Generations of girls worldwide will recognise the white face and bright bow of Hello Kitty. Japanese designer Yuko Shimizu was heavily influenced by Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass and she now works with the Sanrio company, creating other characters such as, Chococat, Deary Lou and Monkichi. Yuko Shimizu created this cute little bobtail cat in the 1970’s.
Hello Kitty (originally named Hi Kitty) first appeared on a bright vinyl coin purse in 1974. She was central to a full bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl. The craze had begun and appeared in America and the United Kingdom simply two years later.
Hello Kitty began as a simple fashion accessory, which children, teenagers and even adults take on board. The franchise is known in some Japanese centred cultures as kawaii (literally meaning adorable and cute).
The Hello Kitty phenomenon has grown even further – today there’s been a multitude of merchandising such as:
- television shows
- video games and consoles
- jewellery and clothing
- stationary and toys.
The merchandising has grown even wilder, including:
- musical instruments (namely the Stratocaster guitar)
- debit cards
- maternity hospitals
- and wine for the older customers.
The television show Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theatre reveals more of Hello Kitty’s ever growing personality. Voiced by Tara Strong (famous for The Powerpuff Girls, Rugrats and Scooby Doo), she’s known as Kitty White, the eldest daughter of the White family.
Born on November 1st in London, Kitty lives with her family; forgetful Papa George, housewife Mama Mary and twin sister, Mimmy (her hair-bow is on the opposite to Kitty). Kitty stands at five apples in height, and weighs three apples. She enjoys baking cookies and eating her mother’s homemade apple pie. She likes to collect cute things, such as butterflies and her favourite lessons at school are English, music and art.
Her grandparents are Grandpa Anthony (a real storyteller) and Grandma Margaret (who’s deft with a needle and thread). One of her best friends is Dear Daniel (also known as Daniel Starr) and he bought her a pet hamster named Sugar. She also has a Persian cat called Charmmy.
Kitty does not have a mouth, and Shimizu claims that she does not need one – she speaks from the heart, standing for the projection of feelings, unity and friendship.
UNICEF even awarded Hello Kitty an exclusive title – the UNICEF Special Friend of Children.
Hello Kitty also has connections to the traditional ‘beckoning cat’ of Japan, also known as the Maneki Neko, which is said to bring good fortune, health, and protection for the home and family.
Some people don’t appreciate the upsurge in Hello Kitty. Dick Brunna, the creator of Miffy the rabbit, claims that the popular cat is just his character but as a different animal. He says that people should create their own characters, and not steal from others.
Even with critics complaints, this didn’t stop Hello Kitty being made the ambassador of Japanese Tourism in China and Hong Kong. Sadly though, sociology majors at Japan’s leading university believed that she was a ‘dumb downed cultural icon’.
Her popularity waned and still has not fully recovered from being beaten on the 2002 Character Databank popularity Chart. As of 2010, she was third place behind Anpanman, and Pokémon’s, Pikachu.