter character, and then there are the Fannibals, a die-hard, devoted group of folks who’ve developed a community around the Bryan Fuller television show HANNIBAL. Fannibals have established a presence at well-known behemoths like San Diego Comic Con as well as horror-based events like Walker Stalker Con. There is also Red Dragon Con in the UK, which just finished its third year. Yet, there’s never been a North American Fannibal convention. Until now.
Fannibal Fest was created by a group of North American-based fans who have incorporated as a non-profit social club/organization. The goal of Fannibal Fest is to host a convention that promotes artistic and academic creativity with a passionate fanbase that feels like family. They aim to celebrate not only the entire spectrum of HANNIBAL, but also to create an environment of acceptance regardless of backgrounds, preferences, likes, or dislikes.
The first Fannibal Fest was held from November 2 – 5 in Toronto and I was lucky enough to attend.
“A convention that promotes artistic and academic creativity with a passionate fanbase that feels like family.”
The featured guests at Fannibal Fest were impressive: Scott Thompson (“Jimmy Price”), Aaron Abrams (“Brian Zeller”), Vlad Cubrt (“Garret Jacob Hobbs”), and Demore Barnes (“Tobias Budge”). HANNIBAL’s producer Martha De Laurentiis and the show’s food stylist Janice Poon were also there. Unfortunately, Ellen Muth (“Georgia Madchen”) was slated to attend but had to cancel at the last minute.
If you’ve been to fan conventions, you know there are some guests who are thrilled to be there and some who are only there to fulfill contractual obligations. The latter was not an issue at Fannibal Fest. These folks were all energetic, engaging, and grateful for the opportunity to both talk to and hear from Fannibals. They know the fandom, but better yet, they understand it, which means that they don’t shy away from using salty language or making bawdy jokes (Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams, I’m looking at you).
In addition to discussing HANNIBAL, they were more than happy to talk about their careers outside of the show, which led to some inspiring insights and hilarious stories. And naturally, everyone talked about the dreamy qualities of Mads Mikkelsen.
As far as non-sentient guests, several fans brought their HANNIBAL props to Fannibal Fest. We got to see Will Graham’s bloody shirt, Hannibal’s sport jacket and sweater, Abel Gideon’s prison jumpsuit, various weapons and cutlery, the bucket from “Mukōzuke” (a.k.a. the “Hannibal Pool Drool” episode), and much more.
Fannibal Fest also arranged two bus tours, in which fans were escorted to various Toronto-area locations used in the series, including Will Graham’s house, Will and Molly’s house, the famous “cliff house” from the Season 3 finale, the Verger estate, the BSHCI, the Observatory, Hannibal’s home and office, and the birch tree from “Shiikazana.” For those who missed these tours, you can live vicariously through the various photos and videos on Instagram and Twitter.
We’ve all been to cons where the panels were just a rehash of things we’ve all heard a million times. Not so with Fannibal Fest!
The panel “Sassy Science: Medicine in Hannibal” was hosted by a medical student and an ER doctor, who were obviously not only Fannibals, but smart and quick-witted. “Quite the Topic of Conversation: Hannibal in Academia,” might seem like a boring title, but the presentation was fascinating, like the best genre studies university class you’ve ever taken, plus a lot of double entendres.
What would Fannibal life be without the fan fiction? “Everything that Can Happen, Happens” delved into the particularly meta-critical world of HANNIBAL, the way it blurs the lines between author and audience, and how it incorporates the entire universe of novels, movies, and television.
A guest at the hotel where the convention was held walked up to a Fannibal wearing a flower crown and a bloody apron and asked, “What is Fannibal Fest?” She laughed and said, “Well, we’re all fans of a TV show about serial killers and food.” Food is such an integral part of the Hanniverse that it’s impossible to imagine the fandom without it.
Food stylist to the stars Janice Poon was there to indulge everyone’s appetites. She held a culinary demonstration and Q&A during which she crafted the Sanguinaccio Dolce from her FEEDING HANNIBAL cookbook. There was also a Stag Awards dinner which celebrated the winners of the fan creative competition, attended by Poon and Demore Barnes, who also presented the awards. There was even a Farewell Luncheon on Sunday for the guests and fans.
And, if that weren’t enough, there was also an “Eat the Rude” dinner attended by all the guests and many of the fans, which included a five-course HANNIBAL-themed meal. It was delicious!
I have never encountered a more generous group of fans than the Fannibals. Many of the Fannibals made gifts for the other fans, including jewelry and stickers. One Fannibal even had goodie bags with fun-sized candy bars. Fans came from not only Canada and the United States, but as far away as Japan, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
There were Fannibals dressed as various characters from the show, and nearly everyone sported their own version of the famous Fannibal Flower Crown. There was an Artists’ Alley, to which fans brought some of their incredible Fannibal artwork and crafts.
A Fannibal known as “Apoptoses,” in addition to cosplaying as various versions of Margot Verger throughout the weekend, also made flower crowns for each guest, customized to their character or function on the show. Demore Barnes’ crown, for example, featured a tiny cello and actual violin strings!
At the end of Sunday, we were all exhausted but happy. It was a thrill and an honor to see all of my fellow Fannibals hanging out, sharing their stories and their love of this series that has so positively impacted our lives. I loved that I was in a crowd of folks who would get a reference like “we are cheese folk” without hesitation. The staff and volunteers who organized Fannibal Fest set the tone for a fantastic and delightful weekend. I owe them my eternal gratitude.
Here’s looking forward to the next Fannibal Fest!