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Movie Legends Revealed: Did Waldo Appear in Mel Gibson's 'Apocalypto'?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Waldo (of "Where's Waldo"? fame) appeared in Mel Gibson's “Apocalypto.”

The term "Easter egg" has come to refer to something interesting hidden within a work for fans to discover (like an Easter egg hunt), like “South Park's” aliens, Paul McCartney's lentil soup recipe and Joe Walsh's presidential campaign. However, one of the all-time strangest Easter eggs has got to be Mel Gibson's use of the children's book character Waldo in his 2006 film “Apocalypto.”

Gibson's follow-up to his 2004 blockbuster hit “The Passion of the Christ,” “Apocalypto” tells the story of the end of the Mayan civilization in the 16th century, due at least in part to Spanish conquest. As with “The Passion of the Christ,” Gibson strove for what he considered to be authentic dialogue and languages, with characters speaking almost entirely in the Yucatec Maya language (with English subtitles).

The actor turned director is a well-known prankster, a reputation that continued on the set of “Apocalypto.” One of his jokes to splice gags into the film and its trailer: For instance, in one of the trailer’s frames, Gibson is shown smiling with a cigarette in his mouth alongside actors playing ancient Mayans.

In the film itself, however, there was a more controversial use of this spliced-in frame technique: In a sequence in which the film’s hero, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), encounters a mass grave, one frame reveals none other than Waldo.

The concept behind the popular children’s book character is that creator Martin Handford draws enormous, detailed scenes from around the world fill with many people. The reader’s goal is to locate Waldo within the illustrations.

Gibson clearly found it amusing to have an actor dress as Waldo to be "found" dead with an arrow through his head. You can see it in this clip:

Naturally, there were some who thought the joke was in poor taste, so the scene was cut from the DVD release of the film. However, I believe it was restored in the Blu-ray version.

Interestingly enough, this isn't the only time Waldo was involved in some controversy. I did a legend a few years back about how one of the Waldo books came under fire for depicting a woman tanning topless in a beach scene.

Anyhow, as for this legend, it is...

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of films.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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