By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
Whether you’re a fan of Hello Kitty or not, there’s no denying that the cute little cartoon feline is one of the most widely recognized furballs on Earth. Way before the bowtie-wearing fuzzball became a $7 billion a year business, designer Yuko Shimizu was just trying to make something adorable for kindergartners back in 1974. As Hello Kitty turns 40, she’s definitely come a long way since she first appeared on a little vinyl coin purse (in between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl)!
Sanrio, the Japanese company that launched Hello Kitty into stardom, first added her to their lineup of characters in 1974. See, Sanrio specializes in the kawaii (cute) segment of Japanese pop culture, which is all about super sweet, melt-your-heart themes in clothing, food, toys, and even human behavior.
After Sanrio unleashed Helly Kitty on the world, sales shot up, and by 2008 half of Sanrio’s money was coming from the meow-nificent products adorned with the Japanese bobtail cat. What you may not know, though, is her creator actually says that Hello Kitty is supposed to be a little girl who just happens to look cat-like. Whoa!
What’s also wild is that Hello Kitty rakes in megabucks without any advertising. Even adults seem to like her, despite the fact she was originally meant for pre-teens.
Why are people so crazy for kitty? Well, designer Shimizu was very crafty, and made sure to not give Hello Kitty a mouth. That way, people could project their own feelings (whether happy or sad) onto the illustrated character, and bond more easily.
Sanrio’s public relations manager, Kazuo Tohmatsu, summed it up best. “Hello Kitty represents the deep desire among all people, regardless of nationality or race, to feel joy and happiness, without having to qualify it at any deep intellectual level,” said Tohmatsu. “Hello Kitty doesn’t judge. She let’s you feel how you feel without forcing you to question why.”
Images courtesy of Sanrio.