Hello Kitty theme park to debut in China in 2014

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A $215-million Hello Kitty theme park celebrating the cute cartoon cat with a cult-like following will open in China in 2014.

Photos: Hello Kitty theme park rides and attractions

Construction is expected to begin in July on the 150-acre theme park in China’s Zhejiang province, about three hours west of Shanghai, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

Plans for the first Hello Kitty theme park outside Japan closely follow the recent announcement of Shanghai Disneyland, set to open in late 2015 or early 2016.

With a million visitors expected annually, the new Hello Kitty park will be targeted at families with preteen children and young women who collect merchandise bearing the likeness of the white bobtail cat with the red bow.

The main entrance to the new Hello Kitty park will be topped by a skyscraping Ferris Wheel and flanked by nearly a dozen towers of varying heights, according to concept art released by the Hettema Group, a theme park design company. Pastel-colored rolling hills, giant leaves and oversized purple flowers will emphasize a nature theme found throughout the park.

An aerial view of the park shows seven themed lands with four bodies of water and a distinct lava-spewing volcano surrounded by a roller coaster. The new theme park will include 35 to 40 costumed Hello Kitty characters, according to the Hettema Group.

Since her 1974 debut, Kitty has spawned a global industry that sells tens of thousands of products, including dolls, clothes, televisions, toasters, wine and jewelry.

Parent company Sanrio currently operates two Hello Kitty theme parks in Japan: the 500,000-square-foot indoor Puroland just outside Tokyo and the 60-acre outdoor Harmonyland in the Kyushu prefecture on the southern end of the country.

For the uninitiated, a Hello Kitty theme park looks like a cross between Legoland, Thomas Town kiddie lands and Disneyland‘s Fantasyland, with a heavy dose of Japanese cute and cuddly “kawaii” kitsch.

Dubbed “The Cutest Place on Earth,” the theme parks offer rides, shows, movies, games and parades based on Hello Kitty and her friends My Melody, Cinnamoroll, Badtz-Maru and others.

Attractions at Puroland include:

* Sanrio Character Boat Ride (similar to Disneyland’s It’s a Small World)
* “Time Machine of Dreams” special effects 3-D film
* “Believe” parade
* “Hello Kitty in the Magical Land of Oz” musical revue
* Character meet-and-greet locations

Attractions at Harmonyland include:

* 200-foot-tall Wonder Panorama Ferris Wheel
* Rhythmic roller skating-themed coaster
* Lovely Angel kiddie coaster
* Sky Jet miniature monorail that riders operate themselves
* Sky Fun flying elephant ride (similar to Disney’s Dumbo)
* Strawberry Café teacups ride themed to Hello Kitty characters
* Double-decker Fairy Kitty carousel
* Pop’n Smile gondola ride
* 10-minute ride around the park on the Harmony train
* Water-themed “Aqua” parade
* “Noah” parade performed during the day and evening
* “Circle Life” nighttime spectacular with lasers, lights and fireworks
* “What a Commotion at Café Cinnamon” musical stage show