Shanghai purrs over new Hello Kitty theme park
China Daily

Hello Kitty Shanghai Times fuses Sanrio's signature cartoon characters with local culture. (Photo: China Daily)

The world's only Hello Kitty-themed pavilion brings a fantasy world with a retro decor for fans in Shanghai.

Hello Kitty Shanghai Times was launched by property developer Shimao Group and Japanese animation powerhouse Sanrio on March 29.

By creating an immersive experience of Shanghai during three symbolic periods of the city's history - the 1930s, 1980s and today - the indoor theme park provides a unique experience for visitors with Sanrio's best-known characters, including Hello Kitty, My Melody, Badtz-Maru, Pompompurin, Keroppi and Cinnamoroll.

The time travel-themed attraction is located at Shimao Festival City on bustling East Nanjing Road, and is expected to attract 2 million visitors a year. Spreading across three floors, the play area takes up a total gross floor area of about 6,000 square meters.

"It is such a pleasure to see Hello Kitty and her friends set their home in Shanghai, by perfectly fusing with local culture," said Li Mingxun, chief operating officer of Sanrio Shanghai International Trade, during the launch ceremony at the Le Royal Meridien Shanghai.

One of the most popular areas so far is a 14-meter-high wall that goes throughout three floors and features cute remakes of Shanghai's landmarks including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, China Art Museum and Garden Bridge.

The indoor play area is one of the latest attempts by Shimao to explore theme park business opportunities. The theme park industry is fast expanding in China, with Ping An Securities projecting it to double its existing volume to 90 billion yuan ($13.39 billion) in annual revenue by 2022.

"The collaboration with Sanrio started three years ago, and the two parties strive to offer visitors an surrealistic experience with a mix of reality and hyper-reality images," said Peng Yueqi, vice-president of Shimao Commercial and Themed Entertainment.

Shimao Group and International Merchandising Promotions and Services announced in March the launch of the first Smurfs theme park in the Asia-Pacific region at the Shanghai Sheshan National Tourist Resort in Songjiang district.

The Smurfs theme park is planned to start trial operation in late September, and will officially open in October, according to Peng.

International Merchandising Promotions and Services is the official licenser of the Smurfs, a series of comic characters created by Belgian comic artist Pierre Culliford, more commonly known as Peyo.

There are 128 theme parks operating across the nation, and construction on at least an additional 70 is scheduled to be completed by 2025, according to a report from Aecom, a global infrastructure company.