Hello Kitty does Hollywood after years of film rights talks

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ONE OF Japan’s most beloved cat cartoon characters is headed for Hollywood.

Sanrio announced on Wednesday that it will team up with New Line Cinema and FlynnPictureCo. to create an English-language Hello Kitty film for global audiences, with Warner Brothers as distributor.

The iconic cat, first designed in 1974 with a trademark pink bow, will be turned into a movie character after nearly five years of talks to secure the film rights. The new partnership also includes film rights to Sanrio’s other creations, including the pink rabbit My Melody and Gudetama, a slouching egg-shaped cartoon character.

“Hello Kitty has long been a symbol of friendship and we hope this film will only serve to grow that circle of friendship around the world,” said Sanrio CEO Shintaro Tsuji. Shares in Sanrio, which develops cartoon characters and merchandise items, jumped as much as 12.1%, marking the biggest intraday gain since March 16, 2011.

Investors anticipate a recovery in Sanrio’s earnings in the next fiscal year even as the company is on course to see its fifth year of profit declines. Shares are up 17% since the start of the year.

“Markets are looking positive at the chance of Hello Kitty walking down the red carpet,” said Masayuki Otani, chief market strategist at Securities Japan, Inc. in Tokyo.

Hello Kitty follows a trend of US and Japanese companies teaming up to bring Japan’s beloved characters to Hollywood. Pokemon Detective Pikachu, produced by The Pokemon Company, Legendary Entertainment, Toho Company and Warner Brothers, is slated for release in the US in May.

Last January, Nintendo Co. and Illumination Entertainment announced partnership to develop an animated movie on Super Mario Bros., while Paramount Pictures and SEGA of America Inc. have teamed up and co-produced a film featuring SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog. — Bloomberg