“Tale as Old as Time” Rewind: The Hello Kitty Versions…. with Squirrels!?

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I’m sure many of you are wondering what the heck the title of this article is alluding to – but trust me, this is gonna be a fun installment in this series. Why? BECAUSE IT IS HELLO KITTY WE’RE TALKING ABOUT! Yes, the iconic symbol of cute from Japan even took a few unique takes on the “Tale as Old as Time”. We’re going to focus on one in particular (aka the cooler version, by my standards) and see how Miss Kitty herself spins this classic story. And as promised, there are squirrels involved. Let’s jump right into this week’s Tale as Old as Time Rewind! 

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Now, it’s best to mention that there is a direct adaptation that Hello Kitty/Sanrio made of Beauty and the Beast. It was part of their ultra embarrassing, and incredibly cheesy, Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater (the name even makes me cringe.) I’ve attempted to watch this take on the story several times, but I unfortunately just couldn’t get through it. Sorry, Tuxedo Sam.

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The first big important Hello Kitty-related show (at least according to this writer) was actually a bunch of OVA (Original Video Animation) specials from Japan that were released in TV/VHS format in the US and other countries – appropriately titled Hello Kitty and Friends. Each episode (or special) would take Kitty and her twin sister Mimi on various adventures – usually involving classic fairy tales or wacky situations. Though I have a childhood full of favorites from this series, there’s one episode that always stuck to me right from the get-go: Hello Kitty in The Sleeping Princess. 

Now with a title like that, I’m sure many of you are confused and are asking “Uh, isn’t this an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty?” Well yes, you’d be correct – but it is also mixed with Beauty and the Beast. Cool, right? Well if you’re curious as to how this works out in Hello Kitty’s world, let’s take a look at the actual plot (or at least what it is according to the English adaptation):

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Kitty and Mimi get an invitation to a costume party. Since they don’t have any sort of idea of whom they want to dress up as, their father gives them a book with a fairy tale that could inspire their attire for the celebration.

The story is about a beautiful kingdom that is protected by a magical crown. The King and Queen (who are Squirrels) of the land have tried but have been unsuccessful at baring children, and their last hope relies on the dark magic kept by a monster named Guala. When the royals speak to the creature, he grants them their wish  – but, there will come a time where they must choose one baby to return back to Guala.

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After they have twins (named Sarah and Alexander), the King and Queen are determined to keep their babies safe. Unfortunately, young Alex runs off to Guala’s fortress and the monster enchants the boy – making him disappear forever. This leads the parents to take a sleeping potion that’ll only go away if/when Alex returns. Sarah takes the throne in their place and protects the kingdom.

The tale inspires Kitty and Mimi to dress like Princess Sarah at the costume party – but somehow the next day (thanks to the aid of terrible American editing of Japanese footage) our feline heroines end up in the world of Princess Sarah, and find her under a sleeping spell. Why? Because her magical crown has been stolen! By whom? A bird-like monster named Zalard – who just so happens to have the same birthmark as Sarah. And, of course, it is up to Kitty and Mimi to save the day! I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

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If this story seems a bit of a weird one, well, most children’s stories effectively don’t make a lot of structural sense at times. But because this is a Sanrio produced fairy tale, I let it slide – and more importantly, give it points for originality more than telling a straight forward plot. The animation here (like most Sanrio films made in the 80’s/90’s) is top notch quality for its time and budget. The colors and art direction are beautiful and go well with the Hello Kitty world, while also going in unique directions. I mean, royal squirrels!? The imagery was too amazing for my childhood to take, and still impresses me as a pastel loving adult.

But how does it really connect to Beauty and the Beast? Well, it isn’t the most complicated connection, but let’s dig a little deeper.

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First off, like most Beast characters, Zalard lives in a dark and gloomy setting that matches his mood at the beginning of our story. He’s bitter, cold, and is thirsty for power – not exactly the most lovable guy. He also acknowledges that his appearance is less than “adorable” (at least in Hello Kitty terms) and questions why anyone would ever love him. He doesn’t know he has a family, and certainly doesn’t know of any sort of love in his life.

So when Kitty and Mimi send a shock through his system by letting him know that he has the same birthmark as the princess from whom he stole the crown, it leads Zalard to question where he came from. He then learns the truth that he is Alexander, and of course this gives him a change of heart and he later gets turned back into a squirrel prince!
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Now sure, the exact pin points compared to the other adaptations I’ve covered thus far are a little bit of a stretch. But I count this as a Beauty and the Beast adaptation, because though Zalard doesn’t find a romantic partner that changes his heart or shows him what love is, friendship and sibling love counts as well. It’s a cool spin on the story, and has a lot of kawaii/magical girl appeal that you 90’s anime kids will love. There’s even a scene where Princess Sarah goes all out with flower power and defeats Guala (or at least that is in the Japanese version *sigh*).

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If you’re looking for a different, cute, and short take on Beauty and the Beast, I’d give this one a go. It might not fulfill your need for the story as well as the other versions I’ve covered (and will in the future), but it serves as a palate cleanser – and a pastel themed one at that.

So, did you watch this version of Hello Kitty as a kid? Do you have fond memories of this special? Comment below with your childhood feels and interest! And next week on Tale as Old as Time Rewind, we’ll cover another rendition with a bird-like Beast – the Czech version, Panna a Netvor! 

 

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