September 09, 2023



(Universal Kids, Peacock, July 20, 2019-July 3, 2021)
DreamWorks Animation Television



Joshua Rush – Waldo
Haley Tju – Wenda
Eva Carlton – Odlulu
Thomas Lennon – Wizard Whitebeard, various
Piotr Michael – Arfolomew, Fritz



 In 2017, NBCUniversal relaunched the network formerly known as Sprout as Universal Kids, which would house their family offerings to compete with similar networks. Sprout would continue on as a pre-school programming block in the early morning hours, while older children and teens would be the focus for the remainder of the day. DreamWorks Animation, which was purchased by NBCUniversal in 2016, was tapped to provide content for the network in the form of reruns from other places and originals. 

(Top) The original Waldo characters: Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard, Wenda, Waldo and Woof.
(Bottom) The crew gets a new look: Arf, Wizard Whitebeard, Wenda, Waldo, Odlulu and Fritz.

One of those original programs was a new adaptation of the Where’s Waldo? series of books—the first in almost 30 years. While the original series, which aired on CBS in 1991, stuck very closely to the books by emulating the art style of creator Martin Hanford and featuring the character traveling to various wonderous worlds, this new series, developed by Koyalee Chanda and Lucas Mills, decided to not only revise the characters a bit, but also to keep things more grounded in reality to serve as an edutainment show dealing with geography and cultures.

Wenda taking point for some tandem surfing.

Waldo (Joshua Rush) was now a pre-teen member of the WorldWide Wanderer Society; an international organization of curious travelers that went around the world celebrating different cultures, learning about foreign lands and solving problems through observation in the hopes of earning their stripes and becoming Wizard-Level Wanderers. Waldo was knowledgeable and inquisitive, possessing an inventive spirit as well as a magic hat that could seemingly hold anything within. Waldo’s best friend and traveling companion was Wenda (Haley Tju), who was the brawn to Waldo’s brains. She was a talented athlete always ready to jump into the action. While she still wore stripes, her clothing was more unique rather than a female version of Waldo’s, and she was designed with darker skin and hair.

Fitness day with Wizard Whitebeard.

Their mentor was Wizard Whitebeard (Thomas Lennon), whose long white beard could act as a semi-sentient appendage. Although he occasionally wore the red robe and tall blue hat of his original incarnation, he was designed as a stereotypical hipster without shoes. He was fun-loving and a bit scatterbrained at times. He was also the keeper of a cache of Magic Keys. The Magic Keys could be used like a magic wand, each possessing their own special ability. For instance, the Greek Myth Key brought mythological figures to life, or the Quick Bloom Key allowed any plant to move and garden like a human. To reverse the spell, the keys’ bow simply had to be twisted 180-degrees before being used again. While Waldo’s loyal dog Woof would get introduced later on, initially the only canine friend was Whitebeard’s dog, Arfolomew (Piotr Michael), or “Arf” for short.

Hanging out at Wanderer HQ in the Wander Globe chair.

Waldo and Wenda typically spent their time at Whitebeard’s house—also known as Wanderer HQ—playing some kind of game, engaging in one of his many eccentric hobbies, or listening to a story from one of his many globe-trotting adventures. It was there where they would receive a communication from a fellow Wanderer via a Wander Post (basically, a postcard whose image could magically come to life) alerting them to the discovery of a once-lost Magic Key that Waldo and Wenda would need to retrieve. Whitebeard would summon the Wander Globe—a globe attached to a funky chair—and recited the chant “By striped staff and white of beard, I summon magic wild and weird! Spin o magic globe to show where these Wanderers will go!”, which would cause the globe to project an image of the country the Wander Post came from, followed by Whitebeard and/or Waldo giving a little information on the area and its people. As this version of the Waldo didn’t carry a walking stick that created portals to new locations, Waldo and Wenda would jump into a magic suitcase after exclaiming “Ready…set…Wander!” that would transport them exactly where they needed to go. After ejecting them, the suitcase would shrink itself down before landing for storage in Waldo’s hat.

Odlulu and Fritz up to mischief.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The race was on to get the key before Anti-Wanderer Odlulu (Eva Carlton) got it first. Odlulu was a former Wanderer who was impulsive and patient, wanting the keys to fulfill her own selfish desires for success, attention, or as some banal appliance—like a hair dryer. She was a gender-flipped version of franchise antagonist Odlaw, but rather than just be an evil double to Waldo, she wore an outfit similar to the classic Wenda outfit in Odlaw’s black and yellow stripes, a brimmed cap, and Odlaw’s pointed glasses. Odlulu was accompanied by her pet ferret, Fritz (Michael), who wore a purple and green hoodie. While he was loyal to Odlulu, he was even more loyal to his stomach and couldn’t keep from being distracted by any food item they encountered. Despite being the series’ “villain”, Odlulu wasn’t really malicious or evil. Rather, she was just self-absorbed and oblivious to the negative affects her actions took on others or the world around her. Her use of the keys often led to chaos that the Wanderers had to overcome and eventually clean up. There were times she even helped and seemed remorseful; of course, whatever lesson she learned was gone by the time the next episode rolled around. It was never explained how Odlulu knew about the location of the keys or got around as she always seemed to be in place ahead of the Wanderers, or why she left the Wanderer society.

Mountain climbing with Wizard Rockbeard.

Several other Wizards, many of whom possessed their own Magic Keys or watched over where one was located, appeared over the course of the series. Like Whitebeard, they each had wild hair: the male Wizards all had funky beards, while the women all had unique styles. Wizard Wavybeard’s (Bobby Moynihan) beard moved like calm water; Wizard Nightingale (Retta) had an occupied birdcage wrapped in her hair; Wizard Featherbeard’s (Oscar Nuñez) beard and hair resembled a bird’s plumage; Wizard Blizzardbeard’s (Tom Kenny) beard looked like a storm cloud; Wizard Artbeard’s (“Weird Al” Yankovic) beard stored his art supplies and acted as an palette; Wizard Lariat (Kerri Kenney-Silver) could use her long braid as—what else?—a lariat; Wizard Dubloon’s (Danielle Pinnock) dreadlocks held any number of objects; Wizard Fix (Rachel Dratch) used her hair to store tools; Wizard Vinebeard (Carlos Alazraqui) had a long, slender beard that could be swung on like a vine; Wizard Odissi’s (Hannah Simone) hair danced along with her; Wizard Dustybeard’s (Cedric Yarbrough) beard was tied to resemble and archaeologist’s brush; Wizard Flambé’s (Sumalee Montano) hair resembled a four-tiered cake; Wizard Shadowbeard (Randall Park) had a five o’clock shadow rather than an actual beard; Wizard Amber (Nicole Bloom) had a laurel branch trapped in her hair like amber; Wizard Rockybeard’s (Rob Riggle) beard looked as if it was made of stone; Wizard Melodia’s (Stephanie Beatriz) hair was full of bells and chimes; Wizard Corriedale’s (Cheri Oteri) hair looked like a sheep’s coat; and Wizard Longbeard (Henry Winkler) actually had a short one.

Bundled up for an arctic expedition through the magic suitcase.

Where’s Waldo? debuted on Universal Kids on July 20, 2019. It was written by Mills, F.M. De Marco, John Tellegen, Sam Cherington, Madison Bateman and Mimi Hess, with Mills serving as story editor. Each episode’s title was a pun that incorporated the featured location. Characters were designed by Melissa Manwill and Benjamin Tong, with animation provided by Snipple Animation Studios, Inc. The theme was performed by Distant Cousins, and Ben Bromfield supplied the score. As part of the promotion for the series, short clips of Rush and Tju talking about the show were shown during commercial breaks. Like other Waldo media, Where’s Waldo? was localized for various countries with Waldo’s name changed in the title, theme lyrics and dialogue (for example, he’s known as “Wally” in the United Kingdom), and had local actors re-record the lines.

Where's Waldo?

A number of recurring gags occurred through the series’ run. Wherever Odlulu and Fritz were, there would always be an occasion for someone to misidentify Fritz’s species; prompting Odlulu (and occasionally someone else) to correct them. Situations arose where Waldo found himself needing to construct a very elaborate device which he always christened with a name that ended in “-inator” (kind of like Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb, but without the whole trying to conquer the world part). As a nod to the books, there would be several moments where the viewer was tasked with finding Waldo in a crowded shot. These 10-second intervals would typically occur when the Wanderers went to a new location or Waldo needed to make one of his devices. Waldo would wander off while Wenda was distracted, prompting her to ask “Waldo? Where’s Waldo?” when she realized. Unlike the books and the original series’ “Waldo Minute”, these scenes weren’t as densely populated and did feature some limited motion as living things would gradually move out of the way to expose Waldo more. For the first 8 episodes, Tju would appear to introduce the episode and task the viewer with finding three additional objects in those scenes, returning at the end to highlight where they were and promote the next episode. After a few weeks’ hiatus, Tju would only occasionally appear to challenge the viewers to find Waldo as many times as they could in a quick character pop-up sequence. 

The Where's Waldo? cast during a promo segment.

Universal Kids, unfortunately, found itself struggling in its ratings. In June of 2019, development on original programming was stopped and the network’s development staff either laid off or moved to other NBCUniversal properties. It was decided instead to focus on the launch of their new streaming service, Peacock, in mid-2020. To bolster its original offerings, some shows were moved from other NBCUniversal networks onto it. Where’s Waldo?’s second season became one of the launch programs for the service on July 15th. Two more batches and a final episode were uploaded, bringing an end to the series as it wasn’t renewed for a third season.

Using a Magic Key to find more Magic Keys.

While Peacock had all of the episodes, only the first season and first seven episodes of season 2 were available to view for free; the remainder required a paid subscription to the service. The first season was also made available to stream on Hulu, and purchasable on Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu. Several clips have been uploaded to the official Peacock Jr. YouTube channel as both promotional material and interactive content.


Season 1:
“Little Trouble in Big China” (7/20/19) – The Wanderers must tame the dragon Odlulu accidentally brought to life with the Unfreeze Key.
“A Wanderer in Paris” (7/21/19) – Odlulu sees the Teeny-Tiny Key as her ticket to winning the Tour de France.
“A Day in Turkey” (7/23/19) – Wanderer Yasemin’s rug turns out to be a map to the Doubling Key.
“The Big New Mexico Pepper Hunt” (7/27/19) – The hunt is on for a ghost pepper to complete Whitebeard’s family chili recipe and win the cook-off against Odlulu for the Pepper Key.
“Hang Ten in Tahiti” (8/3/19) – The Wanderers must retrieve the Wave Key for Wizard Wavybeard, which Odlulu plans to use to win the local surf competition and get her own statue.
“Victoria Falls & Winters” (8/10/19) – After the Wanderers use the Weather Key to replenish a watering hole in Zimbabwe, Frtiz steals it from them so Odlulu can become a goddess.
“Vienna Voice-Versa” (8/17/19) – Attempting to enhance his voice for a duet with Wizard Nightingale, Whitebeard accidentally switches bodies with Arf.
“Costa Rica…in Color!” (8/24/19) – The Wanderers head to Costa Rica to help Wizard Featherbeard figure out why the birds are losing their color.
“Yukon Do It” (9/21/19) – Arf gets to become a sled dog while helping the Wanderers transport a package to Wizard Blizzardbeard.
“The Strength of Scotland” (9/28/19) – Odlulu uses the Strength Key to allow her to win in Scotland’s Highland Games.
“Hit or Myth in Greece” (10/5/19) – Odlulu uses the Greek Myth Key in order to obtain the Golden Fleece, prompting the Wanderers to team-up with Jason of the Argo.
“Venice the Menace” (10/12/19) – Odlulu steals the Crystal Glass Key in order to become the belle of the Vienetian Carnival ball.
“Australian Blunder Down Under” (10/19/19) – Waldo, Wenda and Odlulu must work together to retrieve his hat, Fritz and the Boomerang Key from a runaway kangaroo.
“Big in Japan” (10/26/19) – Zapping Fritz with the Mega Mega Monster Key not only increases his size, but that of his appetite for all the noodles in the city.
“A New York Minute” (11/2/19) – Whitebeard plans to run in the New York City Marathon, which Odlulu plans to win by using the Slow Mo Key on the other runners.
“Bahama Drama” (11/9/19) – Odlulu steals the Bubble Key from Wizard Doubloon in order to raise a sunken pirate ship in the Bahamas and take its treasure.
“Chilling Out in Antarctica” (11/16/19) – Odlulu’s new ice castle cuts off a waddle of penguins from their eggs during the annual march of the emperor penguins.
“Mini Mayhem in Moscow” (11/23/19) – The Wanderers head to Moscow to have Wizard Fix-It repair the Grow Key to shrink Whitebeard back to size, only to end up shrunken themselves.
“The Swiss Mess” (11/30/19) – The Wanderers head to Switzerland to get Whitebeard chocolate for his fondue fountain, but Odlulu plans to make the largest chocolate sculpture in the country.
“A Wanderer’s Christmas” (12/7/19) – Waldo and Wenda must go back in time to stop Odlulu from ruining everyone’s Christmas in her attempts to get off of Santa’s “Naughty” list.
Season 2:
“It’s on Like Amazon” (7/15/20) – Waldo and Wenda head to the Amazon to return the Quick Bloom Key to its wizard keeper.
“Mumbai Dance Party” (7/15/20) – Waldo, Wenda and Whitebeard head to Mumbai to take part in a big Bollywood dance number.
“Riddle Me This, Egypt” (7/15/20) – While helping Wizard Dustybeard find the Lost Chamber of Magic Keys in Egypt, Odlulu steals the key for the chamber from them.
“Mad About Madagascar” (7/15/20) – While getting fresh vanilla for Wizard Flambe, Woof takes a key and plays catch-me-if-you-can while unknowingly causing the key to cast its spells.
“Norway Out” (7/15/20) – The Wanderers head to Norway to keep Odlulu from using the very powerful Wind Key as the world’s greatest hair dryer.
“Shadows of Bali” (7/15/20) – Odlulu uses the Shadow Puppet Key to create her own living shadows, which then run off with the key.
“Where’s Woof?” (8/20/20) – Waldo and Wenda go on a worldwide search for Woof when he disappears into the magic suitcase.
“Jolly Olde England” (8/20/20) – When the Key in the Stone turns Fritz into a king, the Wanderers must stop him before his knights cause chaos in London.
“Galapagos a Go-Go” (8/20/20) – Changing into an animal via the Become An Animal Key, Odlulu accidentally disrupts the population of the Galapagos Islands.
“Toddle-lu Mexico City” (8/20/20) – The Wanderers must restore Odlulu to her original age when the Grow Up Key backfires and turns her into a toddler.
“Mongolia-Saurus” (8/20/20) – Odlulu uses the Dino Key to bring dinosaurs to life to have the ultimate pet.
“Nepal: Yeti or Not” (8/20/20) – The Wanderers discover Odlulu is scaring away the locals in Nepal after having turned Fritz into a Yeti with the Furball Key.
“A Welsh Trick and Treat” (8/20/20) – The Wanderers are invited to Halloween in Wales where Odlulu uses the Haunted House Key to bring some decorations to life.
“Uh-Oh, Canada” (12/11/20) – Odlulu uses the Invisible Key to turn her and Fritz invisible so that they can cheat during the Wanderers Ice Hockey Tournament.
“Blue Moon over Argentina” (12/11/20) – Odlulu steals the Guitar Key from Wizard Melodia to turn herself into the world’s best guitar player.
“Once Upon a Time in Denmark” (12/11/20) – The Wanderers head to Copenhagen to put Hans Christian Andersen’s characters back into the books Odlulu took them out of.
“Baa-Baa for Now, New Zealand” (12/11/20) – The Wanderers must bring a lost herd of sheep home after Odlulu attempts to rig a sheep herding competition.
“Trolling Through Iceland” (12/11/20) – The Wanderers must return the mythical creatures Odlulu brought to life back to stone.
“Gibraltar Rocks!” (12/11/20) – The Wanderers head to the Great Magic Key Vault to get Whitebeard one for his birthday, only to have Odlulu clean it out.
“Flipping in Japan” (7/3/21) – The Wanderers attend the big Wanderer gymnastics competition in Japan where Odlulu uses the Flipperty Key to turn herself into a world-class gymnast.

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