Where's Wally? creator nets £2.5m

A British media group that owns Basil Brush and Lassie has bought some of the rights to Where’s Wally – the bespectacled kids character who's always hard to spot in a crowd.

Announcing the deal yesterday, Entertainment Rights said they plan to develop the character into a global brand by placing him on mobile devices, software, computer games and even the Web.

Until now, the popular character has not been fully exploited outside publishing, the company said, but plans are afoot to launch Wally on the global market by 2008/09.

Talk of a multi-media platform to support the brand suggests the character could even share space with the likes of Google and Yahoo, by becoming a search engine.

Remarking on how “to Google something” has become an everyday phrase, ER’s chief executive Mike Heap told the Guardian the same could happen to Wally.

“In the future I think you will be saying, 'I’m going to Wally it',” he said.

Under the terms of the deal, Wally’s creator Martin Handford reserves the right to continue creating and publishing Where's Wally? titles in their original format. Mr Heap reportedly said it remains “very important” to ER that Mr Handford continues to create adventures for Wally, which first started in 1986.

Reflecting on the deal, Mr Handford said: “I am delighted that Wally can now be found among Entertainment Rights' happy family.

“Characters such as Postman Pat and Rupert Bear are perfect companions for this next and most exciting stage of the 'Where's Wally?' adventure.”

The former freelance illustrator said he was “thrilled” to have found such a “safe environment” for Where’s Wally, which has so far been published in over 50 countries and translated in 26 languages.

“My earliest influences,” he recalled, “were cinema epics and playing with toy soldiers. I attempted to recapture the excitement in my drawings, which started out as crowds of crude stick figures."

Mr Handford used to work in an insurance office to finance his degree at art college, amid continually doodling "what were always busy and militarily correct battle scenes".

After art college, Martin worked as a freelance illustrator specialising in drawing crowd scenes for numerous clients. Yesterday’s deal will net him £2.5million.


24th January 2007

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