The Apocalypto Easter Egg That Disappeared For Years

"Apocalypto" is a chase movie from a director whose name was a lightning rod for controversy the year of its release, yet the movie itself has sent people chasing after one controversial little Easter Egg involving the red-and-white-striped character: Waldo, of "Where's Waldo?" fame. Leave it to Mel Gibson to pull a Tyler Durden on moviegoers and splice in a rogue frame of footage among an already disturbing scene.

"Apocalypto" is set during the decline of the Mayan civilization in Mexico around 1502. It follows a tribesman named Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) who sees his village raided and who must race through the jungle to escape his captors and save his son and pregnant wife. Among other things, the film shows women being sold into slavery and men being sacrificed by decapitation, their bodies left to line mass graves. It's not the kind of movie where you'd expect a children's book character in a bobble hat to pop up, but the concept behind "Where's Waldo?" (or "Where's Wally?" as it's known outside North America) does involve spotting Waldo in the unlikeliest of places.

Usually, illustrator Martin Handford places Waldo in a colorful, crowded scene and the reader has to try and pick him out from there. In "Apocalypto", Gibson thought it would be funny to stick him in a pit of mud-covered corpses. Taking a cue from Brad Pitt's character in "Fight Club" and his unauthorized film-editing techniques, Gibson inserted a blink-and-you'll-miss-it frame where a guy in a Waldo costume could be glimpsed with an arrow through his head, lying among the beheaded remains of human sacrifice victims.

Where's Waldo? Mayan-Style

The shot of a dead Waldo in "Apocalypto" was reportedly removed from the DVD but restored for the Blu-ray release. There are some old videos on YouTube that appear to show the shot in question, and if you have a mind to it, you could try playing "Where's Waldo?" during "Apocalypto" and freeze-framing the Blu-ray yourself.

The shot is supposed to come just after Jaguar Paw has fled across a wheat field from his nose-ringed captors, who have been using him and his fellow villagers for target practice. As he emerges from the field, he tumbles down a pit, looks around, and sees bodies everywhere. Somewhere in there, you might find Waldo.

Gibson had a reputation for being a prankster on the set of his films before a drunk-driving incident in the summer of 2006 (and subsequent controversies involving leaked phone recordings) cast a pall over his list of movie credits. "Apocalypto" hit theaters in December 2006, and after that, Gibson's filmography would go dark for several years, with his next directorial effort, "Hacksaw Ridge," only coming a full decade later in 2016. By then, he was capable of producing work again that would restore him to the good graces of Oscar voters, at least, as "Hacksaw Ridge" picked up six nominations at the 89th Academy Awards.

If you can get past the stigma associated with it, "Apocalypto" is a severely underrated film, but it's probably not the kind of movie where anyone but adults should go looking for Waldo.