It’s important to know about Sanrio before diving into the story behind Hello Kitty, as it's the company behind the cute character. This company originally began as a silk-producing company in Japan. It quickly expanded and began selling rubber sandals adorned with its first official character, "Strawberry." The quick success of these products spurred the company to hire cartoonists to create kawaii (cute) characters for Sanrio. After expanding into other areas, such as greeting cards, Sanrio began selling more products, including the first purse featuring Hello Kitty. Thus, began the character-based products and the quick popularity of the cat-inspired character.
Who Is Hello Kitty? The Hello Kitty Story
Hello Kitty’s first appearance was a clear plastic purse in 1975. On the purse, Hello Kitty was depicted as a character with a larger head. The word "Hello" was noted underneath Hello Kitty. She was also shown with a fish bowl and a milk bottle. She was created by the illustrator Yuko Shimizu a year prior. This character was initially known as Kitty White. Her official birthday is November 1, 1974 (a date created by Shimizu), making her 48 years old. At the time, British culture and imported goods were very popular. So, Hello Kitty was created as a character who lives in London.
Who Is Yuko Shimizu?
Yuko is one of the initial cartoonists that Sanrio hired to help create adorable cartoons and characters for their projects. She was inspired by anime and manga in her youth and had a passion for the arts from a young age. However, due to unsupportive parents, she turned to advertising instead. Thus, gaining the opportunity to create for Sanrio and expanding the Hello Kitty franchise.
Debunking the Myths of Hello Kitty
Many believe the Hello Kitty story has dark origins tied to an urban legend that she was created due to a deal with the devil. However, as noted above, the story behind Hello Kitty is much less sinister. Many other myths revolve around the character, including that she's actually a cat. However, Sanrio cleared the air by announcing that Hello Kitty is anything but a cat. They'd prefer fans to know that Hello Kitty is a little girl, a cartoon character, or even a friend.
As mentioned, Hello Kitty lives outside of London and is British. She has a whole backstory that many people are not aware of. For example, she is a huge apple pie fan and a third-grader.
When Did Hello Kitty Start Becoming Popular?
This cartoon character's popularity rose quickly after she was introduced in the US in 1976. In the 80s, Hello Kitty was beloved in Japan and the US. The below milestones and products helped further the reach and fan base of Hello Kitty.
The original clear coin purse is what started the obsession with Hello Kitty. This coin purse was the perfect amount of cute for Japanese kawaii culture.
In 1976, Sanrio also began broadening its products by signing deals to include the Hello Kitty brand on various items, such as credit cards and toys. These toys were launched at McDonald's inside Happy Meals.
In the late 1980s, the show "Hello Kitty and Friends" launched. It is a show composed of animations depicting Hello Kitty and a full list of Sanrio characters having adventures. These Japanese animations were eventually dubbed in English, then shown on TV in the US and Canada.
In the 1990s, Sanrio released products for adults, such as purses. Celebrities, including Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga, quickly adopted these items. The celebrity interest pushed Hello Kitty into even more popularity.
Hello Kitty has amassed impressive profits since the character's launch, with more than $80 billion in earnings. This popularity has led to the creation of other Sanrio characters, including Charmmy Kitty and Dear Daniel. Super fans are always eager for the next collab of their favorite character to grow their Hello Kitty merchandise collection.
The Best Hello Kitty Treats
To celebrate Hello Kitty at home, you can enjoy some kitty-themed items from Bokksu! Bokksu has an entire box dedicated to cats, from an adorable cat-decorated glass to kitty-shaped sweets and treats. The Premium Cat Lover’s Box is also great for friends who love their felines. If you want to create your own box with snacks and goodies, you can purchase some items in the Cat Lover's Box separately, like the Premium Cat Glass.