The secret behind “Where’s Waldo’s” success

By: Caden Kipfmueller

“Where’s Waldo?”

This question has plagued many of mankind’s greatest scientific and philosophical minds for generations.

“Where’s Waldo?” is the name of a series of timeless children’s puzzle books created by Londoner Martin Handford in the late 1980s. Originally called “Where’s Wally?”, Handford’s books were a global success, finding their way to libraries, schools, and homes around the world. Where’s Waldo was known for its intricate drawings, charm, and, of course, Waldo’s signature red and white striped outfit and glasses.

Waldo is set apart from his puzzle book competitors because of author Martin Handford’s unique, extensively detailed illustrations. He takes up to 8 weeks to finish each drawing, and he describes them as “full of both activity and entertainment.” Handford also fills his pictures with visual puns and other Easter eggs. Each drawing feels alive and rich with life, which makes it all the more exciting to search through exhaustively. Even if you can’t find Waldo, you’re bound to find plenty of secrets that will keep you occupied.

The reason why “Where’s Waldo?” was so successful around the globe was the series’ accessibility. While it was translated into 26 different languages, reading wasn’t necessary to understand that the point of “Where’s Waldo?” was to find Waldo. Martin Handford made that abundantly clear with his illustrations, as he believed that Waldo should be shared with all.

The final reason behind Waldo’s success lies in the elusive, bespectacled man for which the series is named. Waldo’s character design is so unique that he is instantly recognizable. Even his silhouette can be pointed out by the casual viewer, and he is drawn to be friendly and non-confrontational. Waldo’s character design undoubtedly contributes to the success of the series, as it is easily marketable. In addition to the standard line of books, two TV shows have been made about him (one in 1991 and one in 2019), as well as a video game for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System).

Where’s Waldo remains an incredibly successful franchise to this day, finding popularity even in the modern age. The question still remains, however:

“Where’s Waldo?”

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