Hello Kitty (Japanese: ハロー・キティ, Hepburn: Harō Kiti), also known by her full name Kitty White (キティ・ホワイト, Kiti Howaito), is a fictional character produced by the Japanese company Sanrio, created by Yuko Shimizu and currently designed by Yuko Yamaguchi. Sanrio depicts Hello Kitty as a young female gijinka (anthropomorphization) of Japanese Bobtail with a red bow and, notably, no mouth. According to her backstory, she is a perpetual 3rd-grade student who lives outside of London. Kitty and her twin sister, Mimi, have their birthday on November 1, 1974. Since the cartoon character's creation, Hello Kitty has become a media franchise including a product line, clothing apparel, toy-line, manga comics, anime series, popular music, games, and other media.
|First appearance||November 1, 1974|
|Created by||Yuko Shimizu|
Fuyumi Shiraishi (Kitty and Mimi's New Umbrella)
Mami Koyama (Hello Kitty's Cinderella)
Akemi Okamura (Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater)
Megumi Hayashibara (Sanrio Word of Animation, Hello Kitty's Paradise, Various Sanrio Puroland Shows)
Tara Strong (Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater)
Karen Bernstein (Daisuki! Hello Kitty)
Monica Rial (Hello Kitty's Animation Theater)
Melissa Fahn (Hello Kitty's Paradise)
Shannon Settlemyre (Growing Up With Hello Kitty)
Juliet Simmons (Hello Kitty and Friends - Let's Learn Together)
Julia Sales (The World of Hello Kitty)
|Full name||Kitty White|
|Species||Gijinka (anthropomorphization of Japanese Bobtail)|
|Family||Mimi (twin sister) |
Charmmy Kitty (pet cat)
Dia Dear Daniel (childhood friend)
My Melody (Best friend)
Shortly after her creation in 1974, the Hello Kitty vinyl coin purse was introduced by Sanrio on March 5, 1975. Sanrio brought the character to the United States in 1976. Hello Kitty is a staple of the kawaii segment of Japanese popular culture. By 2010, Sanrio had groomed Hello Kitty into a global marketing phenomenon, worth US$6 billion a year. By 2014, when Hello Kitty was 40 years old, she was worth about $8 billion a year. As of 2019, Hello Kitty is the second highest-grossing media franchise of all time (behind Pokémon), having generated $80 billion in lifetime retail sales.
First aimed at pre-teenage girls, Hello Kitty's market included adolescent and adult consumers. A variety of products ranging from school supplies to fashion accessories feature this character. Several Hello Kitty TV series, targeted towards children, have been produced, as well as several manga comics and anime films. There are Sanrio theme parks based on Hello Kitty: Harmonyland in Hiji, Ōita, Japan, Sanrio Puroland in Tama New Town, Tokyo, Japan, and a former one, Sanrio Hello Kitty Town in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, Malaysia.
In 1962, Shintaro Tsuji, founder of Sanrio, began selling rubber sandals with flowers painted on them. Tsuji noted the profits gained by adding a cute design to the shoes and hired cartoonists to design cute characters for his merchandise. The company produced a line of character merchandise around gift-giving occasions. Hello Kitty was designed by Yuko Shimizu and was added to the lineup of early Sanrio characters in 1974. The character's first appearance on an item was a vinyl coin purse in Japan where she was pictured sitting between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl. She first appeared in the United States in 1976.
Sanrio decided to make Hello Kitty British because at the time of her creation foreign countries, in particular, Britain, were trendy in Japan. Sanrio already had several characters set in the US, and it wanted Hello Kitty to be different. Shimizu got the name Kitty from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass; during a scene early in the book, Alice plays with a cat she calls Kitty. Sanrio's motto is "social communication," and Tsuji wanted the brand name to reflect that. He first considered "Hi Kitty" before settling on "Hello" for the greeting.
Spokespeople for Sanrio have said that Hello Kitty has no mouth, as they want people to "project their feelings onto the character" and "be happy or sad together with Hello Kitty." Another explanation Sanrio has given for her lack of a mouth is that she "speaks from the heart. She's Sanrio's ambassador to the world and isn't bound to any particular language". Representatives for Sanrio have said they see Hello Kitty as a symbol of friendship, and they hope she will foster between people across the world. There has been speculation that Hello Kitty has its origins in Maneki Neko—the name "Hello Kitty" itself is a back-translation of Maneki Neko, meaning beckoning cat in English. Despite this, no definitive statement supports that speculation.
Hello Kitty sold well immediately after the 1974 launch, and Sanrio's sales increased seven times up until they slumped temporarily in 1978. New series with Hello Kitty in different themed designs are released regularly, following current trends. Yuko Yamaguchi, the main designer for most of Hello Kitty's history, has said that fashion, movies, and TV inspire her in creating new designs.
Hello Kitty was originally marketed only towards a child and preteen audience. In the 1990s, the target market for Hello Kitty was broadened to include teens and adults as a retro brand. Marketed to those who could not get Hello Kitty merchandise as children, or who fondly remember items they had, Sanrio began selling Hello Kitty branded products such as purses and laptops. The 1994–1996 Face series was the first to be designed for a more mature appeal.
According to Sanrio, in 1999, Hello Kitty appeared on 12,000 different products yearly. By 2008, Hello Kitty was responsible for half of Sanrio's $1 billion net income, and there were over 50,000 different Hello Kitty branded products in more than 60 countries. Beginning in 2007, following trends in Japan, Sanrio began using darker designs for Hello Kitty with more black and less pink and pulling away from kawaii styles.
On January 1, 2020, the Sanrio Hello Kitty Town in Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia permanently closed down due to lack of attendance. On February 21, 2020, the Sanrio Puroland theme in Tokyo closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Park officials hoped to have it reopened early April 2020. The theme park also goes by the name Hello Kitty Land. In June 2020, the parent company of Hello Kitty, Sanrio issued a statement that its founder, Shintaro Tsuji will retire as Sanrio chief executive on July 1, and his grandson, Tomokuni Tsuji, 31, would take over to "ensure efficient decision making,".
Originally aimed at the pre-adolescent female market, the Hello Kitty product range has expanded from dolls, stickers, greeting cards, clothes, accessories, school supplies and stationery to purses, toasters, televisions, other home appliances, massagers, and computer equipment. These products range from mass market items to high-end consumer products and rare collectibles. As of 2014[update] more than 50,000 Hello Kitty product lines were available in over 130 countries.
Sanrio and various corporate partners have released Hello Kitty-branded products, including the Hello Kitty Stratocaster electric guitar (since 2006, with Fender in the US) and an Airbus A330-200 commercial passenger jet airliner, dubbed the Hello Kitty Jet (2005–2009, with EVA Airways in Taiwan). In late 2011 and early 2012, EVA Air revived their "Hello Kitty Jets" with their three new A330-300s. However, due to high demand, the airline added two more onto their existing A330-200s in mid-2012. A year after, EVA Air introduced another Hello Kitty Jet onto one of their 777-300ERs, which featured other Sanrio characters as well as Hello Kitty.
In Spring 2005, Simmons Jewelry Co. and Sanrio announced a partnership. "Kimora Lee Simmons for Hello Kitty" was launched exclusively at Neiman Marcus, with prices ranging from $300 to $5000. Designed by Kimora Lee Simmons and launched as the first series of collections, the jewelry is all hand-made, consisting of diamonds, gemstones, semi-precious stones, 18K gold, sterling silver, enamel, and ceramic.
In Fall 2008, Simmons Jewelry Co. and Sanrio introduced a collection of fine jewelry and watches named "Hello Kitty® by Simmons Jewelry Co." The collection launched with Zales Corporation to further expand the reach of the brand, and it developed accessories to satisfy every Hello Kitty fan. The designs incorporate colorful gemstones and sterling silver to attract a youthful audience.
There is a themed restaurant named Hello Kitty Sweets in Taipei, Taiwan, which opened in 2008. The restaurant's decor and many of its dishes are patterned after the Hello Kitty character. A Hello Kitty Diner opened in the Chatswood area of Sydney, Australia, and a Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant opened in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Hello Kitty cafés have opened around the world, including in Seoul and other locations in South Korea, Bangkok, Thailand, Adelaide, Australia, Irvine, California, US and the Santa Anita Mall in California.
In 2008, a Hello Kitty-themed maternity hospital opened in Yuanlin, Taiwan. Hello Kitty is featured on the receiving blankets, room decor, bed linens, birth certificate covers, and nurses' uniforms. The hospital's owner explained that he hoped that the theme would help ease the stress of childbirth.
Hello Kitty is included as part of the Sanrio livery at the Japanese theme parks Harmonyland and Sanrio Puroland.
In January 2018, Puma collaborated with Hello Kitty to create the new Puma X Hello Kitty For All Time collection, which features the company's signature sneakers for both children and adults.
Fender Musical Instruments Inc. partnered with Hello Kitty to create the Hello Kitty Stratocaster under its squire sun-brand. While initially aimed at pre-teen girls, the Hello Kitty Stratocaster has proven its worth in the hands of guitarists including Zakk Wylde, John5, and Slash. The guitar's cult following has caused prices to rise, with second hand guitars going for over £660 in 2020.
There have been several different Hello Kitty TV series. The first animated television series was Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater, an anime series that was 13 episodes long and aired in 1987. The next, an OVA titled Hello Kitty and Friends, came out in 1993 and was also 13 episodes long. Hello Kitty's Paradise came out in 1999 and was 16 episodes long. Hello Kitty's Stump Village came out in 2005, and The Adventures of Hello Kitty & Friends came out in 2006 and has aired 52 episodes. A crossover series under the name Kiss Hello Kitty (that paired animated versions of the members of the rock band KISS with Hello Kitty) was announced in March 2013. Produced by Gene Simmons, this show was supposed to air on The Hub Network (now Discovery Family), but it never came to fruition.
Hello Kitty's Paradise was a long-running live-action children's program that aired on TXN from January 1999 to March 2011. It was the longest-running weekly kids' television program in the network's history. In January 2011, the show's creators mutually agreed to end the series after twelve seasons, with the final episode being broadcast on 29 March 2011.
In March 2016, Sanrio launched a webcomic featuring Hello Kitty as a strawberry-themed superhero called "Ichigoman" (ichigo meaning strawberry), who fights monsters with the help of her giant robot. The webcomic is created by Toshiki Inoue and Shakua Sinkai and updates once a month. The Ichigoman alter-ego originates from a 2011 exhibition of Yuko Yamaguchi's artwork.
Hello Kitty has her own branded album, Hello World, featuring Hello Kitty-inspired songs performed by a collection of artists, including Keke Palmer, Cori Yarckin, and Ainjel Emme under Hello Kitty's record label: Lakeshore Records. Hello Kitty was also chosen by AH-Software to be the basis of the new Vocaloid Nekomura Iroha (猫村いろは, Nekomura Iroha) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sanrio.
Musician Yoshiki unveiled the Hello Kitty theme song "Hello Hello" in November 2014 at the first Hello Kitty Con. Yoshiki, who was the first celebrity to have his own Hello Kitty doll, "Yoshikitty", was approached by Yamaguchi to compose the song seven years prior. Yoshiki dedicated the anthem to Tsuji Kunihiko, the son of Sanrio founder Shintaro Kunihiko.
There are numerous Hello Kitty games starting with the release of the first title for Famicom in 1992; however, the majority of these games never released outside Japan. Hello Kitty also has made cameo appearances in games featuring other Sanrio characters, such as the Keroppi game, Kero Kero Keroppi no Bōken Nikki: Nemureru Mori no Keroleen. Special-edition consoles such as the Hello Kitty Dreamcast, Hello Kitty Game Boy Pocket, and Hello Kitty Crystal Xbox have also been released exclusively in Japan.
Hello Kitty also appeared as a guest character in Sega's Sonic Dash in 2016, as part of Sega's partnership with Sanrio. Hello Kitty (as well as My Melody, another Sanrio character) also appeared in Super Mario Maker as unlockable Mystery Mushroom costumes.
Partial list of Hello Kitty video games
- Hello Kitty no Hanabatake (1992, Famicom): a platformer
- Hello Kitty World (1992, Famicom): a Famicom port of Balloon Kid co-developed by Nintendo and Character Soft.
- Hello Kitty's Big Fun Piano (1994, PC): a piano simulation
- Hello Kitty's Cube Frenzy (1998, Game Boy Color, PlayStation): a life simulation/minigame collection
- DDR Hello Kitty (1999, Bemani Pocket): a handheld Hello Kitty game in the Dance Dance Revolution series
- The Hello Kitty Simple 1500 series (PlayStation): a series of specifically low-priced games
- Gotouchi Hello Kitty Sugoroku Monogatari (2003, PlayStation): a sugoroku-based game
- Hello Kitty: Happy Party Pals (2005, Game Boy Advance): an action/adventure game
- Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue (2005, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2): an action/adventure game
- Mainichi Suteki! Hello Kitty no Life Kit (2007, Nintendo DS): a puzzle game
- The Hello Kitty Simple 2000 series (2007, PlayStation 2): a series of specifically low-priced games
- Hello Kitty: Big City Dreams (2008, Nintendo DS): an adventure game published by Empire Interactive developed by Sanrio Digital. In the game, Hello Kitty moves to the Big City where she meets other Sanrio characters and makes new friends.
- Hello Kitty Daily (2008, Nintendo DS): a PDA application featuring a diary, calendar, alarm clock, money managing system and school planner
- Hello Kitty Online (2009, PC): an online MMORPG developed by Sanrio Digital and Typhoon Games. The game allows players to create and customize characters, then use them to battle monsters, socialize with one another, mine for ore, do domestic chores like farming or cooking, and participate in quests.
- Hello Kitty Parachute Paradise (2009, iPhone/iPod Touch): an iPhone game with tilt-based controls
- Apron of Magic (2010, Arcade): An Arcade Card Game developed by Examu to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Sanrio. The game features Hello Kitty and other notable Sanrio Characters.
- Hello Kitty Seasons (2010, Wii): A game in which the playable character is appointed as Deputy Mayor to help Sanrio Town.
- Hello Kitty Kruisers (2014, iOS, Wii U, Nintendo Switch): A kart racing game featuring Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters
Three Hello Kitty anime films were released in Japan. Hello Kitty: Cinderella released in 1987, Hello Kitty no Oyayubi Hime released in 1990 and Hello Kitty no Mahō no Mori no Ohime-sama released in 1991.
On 3 July 2015, Sanrio announced a full-length Hello Kitty theatrical feature initially planned for 2019. In early 2019, it was revealed that New Line Cinema will be teaming up alongside Sanrio and Flynn Picture Company for an “English language film based on the venerable kid brand.”
The Hello Kitty brand rose to greater prominence internationally during the late 1990s. At that time, several celebrities, such as Mariah Carey, had adopted Hello Kitty as a fashion statement. Newer products featuring the character can be found in a large variety of American department stores.
In May 2008, Japan named Hello Kitty the ambassador of Japanese tourism in both China and Hong Kong (where the character is exceptionally popular among children and young women), marking it the first time Japan's tourism ministry had appointed a fictional character to the role. Dr. Sharon Kinsella, a lecturer at Oxford University on Japanese sociology, called the selection of Hello Kitty "a bit farcical"; "as if a dumbed-down cultural icon ... can somehow do something significant to alter the gnarly and difficult state of China-Japan relations."
UNICEF has also awarded Hello Kitty the exclusive title of UNICEF Special Friend of Children.
Hello Kitty's popularity in Japan peaked in the late 1990s when she was the country's top-grossing character. In 2002, Hello Kitty lost her place as the top-grossing character in Japan in the Character Databank popularity chart. In a 2010 survey, she was in third place behind Anpanman and Pikachu from Pokémon. In 2010, The New York Times attributed the character's relative decline in Japan to her biography not being "compelling enough to draw many fans." The newspaper later wrote that analysts called the characterization "weak", and that Hello Kitty not having a mouth has dampened her success as an animated TV character. Hello Kitty has nevertheless remained one of the top three highest-grossing characters in Japan as of 2013. Overseas, her global popularity has increased over the years, with worldwide annual sales reaching $8 billion in 2013. She has been particularly popular in other Asian countries for decades, such as in China, where her cultural impact is comparable to that of Barbie in the Western world.
In July 2008, the Dutch artist Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy, alleged that Hello Kitty is a copy of Miffy (in Dutch: Nijntje), being rendered in a similar style. He stated disapprovingly in an interview for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph:
- 'That,' he says darkly, 'is a copy [of Miffy], I think. I don't like that at all. I always think, "No, don't do that. Try to make something that you think of yourself".'
Mercis, the firm that managed copyrights for Bruna, took Sanrio to court over their Hello Kitty-associated character Cathy, a rabbit which made her first appearance in 1976 and which Mercis argued infringed the copyright for Miffy. A court in Amsterdam ruled in favour of Mercis in November 2010 and ordered Sanrio to stop the production and sale of merchandise featuring Cathy in the Benelux countries. However, in June 2011, the two companies announced that they had reached a settlement agreement to end their legal dispute. Sanrio stopped using the Cathy character, and the two firms jointly donating €150,000 for reconstruction after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
In 1994, artist Tom Sachs was invited to create a scene for Barneys New York Christmas displays and titled it Hello Kitty Nativity. For this scene, the Virgin Mary was replaced by Madonna with an open Chanel bra, the three Kings were all Bart Simpson, the stable was marked by a McDonald's logo, and the Christ Child was replaced by Hello Kitty. This contemporary revision of the nativity scene received mostly great attention, and demonstrated Sachs' interest in the phenomena of consumerism, branding, and the cultural fetishization of products.
In 2009, Tom Sachs' Bronze Collection was shown at the Public art space in Manhattan's Lever House, as well as in the Baldwin Gallery in Aspen, Colorado, and the Trocadéro in Paris. The collection featured white bronze casts of a foam core Hello Kitty sculpture – a style distinctive to the artist. As of April 2010, the Wind-Up Hello Kitty sculpture is still on display at Lever House. Although Sachs did not seek permission to use the character in his work, a brand marketing manager for Sanrio was quoted as saying "You know, there was Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol, and then Michael Jackson and Jeff Koons. When you're an icon, that's what happens."
In 2015, a 9-foot tall pearlescent Hello Kitty sculpture by artist Sebastian Masuda, was exhibited at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York City, as part of the Japan Society's exhibition: Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection.
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