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Literature / Where's Wally?

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He's right over there.
Clockwise from bottom: Woof, Whitebeard, Odlaw, Wenda, Wally.
Seated: Martin Handford.

"There he is."
— Last line from the cartoon show's Theme Song.

Where's Wally? (titled Where's Waldo? when exported to North America) is a series of Picture Books by Martin Handford where each page is a complex scene filled with hundreds of tiny people. The goal is to find Wally/Waldo, a man in glasses, a bobble hat and a red-and-white striped shirt, carrying a cane. Each page has a short flavor text where Wally/Waldo describes his adventures, pointing the reader to other, usually humorous, things to look for. In other words, a non-electronic Hidden Object Game.

The Where's Wally/Waldo? books include:

  • Where's Wally/Waldo?
  • Where's Wally/Waldo Now? (retitled Find Waldo Now in North America) (featuring various historical scenes)
  • Where's Wally?: The Fantastic Journey (retitled The Great Waldo Search in North America, though an updated re-release went back to the former subtitle) (featuring fantasy scenes)
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  • Where's Wally/Waldo? The Ultimate Fun Book
  • Where's Wally/Waldo? In Hollywood
  • Where's Wally/Waldo? The Wonder Book (more fantasy scenes)
  • Where's Wally/Waldo? The Great Picture Hunt (A balance between the normal books, and The Ultimate Fun Book)

Aside from Wally/Waldo, recurring characters include his friend Wenda, his nemesis Odlaw, his dog Woof (who is usually hidden except for his tail) and the Wizard Whitebeard.

Spawned a short-lived Saturday Morning cartoon show that aired on CBS which justified its connection to the books by having a "find Waldo" puzzle before each act break. These were often much harder than the ones in the books, not because they were particularly complex, but because the low resolution on televisions at the time made finding small details (like Waldo) a trying tasknote . Also had an NES game which had an even worse resolution (everything was 8-bit).


A Google Maps interactive mini-game version of Where's Wally/Waldo? appeared in the app on April 1, 2018. A few days later it was announced Dreamworks Animation Television would be producing a new animated series, due to air on Universal Kids in Fall 2019.

See also I Spy, another popular book series consisting of hidden object puzzles.

These books contain examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The animated series. Among other things, it gave Odlaw a reason to antagonize Waldo (he wanted to steal his magical cane).
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Most of the main characters have names that start with W. Waldo, Wizard Whitebeard, Wilma, Wenda and Woof. There's also the Waldo Watchers, although their individual names are never given. The only one who doesn't follow this trend of course, is Odlaw.
  • The Artifact: Odlaw was invented for the American animated adaptation and was given a Sdrawkcab Name as Waldo's opposite. This name is still kept when the cartoon was redubbed back into British English for a British audience and 'Waldo' is Wally again, so the reference is lost. Admittedly 'Yllaw' would be unpronounceable unless you're Welsh.
  • Barefoot Sage: Wizard Whitebeard tends to go barefoot.
  • Cat-apult: In Find Waldo Now, "The End of the Crusades" has a cat loaded onto the rightmost catapult.
  • Chandelier Swing: In Find Waldo Now some drunk men do this in "Having a Ball in Gaye Paree". One man is unaware that he's broken the chain, turning it into a Falling Chandelier of Doom.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Tarzan, Paul Bunyan, and Count Dracula make cameo appearances in the "realistic" first book.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: That red and white striped shirt, hat and glasses.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Waldo (red and white) and Odlaw (yellow and black).
  • Disaster Dominoes: All of the scenes where you have to look for Waldo have disasters happening all around (many of them surrealistic and even hilarious).
  • Distaff Counterpart: Wenda to Waldo.
  • Dub Name Change: Wally is called Walter in German, Charlie in French, Willy in Norwegian, Holger in Danish, Valli in Icelandic, Efi in Israel (a Punny Name, since the Hebrew word for "where" is eyfo) and Waldo in America and Canada. Additionally, when the cartoon was aired in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, Waldo was changed back to Wally.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first book is entirely mundane contemporary scenes. Quite the contrast to its successors, which used time travel to historical settings, completely fantastic settings, and some combination of the two respectively.
    • The scenes also have fewer people in them, compared to the later books. While the first book has plenty of people in the pictures, there's still a fair amount of space between them. The others are packed with people.
  • Evil Twin: Odlaw.
  • Funny Background Event: All over the place, which is part of the fun.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Wizard Whitebeard with his long white beard and Odlaw with his small dark mustache.
  • I Have Many Names: Wally has many different names, depending on which country the book is printed.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Apparently, his entire wardrobe is brown shoes, blue jeans, a red-and-white striped long-sleeve shirt, glasses, and a red and white toque. And his red-and-white striped socks.
    • Wenda has a similar wardrobe (although swapping a blue skirt for the pants), as does Odlaw (though he wears black and yellow exclusively).
  • Lost in a Crowd: The crowds Waldo would walk in the middle of are absolutely massive. Moreover, there are a lot of people and objects in red and white striped clothes, adding to the challenge of looking for him.
  • Lost in Translation: Odlaw's name obviously comes from the reverse of Waldo. In countries where Waldo is named Wally (or something else; see Dub Name Change), Odlaw is still Odlaw, somewhat ruining the joke.
  • Market-Based Title: The objective is to look for our intrepid traveler.
  • Mayincatec: In Find Waldo Now.
  • Meganekko: Wenda.
  • Me's a Crowd: There is a land full of Waldos. Finding the "real" one is hell, but finding the characters that have joined him in the previous locations is rather trivial because they a) stand out and b) the Waldos all crowd around them in easily discernible clusters.
  • Monochrome Casting: Thankfully averted, although creator Martin Handford only went so far as to make every tenth person in the crowds black, with occasional "exotic" Asians, Native Americans, and Middle Easterners for Costume Porn.
    • Then again, adding too many non-whites could make the white Waldo stand out, making him easier to find.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: In several of the books, the last challenge is to find Waldo and his companions when they are hidden amongst hundreds of characters dressed exactly like them.
  • Nerd Glasses: Waldo seems to be the "smart guy" type.
  • Nice Hat: His red and white bobble hat. Several sceneries have a lot of copies of it lying around.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Waldo seems almost oblivious to many of the chaotic events happening around him, some of which are illegal or downright dangerous. He's either this or an Unfazed Everyman.
  • Nintendo Hard: Where's Wally/Waldo 3: The Fantastic Journey ends with having to pick Wally out of a dimension filled almost entirely with other Wallies (the only way to know he's the real one is that he's missing a shoe).
    • Taken even further in that you then have to find his shoe on the same page.
    • It gets worse. In the books that follow, there are three similar scenes: a dimension filled with others Woofs (ironically, this is the only time you can see all of him as opposed to his tail), a swamp filled with Odlaws, and a movie set filled with actors dressed up as EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE FIVE MAIN CHARACTERS. The hardest one is most likely the real Woof: you need to find the one who has exactly five red stripes on its tail. Good luck.
  • Offstage Villainy: Whatever Odlaw gets up to in the cartoon series, in the books, he's just there, and not seen doing anything bad.
  • Only Six Faces: Handford's drawing style isn't particularly imaginative, with almost every character having the same basic face with different colors of hair and skin. Even the women simply look like men, with only long hair and breasts to differentiate.
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: A crew of stereotypical pirates, led by a Blackbeard clone, are shown boarding a cruise ship at the marina. One of the pirates is chasing a woman in a bikini, while another is pursuing men wearing nothing but swim trunks!
  • Reference Overdosed: Where's Waldo? The Wonder Book.
  • Scenery Porn: The sheer amount of detail poured into the scenes and crowds of individual people (and all the funny little events they're part of) is truly impressive and makes up part of the fun.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Odlaw is "Waldo" backwards.
  • Silly Reason for War: In Find Waldo Now.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Wenda, for her twin sister Wilma.
  • Two Decades Behind: When Waldo stops by the airport, passengers are shown disembarking from the jets via external movable stairways like they did for most of the twentieth century (and, presumably, during Martin Handford's childhood), rather than by way of the connected tunnels that were common in airports by 1987).
    • Although in Britain, particularly for smaller and budget airlines, the movable stairs remain the norm.
  • Updated Re-release: Several of the books were given an anniversary release in which Waldo was moved in each scene, and the supporting characters were added in to the books they hadn't been in before.
  • Visual Pun: Lots of them.
    • The original 1987 book alone has a "school" of "fish", with the whale in front wearing a professor's mortarboard; an oversized playing card in a World War I-era biplane (a "flying ace," get it?), and a literal "one-armed bandit" (a cowboy with an amputated hand) on a carnival midway.
  • Wizard Beard: Wizard Whitebeard.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: The Land of Waldos.

The cartoon contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: A Running Gag in "Forest Women", with Queen Emeralda calling Waldo such names as Walnut, Walrus, Wallpaper, Wallbang and Pizza Dough. That last one is left unchanged in the British English dub, resulting in a rather hilarious Non Sequitur:
    Wally: You fellas wouldn't mind if I take the queen home, would you?
    Emeralda: Pizza Dough!
    Wally: That's Wally!
    • The Narrator gets in on it by the end, calling out "Where is Wallab- er, Wally this time?"
  • Adaptation Distillation: Wenda is pointedly missing from the show, except for one episode, while even the scrolls and cane made it in.
  • Big Ball of Violence: In "A Stone Age Story", others.
  • Brick Joke: The things the narrator challenges the viewer to find don't normally count as these, of course... except for the time he snuck in a mention of his stolen car. It shows up anyway.
  • Calvinball: The eponymous "Great Ball Game" which sees four teams playing two matches on the same pitch, doesn't appear to have any rules other than you get points to getting it across (or over) the goal-line and you lose points by having your ball thrown into a pit. Throughout the episode, we get glimpses of the other games in the kingdom that make just about as much sense (throwing darts blindfolded in an attempt to hit bowling balls while another player uses a baseball bat to knock them away springs to mind).
  • Captain Colorbeard: Pegbeard the pirate. Son of Pegface, and grandson of Pegspleen.
  • Captain Oblivious: Waldo is always blissfully unaware of Odlaw's attempts to destroy him, and in fact, seems to have no idea that Odlaw even exists. He always beats Odlaw through sheer dumb luck, all while never actually seeing him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The corn Wizard Whitebeard gives Wally in "A Stone Age Story". Turns out it was needed to complete the first movie theater... by being used for popcorn!
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Waldo.
    Witch: All I want is someone to turn into a frog (proffers open palm)... and a tip.
    Waldo: Okay, here's a great tip: never hold your nose and sneeze with your mouth closed.
    Witch: (looks at the camera surprised) Gee, never heard THAT one before.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Odlaw.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Odlaw, Waldo's evil counterpart.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Odlaw, usually.
  • Dissonant Serenity: "Oh boy Woof! Isn't this exciting?" Wally says while falling without a parachute, about to be squashed by a bolder, in the middle of a cave-in, being charged by a singing swordfish and while a village is being pillaged by Vikings (to name a few).
  • Green Aesop: The episode "Forest Women", in which Wally saves a forest from evil tree-cutting knights.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Constantly by The Narrator, and occasionally by Wally or Wizard Whitebeard.
    Odlaw (after a narrator pun): (groan) I thought you already said your three bad puns for this episode.
  • Identical Grandson: Wally meets his "Great, Great, Great, Great, you get the idea" grandfather when he travels back to the stone-age. Looks exactly like him but wears a stripy loincloth and his hat has horns. Woof also has a prehistoric shaggy dog counterpart.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Odlaw. The poor guy gets beat up almost constantly, and Wally doesn't even know he exists.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In one episode Wally makes friends with a robot but he gets disassembled leaving our hapless hero to rebuild him. Once finished the robot doesn't remember anything but is promptly hit on the head, which apparently jogged the old memory circuits.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator (courtesy of Jim Cummings) makes a lot of snarky remarks throughout the series as well as the occasional fourth-wall break.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Odlaw, while you will often hear him screaming, nine times out of ten you'll see him stoically swaddle off after being flattened or twisted into knots with only a deadpan castrating word to the gleeful narrator.
  • Medium Awareness: Odlaw - he directly interacts with the narrator, and he even tries to learn from what happens to him on the show. His only problem is that he doesn't seem to learn that he's the Cosmic Plaything.
    Odlaw: That walking stick will soon be mine.
    Narrator: Yes, because little does Wally know that's he's being watched. By the mean, nasty, loathsome-
    Odlaw: Errr... I believe he left out disgusting.
    Narrator: Oh yeah, sorry. AND DISGUSTING... ODLAW!"
    Odlaw: (beaming) Thanks much.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Wally smiles constantly while watching others get pummeled or is in danger of a pummeling himself (said eagerly: "Who's the menacing fellow who looks as if he'd like to twist me into a knot and throw me off a cliff?"), is excited to be standing in front of an angry stampede, be attacked by monsters, be tied up in chains, be taken prisoner ("Wow, Woof, didjya hear that? We're official prisoners!"), hop into a dangerous pit of doom (shaking bag and smiling: "Well, Woof, apparently I didn't bring my parachute."), and is nothing short of thrilled to be in a cave-in. ("Wow, Woof! It's a real cave-in! And we've only been here just a few minutes! (elated sigh) How lucky can you get?") Seriously, how did Woof survive being around this guy?
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Brad Garrett puts on his best Rodney Dangerfield impression for Wizard Whitebeard.
  • Once an Episode:
    • Shortly after the scene is set, the narrator will tell the audience to look for three unusual objects during the show.
    • At some point Wally will disappear, leading everybody to ask "Where's Wally?". The audience will then get a still shot and about a minute to find him, before the narrator will tell you where he is.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Wally; can stray into Stepford Smiler territory at times...
  • Secret Handshake: Wally's family greeting he does with his cave ancestor. Also counts as Mirror Matching.
  • Sidekick Creature Nuisance: Woof; he's pretty useless. He's just there for Wally to talk to so he doesn't look crazy, although he does chase off Odlaw from time to time.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Odlaw's pretty stated above Wally doesn't even know he exists.
    • In one episode, Odlaw briefly entertained the idea of not following Waldo since he'd bring back the magical cane anyway but had a change of mind when he heard about a magical fruit.
  • Team Pet: Woof again.
  • The Voice: The narrator.
  • Unknown Rival: Odlaw is never even noticed by Wally or Wizard Whitebeard. Lampshaded once: "Hey aren't you the guy Wally never sees?"
    • Wizard Whitebeard did see Odlaw once, but he mistook him for Wally.
    • Wenda sees him and identifies him by name in "The Living Exhibits."
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Odlaw; could possibly be British?

Alternative Title(s): Wheres Waldo


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