It’s impossible to forget your first introduction to the Sanrio character canon.
Maybe you’ve been a Hello Kitty superfan since day one or were immediately drawn to the spiky-haired Badtz-Maru. For me, my first encounter with the crew — specifically the little frog, Keroppi — occurred when I was visiting an FAO Schwarz in middle school. I found a small set of racks near the cash registers where colorful illustrations of animals were printed on school supplies like pencils and notebooks. I picked up a small jar of tiny bright green, frog-shaped erasers and knew I wasn’t leaving the store without them. Fad-conscious then and now, I had a feeling this motley crew was going to be big. Like so many successful character icons before them, they were immediately appealing and endearing, with one other major selling ingredient. They were cute.
Much like the coveted “wow!” factor that encompasses anything of great design, then and now these characters had the “aww!” factor going for them. At Sanrio, the foundation for everything from retail store creation to the aforementioned school supplies is rooted in the philosophy “small gift, big smile!” For over 40 years, these icons and their gifts have been putting smiles on our faces — let’s get to know some of them better.
Arguably the most recognizable Sanrio character, Hello Kitty (actual name: Kitty White) was designed in the 1970s. She rose to pop culture prominence as a global icon in the late 1990s to early 2000s, starring in ad campaigns for Target and jewelry collaborations with designer Tarina Tarantino. Celebs like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are constantly spotted rocking HK accessories and billions of her impressions appear annually in the media.
Despite her popularity, Hello Kitty remains modest and down to earth. When she’s not spending time with her family or friends in the London suburbs, her hobbies include baking cookies and playing the piano, in the hopes of one day becoming a pianist or poet. And while the biggest Hello Kitty bombshell in recent memory was the “is/isn’t she actually a cat?” debate, we prefer sharing the bit of trivia that Hello Kitty is as tall as five apples and as heavy as three.
On the edge of Donut Pond lives Keroppi, whom I referenced in the opener as the first Sanrio character I became acquainted with. Born in the 1980s, Keroppi has an extensive family tree and loves to play baseball and boomerangs with his friends. A few of his closest buds include Den Den the snail and Teruteru, a little girl rain charm that can predict the weather.
As tall as four cups of his favorite banana ice cream and weighing as much as three carrots from the Fuwafuwa Town carrot patch, Pochacco is a curious, chubby pup. Born in 1989, Pochacco and Hello Kitty share the similar design characteristic that they were created without mouths, but Pochacco also has a serious athletic streak. Dressed in apparel showing that he’s ready to play ball, he can usually be found dribbling a ball on a basketball court or acting as goalie on the soccer field.
Little is known about the 1990 origins of Pekkle, a kind-hearted duck that wears a t-shirt with the letter “P” on it. While he learns how to swim (with lessons provided by fish friend Pitchi) and dreams of flying, Pekkle has proven to be talented at tap-dancing, singing, and dancing in all forms to all rhythms and beats.
A ‘90s creation through and through, with his spiky hair a laBart Simpson and a tendency to be caught rolling his eyes, Badtz-Maru is a mischievous penguin. A resident of Gorgeoustown, Badtz-Maru has big dreams of greatness for the future many of which have already played out on pieces of Sanrio merchandise in our world. Badtz-Maru has dabbled in everything from being a DJ to a guitarist and heading to space as an astronaut. In 2006, he even joined the 2006 FIBA World Championship of basketball as their official mascot.