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Hello Kitty and pals celebrate 50 years -- and you're invited

November 13, 2010 |  8:02 am

A stream of girls (kitted out Harijuku-style) were chasing a giant frog screaming, “Keroppi!!!” The amphibian had rock-star status. Amid the chaos, a rather large dude was expertly dancing “the robot” sporting a Hello Kitty costume bedazzled in pink and silver crystals. I bumped into a teensy lady who was inked, full-body, with tattoos dedicated to her favorite characters. WOWZA! I’d entered a new dimension—a Sanrio sanctuary in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar on par with the craziness of a Star Trek convention, but in Technicolor.  

Celebrating Sanrio’s 50 years (yep, we’ve been buying chocolate-scented pens and duck-shaped erasers for half a century), the event on Thursday was a preview party for the Target-Sanrio Small Gift mobile tour, which opened to the public Friday and is in residence at Barker Hangar through Nov. 21. With character appearances, food galore, shopping and interactive experiences--the Ferris wheel is a must--who wouldn’t have a big smile?  Especially when general admission is free?  You can also buy an original piece of Sanrio artwork from the mobile gallery (Paul Frank is one of the 50 maestros whose goods are on display). A percentage of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit L.A. Works.  

Sanrio isn’t only making strides with its mobile tour. They’ve decided to collaborate with top brands such as Dr. Martens to offer bow-accented boots. They’ve also added four original scents to the Demeter Fragrance Library, and three unique wraps to funk-out your Smart car.  The most anticipated union is happening with Sephora. Launching in January, the beauty line will offer a whimsical and sophisticated mix of products.  Most items are targeted for adults, though accessories and nail polish are OKfor younger fans. Exclusive products are already in the works for next season, though collectibles will be available to snag after the New Year.  I’m coveting the Hello Kitty crystal compact mirror—tres bling!

KittytoteIf you want to spend some of your “allowance,” the pop-up shop is indeed a show stopper (it actually was Thursday night; the line almost snaked out of the venue). Sanrio is offering 50 Limited Edition products, one for every year. The tote shown here is $36. (For stocking-stuffers, go with the character-topped key covers that cost $4. The Limited Edition item I really wanted was a Tuxedosam USB stick. Kimora Lee Simmons beat me to it and snagged the last one.

Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Mrs. Beckham and even Zahara Jolie-Pitt are a few of the recognizable names who love Sanrio. Ashlee Simpson-Wentz and her hubby, Pete, also fans, sported massive grins while scoping out Thursday’s party.  
The Small Gift mobile tour is a 10-day extravaganza. Though general admission is free, workshops and events “within the event” are available by purchasing tickets via Learn to build a Sushi Bento Box or design your own jewelry.  A big hit will be the retro, “Kitty in Pink” 1980s-themed prom party, taking place on Nov. 20 (tickets required).

The highlight of the evening? Getting styled as a character from Sanrio’s menagerie. I rocked tough-guy penguin Badtz-Maru. A good choice since he hails from “Gorgeoustown.” 

Event: Sanrio Small Gift Los Angeles 50th Anniversary Celebratory Tour, Nov. 12-21. 
Location: Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90045
Hours: Vary depending on dates. Please visit for further details.
Parking: $10
Admission: Free, with tickets available to purchase for the rides and games. 
Workshop prices start at $25. Spaces are limited.
If you miss the Los Angeles action, head for the East Coast. Miami is hosting a mini-event in December.

--Julie Neigher

Photos: Top, one of Thursday night's revelers, dressing the part. Middle, limited edition tote. Credit: Sanrio