Hello Kitty (Japanese: ハロー・キティ Hepburn: Harō Kiti) (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. She is depicted as a female anthropomorphic white Japanese Bobtail cat with a red bow and, notably, no mouth.
Shortly after her creation in 1974, the Hello Kitty vinyl coin purse was introduced by Sanrio in March 1975. The character was then brought to the United States in 1976. The character is a staple of the kawaii segment of Japanese popular culture. By 2010, Sanrio had groomed Hello Kitty into a global marketing phenomenon worth $5 billion a year. By 2014, when Hello Kitty was 40 years old, she was worth about $7 billion a year, all without advertising except on Sanrio's, related show producers', and ticket sales' webpages and at show venues and nearby locations.
Originally aimed at pre adolescent females, Hello Kitty's market has broadened to include adult consumers, being found on a variety of products ranging from school supplies to fashion accessories. Several Hello Kitty TV series, targeted towards children, have been produced. There have been two Sanrio theme parks based on Hello Kitty, Harmonyland and Sanrio Puroland.
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 sandals 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 when she was created, foreign countries, in particular Britain, were trendy in Japan. In addition, Sanrio already had a number of characters set in the US and they wanted Hello Kitty to be different. Shimizu got the name Kitty from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, where in 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 does not have a mouth because 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 encourage friendship between people across the world. While there has been some speculation that Hello Kitty has its origins in Maneki Neko, and that the name Hello Kitty itself is a back-translation of Maneki Neko, which means beckoning cat in English (others disagree).
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 she is inspired by fashion, movies and TV 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 revenue 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.
Hello Kitty and Mimmy celebrated their 40th Anniversary on 1 November, 2014. The "Arigato Everyone Birthday Celebration" took place in Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo for several days.
Originally aimed at the pre-adolescent female market, the Hello Kitty product range has expanded and goes all the way 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.
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 3 new A330-300s. However, due to high demand, the airline added 2 more onto their existing A330-200s in mid-2012. A year after, EVA Air added another Hello Kitty Jet onto one of their 777-300ERs, which not only featured Hello Kitty characters, but other Sanrio characters on that aircraft as well.
2009 marked the collaboration between apparel and accessory Kitty entered the wine market with collection made up of four wines available for purchase online, continuing an expansion of products targeted at older audiences.
In Spring 2005, Simmons Jewelry Co. and Sanrio announced a partnership. "Kimora Lee Simmons for Hello Kitty" was launched exclusively at Neiman Marcus prices ranging from $300 to $5000 Designed by Kimora Lee Simmons and launched as the initial collection. The jewelery 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 debuted 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.
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.
There have been several different Hello Kitty TV series. The first animated television series was Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater which 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 with the development name Kiss Hello Kitty and pairing animated versions of the members of the rock band KISS with Hello Kitty was announced in March 2013, produced by Gene Simmons and planned to air on The Hub Network (now Discovery Family), but it never aired on any network.
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. 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, the "Yoshikitty" in 2009, was approached by Yamaguchi to compose the song seven years prior.
Numerous Hello Kitty games have been produced since the release of the first title for Famicom in 1992; however, the majority of these games were 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, and yet also appeared in Super Mario Maker as a Mystery Mushroom costume that can be unlocked by playing the event course "Hello Kitty & My Melody".
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 Seasons: A game in which the playable character is appointed as Deputy Mayor to help Sanrio Town.
- 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 Kruisers (2014, iOS, Wii U): A kart racing game featuring Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters
On 3 July 2015, Sanrio announced a full-length Hello Kitty theatrical feature for 2019.
The Hello Kitty brand rose to greater prominence 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.
The Dutch artist Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy, has suggested that Hello Kitty is a copy of Miffy (in Dutch: Nijntje), being rendered in a similar style, stating 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 of the following year the two companies announced that they had reached a settlement agreement to end their legal dispute, resulting in Sanrio ceasing to use the Cathy character and the two firms jointly donating €150,000 for reconstruction after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
In May 2008, Japan named Hello Kitty the ambassador of Japanese tourism in both China and Hong Kong, which are two places where the character is exceptionally popular among children and young women. This marked 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."
Hello Kitty's popularity began waning in Japan before the year 2000. In 2002, Hello Kitty lost her place as the top-grossing character in Japan in the Character Databank popularity chart and has never recovered. In a 2010 survey, she was in third place behind Anpanman and Pikachu from Pokémon. In 2010, The New York Times described Hello Kitty's characterization as "not compelling enough to draw many fans" and wrote that analysts called the characterization "weak." They also said that Hello Kitty not having a mouth has dampened her success as an animated TV character.
As of August 2007, Thai police officers who have committed minor transgressions such as showing up late or parking in the wrong place are forced to wear pink Hello Kitty armbands for several days as penance.
During the financial crisis of 2007–2010, Senator Byron Dorgan used the Hello Kitty Debit MasterCard as an example of methods used by credit companies to market to children 10 to 14 years of age. It was criticised for its promotional website encouraging users to "shop 'til you drop."
In 2009, artist 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 a large white bronze casts of a foamcore 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 ask for 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."