Sanrio’s Alastair McHarrie on embracing new looks for classic characters with Mr Men Little Miss Reimagined

Alastair McHarrie – Sanrio’s Senior Licensing Director and Mr. Men Little Miss Brand Leader – talks us through the how and why of the exhibition.

Alastair, it’s great to connect. Firstly, can you give us an introduction to the Mr Men Little Miss Reimagined exhibition and the artists taking part in it.
We are thrilled to be partnering with Helm Gallery in Brighton for the Reimagined Exhibition. Our fans will be able to see our much-loved characters recreated into original pieces crafted by five contemporary artists. These artists are all leaders in their field, and we are so lucky to be working with such talented individuals.

During the show you will also be able to create your own masterpiece with Euan Roberts and meet Adam Hargreaves, the writer and illustrator of our Mr. Men Little Miss books. You can book your tickets now on the Helm Gallery website.

Nicely plugged! Now, what was the rationale for the exhibition?
It’s so important as a heritage brand to evolve and stay fresh. After 50 years of publishing, our characters are part of British culture and known all around the world. Their iconic look and personality resonate with each and every one of us – so what better way to celebrate this than through art?

Through the show, we have not only been able to reconnect with our adult fanbase but also attract a new global adult audience across the States and Asia. Off the back of this collection, we plan to develop a new programme of assets which we hope will inspire our agents and partners especially for the adult market.

Alistair McHarrie, Sanrio, Mr Men, Publisging, Experiences

How did you decide which artists to work with? And how did you handle the creative relationship with them?
The team at Helm and Star Editions did a fantastic job at suggesting artists for the partnership. For a collaboration like this to really work, it’s important the artists have creative freedom, so it was essential there was synergy between the artist’s work and our brand values and iconic style. The pieces wonderfully reflect personality, colour and fun through simple storytelling. All reasons why we love Mr. Men Little Miss.

Was there a reason to locate the exhibition in Brighton? I believe there is a Mr Men & Little Miss art mural in Brighton at the moment…
Brighton is quintessentially British but it’s also a living work of art with creativity on every corner. And yes, we were so excited when Will Blood agreed to paint our very own mural of Mr. Happy in true Will Blood style in the Lanes. It’s a must see!

Alistair McHarrie, Sanrio, Mr Men, Publisging, Experiences

Helm – the largest contemporary gallery in Brighton – is located right in the heart of the North Lanes. The team there have created a beautiful, inclusive space in which to be imaginative. The perfect place for our show!

I noticed there was a welcome message at the gallery from Adam Hargreaves of The Hargreaves Organisation. How has Adam been involved in the exhibition and has the art in the exhibition inspired his creative thinking ?
We feel very privileged to have a great relationship with Adam Hargreaves, who continues to be the talent behind our Mr. Men Little Miss stories and illustrations. Adam was thrilled to see the artists take on his Dad’s legacy and enjoyed the show immensely.

Good to hear. Now, the exhibition also includes a range of merchandise and art prints that are being sold in the gallery. Can you tell us about the thinking behind developing a product range alongside the exhibition?
We all love a souvenir, so it was important to offer visitors the opportunity to take a little piece of the show home. Star Editions – in collaboration with Helm – has done wonderful job at pulling together a collection that spans a range of price points sure to suit everyone’s pockets.

Alistair McHarrie, Sanrio, Mr Men, Publisging, Experiences

What other live events and attractions can we see the Mr Men & Little Miss in at the moment and in the near future?
We are very busy with lots of projects – not just in the UK but Europe and Asia too… Stay tuned for more news!

Will do! Mr Men & Little Miss are well established classic characters – but they feel very contemporary. How do you achieve a balance between maintaining their classic feel with contemporary appeal?
Roger Hargreaves’ original idea of creating characters around personality traits was a stroke of genius and something that never dates. We can feel Grumpy, Happy and all things in between at any given time. We try to make sure this ethos is communicated through all our collaborations and partnerships to maintain consistency while bringing newness to the market.

Thanks Alistair, before we wrap up, do you have any new design work for the Mr Men & Little Miss brand you can tell us about?
As well as Helm, we have started working with a number of new partners including Thortful, the UK’s number one marketplace for independent creators on gifting. We hope these projects will inspire a new wave of creative specifically to engage the adult market and attract new partners. Additionally, we will release some mini guides this year to keep momentum going.

Alistair McHarrie, Sanrio, Mr Men, Publisging, Experiences

Fantastic. Last question! Thinking about the long and successful history of the Mr Men & Little Miss, can you highlight ‘three of the best’ licensed products and what makes them special?
Mr. Men Little Miss has a brilliant past of creating characters – such as Mr. Beefeater and Mr. Mo – but our collaboration with Stella McCartney was our first celebrity, elevating the brand to another level. We designed the invite to her Paris Fashion Show in 2007 and expanded into a capsule collection for her stores in 2012. Since then, we have worked with fantastic talents and brands such as Spice Girls, Doctor Who, Sidemen and La Mer to mention a few.

Thinking of our pre-school business, we recently launched our Discover You book series. It’s a collection of stories written alongside clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Kilbey that help children articulate their big feelings. This series was inspired by the mental health crisis in children after Covid. We have now launched 12 books with storytelling videos and downloadables for parents and children to enjoy together on

Finally, one of our favourites was a range developed by past partner Kimm & Miller that contained a Mr. Sneeze Mug with various food treats called The Man Flu Kit… It became a bestseller at Tesco. Funny with personality… Just perfect.

Great picks. Thanks again!

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