Where's 'Waldo' now? Universal

Studio planning live-action film based on book series

The answer to "Where's Waldo?" is Universal.

The studio has picked up the movie rights to the popular children's books series from Classic Media with the aim of making a live-action family film to be produced by Chris Meledandri's Illumination Entertainment.

Classic Media's Eric Ellenbogen will executive produce.

Created by illustrator Martin Handford, the books featured Waldo, dressed in a red-and-white shirt, wearing glasses and carrying a walking stick, as he popped up in crowded full-page scenes.

The books began life in the U.K. in the late 1980s, where he is called Wally, before becoming a worldwide sensation. The books became more thematically complex, with Waldo traveling in time or landing in supernatural settings, and a nemesis was introduced, an anti-Waldo named Odlaw.

The book series was previously set up at Paramount and Nickelodeon, where John Schultz was attached to direct a script that had been worked on by scribes such as Adam Rifkin as well as Adam Cooper and Bill Collage.

The plot of that project revolved around Waldo, now 30, ending up traveling through time after accidentally activating a malfunctioning travel machine.

Paramount recently put the project in turnaround, and the rights to "Waldo" have been bouncing around between entities.

Several studios were in the running for the rights, but over the course of several months, Meledandri spearheaded the push to bring it to Universal, where Illumination is based. The company, which has an animation bent, has several projects in development, including "I Hop" and "Flanimals."

The company's animated "Despicable Me" is aiming for a release in 2010 with Steve Carell and Jason Segel among the voices.