On September 21st, iconic children’s series ‘Where’s Wally?’ celebrates its 25th anniversary, and we at The Value Engineers were delighted to be asked to contribute to a recent Metro piece to commemorate the stripy lad’s birthday. The full piece can be found here.
Created by British illustrator Martin Handford, the ‘Where’s Wally?’ children’s books consist of a series of incredibly intricate double-page spreads. Each scene features the eponymous star hidden somewhere on the page for readers to discover. It’s a simple recipe, but as the lasting success of the franchise has shown – including translations into more than 30 languages, comics, a film and multiple fancy dress costumes – one that is capable of capturing kids’ interest from generation to generation.
So what’s behind the success of a character who looks like nothing so much as the original geek? The answer lies in his versatility…
On the most basic visual level, the superbly drawn illustrations and the intricacy of each spread make them a pleasure to come back to, over and over. The level of detail in the visuals – requiring only basic text – makes it perfect for sharing across generations and across cultures, as there’s room for everyone to enjoy it. At the same time, the ‘discovery’ format is both educational and entertaining for children, who love the sense of achievement they get from finding Wally.
It’s not just children who like a game of hide and seek, though – we’ve seen the format used for everything from Top Gear (‘Where’s Stig?’) and meerkats to terrorists (the ‘Where’s Bin Laden?’ picture book was a hot Christmas gift choice a few years ago).
Of course, there’s also something very appealing about brands and properties that one generation can pass on to the next. It’s a phenomenon we’ve called ‘retrotainment’, and it’s something that Generation Xers seem to be especially keen on. Think of the recent return of brands like the Cabbage Patch Dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the on-going cult appeal of Dangermouse and Thunderbirds.
For proof, why not check it out for yourself the next time you’re browsing in a bookshop? But be warned: finding Wally can prove to be a dangerously addictive pastime…