A Hello Kitty movie is now in the works at New Line Cinema. Created by Yuko Shimizu for Sanrio Co. Ltd in 1974, the cartoon cat character has since become a globally recognized symbol of innocence and friendship. Though Sanrio have insisted over the years that Hello Kitty is not, in fact, a cat, everything about the character - aside from its wardrobe, red bow and mouth-less face - indicates otherwise.
Hello Kitty made its first American appearance as a coin purse in 1976, and has since gone on to become the second highest-grossing media franchise of all time, behind Pokémon. Described by Sanrio as a British third grade student living outside of London, the cutesy cartoon character has brought in a whopping $80 billion to date. Though merchandise continues to make up the majority of this tally, things may now start to change, as Sanrio appears to be adding a new chapter to the character’s extensive 45-year career with an overdue trip to Hollywood.
According to Deadline, New Line Cinema is now in the process of getting an official, English language Hello Kitty film off the ground after completing a deal with Sanrio. The film will be a first for the character, as no major studio outside Japan has ever been granted the rights to either Hello Kitty or the host of Sanrio characters, including Little Twin Stars, Gudetama and My Melody. At present there's no information regarding the film’s cast, title or even whether it will be animated or live-action.
With the global popularity of Pokémon, the idea that a wildly popular Japanese franchise can find success as an English film franchise is about to be tested with the upcoming arrival of Detective Pikachu. That film marks a potential turning point for a Japanese character in an English-speaking nation, something that Sanrio and New Line are undoubtedly eager to do with Hello Kitty. For many, the idea that an English language Hello Kitty film could be a hit is a given, and a trip to any mall or market is likely to serve as a reminder to anyone else of just how popular the character already is outside of Japan. Exactly how Hello Kitty and her extensive array of friends will be portrayed, however, is a big question. Despite being a Japanese creation, Hello Kitty is intended to be British, which begs the question as to whether or not New Line’s incarnation will be voiced by a British actress.
Whatever choices are made with regard to the future of this film, it certainly has been a long time coming. One of the key elements to the character’s success to date is its cute, friendly demeanor as well as its instant accessibility to fans, whether they're young or old, Japanese or not. That kind of character, when given the right ingredients, has every chance to raise itself to blockbuster status. What’s more, Hello Kitty’s fanbase is already built-in, meaning the film stands an even greater chance of finding success. Time will tell, of course, but even in these early stages, the prospects for Hello Kitty’s first big trip to America are looking good.