Meet Poppy the Pig. From her online introduction of a few months back (the website text is different now):
She goes to the flower market and likes gardening and doing household work. She is very sociable and she is kind to her friends and to her niece Grunty. The reason she has such Dutch characteristics is because Bruna created her modeling after his children's grade school teacher.
Hm? What are these "Dutch characteristics"? Enjoying gardening and household work? Being sociable and kind? Having a niece named Grunty? All of those?
Do you have "Dutch characteristics"? I'll bet you do, and don't even know it!
All right, the above text is clearly as harmless as a bit of writing can get, but I'll say it once more anyway: I'll never understand made-up culturology, and am sure glad that I don't partake in it.
But moving on: In case you're unfamiliar with Poppy, she's a friend of Miffy, star of over 100 children's books by Dick Bruna. While I don't think Miffy's caught on big in the US, she's a popular character in Europe and here in Japan as well.
A glance at Miffy should remind you a lot of another cartoon character, [Hello] Kitty. They're almost twins, though the vacant-eyed pair are separated not only by species but by age as well: Miffy was born in 1955, while Kitty didn't appear until 1974.
Actually, according to this interview, the similarity seems to have the pioneering Bruna a bit... er, miffed:
'That,' he says darkly, 'is a copy [of Miffy], I think. I don't like that at all. I always think, "No, don't do that. Try to make something that you think of yourself" '
Wow; for a guy as nice as Dick Bruna, that's almost a jump from "Hello" to "Screw You, Kitty". The characters' resemblance is indeed suspicious, though in Sanrio's defense, we could note that the simplicity of Miffy doesn't leave much room for a similarly-sparse design to differ. (I was about to joke that maybe Sanrio should have given Kitty facial hair – when I recalled that they did.)
Well, there's really no need for the two to compete; the affection of children is a thing to be shared, not divided. (Awww.) Though on the other hand, a Miffy vs Kitty no-quarter cage match does have its appeal. Who do you think would win? (Why, we the viewing audience, of course.)