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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 British 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)
  • 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)
  • Where's Wally/Waldo? The Incredible Paper Chase

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 in the pre-HD era made finding him a trying task. Also had an NES game which had an even worse resolution.

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, which started airing 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.
  • The Ghost: You never really get to see Woof outside the intro to each book, where in each scene all you can see is Woof's tail. This is only averted in one scene that takes place in a dimension full of Woofs; you instead need to find the Woof with five stripes on his tail.
  • 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).
  • Living Figurehead: The first book had a pirate making kissy-face at the maiden on a ship's figurehead, who looked appropriately appalled.
  • 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.
  • Men of Sherwood: Many picture books show Waldo somewhere in a Big Badass Battle Sequence where a group of people (Aztec warriors, villagers fighting giants, Robin Hood's Merry Men, an army of sailors fighting dragons, the dwellers of a magical forest that is being invaded by black knights, etc.) are either curb-stomping a sinister force of enemies or are struggling to win but are stlil injuring or trapping lots of notably stronger opponents from the other side even while taking injuries of their own.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Signature Headgear: His red and white bobble hat. Several sceneries have a lot of copies of it lying around.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Wheres Waldo