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15 Totally Adorable Sanrio Facts!

There's so much more to Sanrio than Hello Kitty! Join us for some fun facts - the interesting, the kawaii, and the just plain weird!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  July 9th 2024

If you love cute, there's no way you don't know Sanrio! The Japanese company is responsible for some of the cutest characters ever created - Hello Kitty's the most famous, but there are so many more! There's My Melody the bunny, Cinnamoroll the dog who can fly, Retsuko the red panda with a passion for death metal, Gudetama the listless egg... and so many more! These fun facts will take you inside the company for an exclusive VIP tour - you're bound to learn something new! And when you're done, you'll be ready for our Sanrio trivia quiz - or maybe you'd rather find out which Sanrio character you are, or see if you can recognise and name the characters!

1. It's older than you might think

Sanrio was established in 1960, making it more than 60 years old! It was founded by Shintaro Tsuji, who came from a wealthy family. His mother managed three ryokan (traditional Japanese hotels). After the Second World War he had some success making black-market goods to make up for postwar shortages - and this helped him become a successful businessman!

2. They didn't start out with cute characters

The company was originally established as the Yamanashi Silk Company, a company that (you guessed it) produced silk. They later expanded to making rubber sandals with flowers printed on them. Tsuji noticed that adding a cute design made the sandals way more popular with customers.

3. They didn't always have original characters

Snoopy In Space | WildBrain Studios, Peanuts Worldwide, Schulz Studio | Apple TV+

In the late 1960s, Sanrio began to make products featuring Snoopy, everyone's favourite adorable dog! They acquired the Japanese rights to the American comic strip Peanuts, which means they can legally create and sell merchandise featuring the Peanuts characters. Snoopy was especially popular because he's so cute!

4. Sanrio has a meaning!

The Yamanashi Company renamed itself in 1973, after it shifted away from making silk and sandals. Tsuji said that the new name came from an alternative Japanese reading of the word yamanashi, sanri. The "o" was added because it sounds like the noise you make when you're excited. There's a different version of the story on the company's European website, which claims that it comes from two Spanish words - sanri (which means "holy") and rio (which means "river").

5. Their first original character wasn't Hello Kitty

Coro Chan | Yuko Shimizu | Sanrio Company, Ltd.

Making an original character was the next logical step for Sanrio, as it meant they could create lots of products without having to worry about legal issues. That character was Coro Chan, a laid-back bear who first appeared in 1973! He is part of Hello Kitty's friend group though - his cousin Thomas is friends with her.

6. Hello Kitty is still their biggest hit

Hello Kitty Super Style! | Watch Next Media, Monello Productions, Maga Animation | Amazon Kids+

Hello Kitty made her debut in 1974, and she's been the face of Sanrio ever since! Hello Kitty was created by designer Yuko Shimizu, who also created Coro Chan. She was originally aimed at pre-teen girls, but she's now popular with everyone!

7. There's more to Hello Kitty than you think!

Here's something about Hello Kitty you might not know - she's British! Her full name is Kitty White, and she was born in London on the first of November. She has a twin sister named Mimmy, and a boyfriend named Dear Daniel. She's five apples tall and she weighs the same as three apples, and her favourite food is apple pie!

8. The first Hello Kitty product was a purse

There are now millions of Hello Kitty products you can buy - and it all started with a purse! The small vinyl coin purse was introduced in 1975. The original is apparently kept in a secure vault in Sanrio's headquarters, but several replicas of it have been on sale since it first came out.

9. Osamu Tezuka collabed with Sanrio

Astro Boy | Tezuka Productions | Nippon TV

Osamu Tezuka was a very famous Japanese artist who is sometimes called "The Father of Manga" or even "The God of Manga"! He's probably best known for creating Astro Boy in 1952, which is credited with making some of the popular aesthetics of anime and manga, like big eyes and spiky hair. Tezuka created a baby unicorn character called Unico, and Unico was part of Sanrio's character linu-up until Tezuka's death in 1989, when they lost the rights.

10. They made some interesting films!

Nutcracker Fantasy | Sanrio | Walt deFaria, Mark L. Rosen, Atsushi Tomioka, Shintaro Tsuji | Takeo Nakamura

Sanrio has a film production company, which makes films featuring their characters - but it's also produced some totally different films! One of them is Nutcracker Fantasy, a 1979 stop-motion adaptation of The Nutcracker with an original take on the story! They also co-produced a live-action documentary called Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?, which is about a couple with six biological children who adopt fourteen children (they adopted another kid after the film was made). It won the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Documentary in 1978!

11. They also own Mr. Men

Mr. Men is a British series by Roger Hargreaves that began in 1971 - and Sanrio bought the rights in 2011! They now publish the newer books and produce new Mr. Men merchandise.

12. They got in trouble with Miffy

Miffy is an adorable bunny created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna in 1955. Her art style is quite similar to the style used to draw Hello Kitty and her friends, and in 2010 a lawsuit was filed that claimed Hello Kitty's rabbit friend Cathy (who first appeared in 1976) infringed on Miffy's copyright. They settled after the Japanese earthquake in 2011, with Sanrio agreeing to withdraw the Cathy character, and both companies donating money to the earthquake victims.

13. They also make robots!

TOKYO CITY SERIES: ACTROID | Spine TV | YouTube.com

Now THIS is awesome! Sanrio has a division called Kokoro (which means "heart" in Japanese) that makes animatronics! Animatronics are moving mechanical figures that are usually used to portray characters in films and theme parks (if you've been to Disney, you will have seen some cool animatronics in rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion!). Kokoro is famous for making Actroid, a series of life-size figures that look like a human woman and can respond to speech. They can't walk by themselves, and they don't have real artificial intelligence, but they are really impressive! They can also make facial expressions, mimic body movements, and "breathe" with air compressors in their chests.

14. There is SO MUCH merch

This might not come as a surprise, but it is mind-blowing how much Sanrio merch actually exists! In fact, if you keep your eyes peeled next time you go shopping, you might be amazed! It's really not just stuff for kids, either - they've partnered with Vans, MAC Cosmetics, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Doc Marten and Haagen-Dazs ice cream! Hello Kitty is still the biggest earner though - you can visit Hello Kitty cafes all over the world, treat yourself at the Hello Kitty spa in Dubai, go to the Hello Kitty themed resort in Japan's Awaji Island, or if you can hang on til 2025, maybe you can go to China's Hello Kitty theme park!

15. They have a theme park!

Hello Kitty Land Sanrio puroland Tokyo Japan | M Hide | YouTube.com

And speaking of theme parks, they already have two! Sanrio Puroland is an indoor theme park in Tokyo, and Harmonyland is an outdoor theme park in Oita Prefecture. Puroland welcomes 1.5 million visitors each year, and it's one of Japan's most popular theme parks. In both parks you can meet your favourite Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty, Aggretsuko, My Melody, Gudetama, Cinnamoroll and more!