SINGAPORE - Some Hello Kitty fans looking forward to a carnival devoted to Sanrio's famous cartoon cat already have their claws out - to defend their right as ticket-holders to buy exclusive Kitty items at the event.
Hello Kitty Go Around, started last year for the cult icon's 40th birthday, is making its maiden voyage outside Hong Kong, to Singapore. For the next 31/2 weeks, the carnival will be at Resort World Sentosa's The Coliseum, before moving to Malaysia.
Limited copies of items like T-shirts and umbrellas will be sold at a merchandise booth outside the venue. Anyone, including those without admission tickets, can make a purchase - prompting unhappiness among some ticket-toting fans, who have paid upwards of $40 to enter the event.
Waitress Susan Long, 30, who bought tickets for November, laments: "Everything will be sold out by then if sales are open to the public and if there are no limits on how many pieces of merchandise people can buy. What's the point of buying tickets?"
Meanwhile, National University of Singapore student Joyce Lee, 21, is eyeing an exclusive, pure-white Hello Kitty figurine. Ms Lee has tickets for Oct 31, but says she might make her way down to the merchandise stall this weekend to snap up the figurine before it sells out. Sighing, she says: "It's a bit inconvenient."
Mighty Eight, the local toy and events company bringing the carnival to Singapore, has since clarified that there will be a priority queue for ticket-holders. Its founder Jacky Teo also says that future such events will allow ticket-holders to pre-order special merchandise, to ensure they get priority.
But Ms Long says the pre-order system should start now: "Just let me book what items I want, then I can come down to collect when I go for the event on the date I chose. Even with the queue, the items will sell out before November."
Merchandise snafu aside, Kitty enthusiasts like Ms Melissa Lim, 35, are eager to visit the carnival. "We don't have permanent Hello Kitty cafes like in Seoul, or a big amusement park like in China, so these events are a special treat for us fans," says the sales consultant.
Able to accommodate 1,000 people at a go, the carnival is an over-the-top, kaleidoscopic shrine to Hello Kitty, created by illustrator Yuki Shimizu for Sanrio in 1974 and still the Japanese company's most loved character.
At the carnival, Kitty's mouth-less face, with its jaunty bow on one ear, is everywhere - adorning a mini roller-coaster and a ferris wheel. Selfie-able spots include a grand carousel with Kitty astride horses. There is also a workshop that allows you to customise Hello Kitty tote bags from $20.
Kitty faithfuls can also flock to six game stalls to try their hand at games such as the classic ring toss - with a Sanrio twist.
Mighty Eight is hoping to organise more such themed events here, and has more Sanrio events planned for next year.
"A lot (of Hello Kitty events) are meet-and-greet sessions, where children go on stage to snap photos with characters, but this is a whole experience," said Mighty Eight's Jacky Teo, 44 at a media preview yesterday(Oct15).
"Hello Kitty is a hit with children and adults, so this carnival can be bonding time for friends and family."
Hello Kitty will celebrate her 41st birthday on Nov 1 with a special bash at the carnival. Fans can buy tickets for dance performances and cake-cutting sessions with the cat. Priced at $188 ($201.15 after GST), these birthday celebration tickets include admission to the carnival.
BOOK IT / HELLO KITTY GO AROUND SINGAPORE
WHERE: The Coliseum, Resorts World Sentosa
WHEN: Oct 16 to Nov 10, 10am to 8pm daily (last entry at 7pm)
ADMISSION: $42 to $55 from Sistic. Tickets for birthday celebrations on Nov 1 at $188. (All prices subject to GST)
INFO: Go to www.hellokittygoaround.com.sg