Express & Star

Flashback to 1989: The start of Wallace and Gromit's stop motion adventures

They're one of Britain's best-loved double acts - the cheese-loving inventor and his genius pet dog.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park with the characters

Wallace and Gromit have been making us laugh with their comedy capers for more than 30 years.

It was back in 1989 that the plasticine heroes were first unveiled by creator Nick Park in a short film titled A Grand Day Out at an animation festival at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol.

And since then they've been delighting audiences across the globe with their adventurous antics and have been joined by other charming characters including the cute but naughty Shaun the Sheep.

The duo were created by Nick while he was a student at the National Film and Television School. For his graduation project, he decided to animate two characters he had been sketching and writing short stories about - a man with a flat cap and his cat.

Over time the cat became a dog and the man lost the moustache that Nick had originally drawn him with. But the idea of the ingenious inventor and his cautious canine was there in his student sketchbook.

During this time he met with Aardman’s Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who offered Nick a job working on commercials. Nick was able to use the Aardman studios and resources to finish his film while working at Aardman.

A Grand Day Out was made using the stop motion animation technique. After the storyline has been planned out in great detail and the set and plasticine models have been constructed, the films are shot one frame at a time. Each time the models of the characters are moved slightly to give the impression of movement in the final film.

One of the sets used for Wallace and Gromit films

Nick had intended Gromit to be a speaking dog, but as he started filming A Grand Day Out he realised that Gromit could ‘say’ so much more without speaking.

He reveals on his website that one of the most common questions he gets asked is where he got the inspiration for Wallace and Gromit from. In Wallace’s case, this came from his own family.

"After making the film it became very apparent that Wallace was incredibly like my dad in many ways, particularly because of his whole attitude to life. He’s naïve – not that my dad was naïve, but he had ideas and got on with them," explains Nick.

The visual look of Wallace was inspired by a postman Nick knew called Jerry; he was later renamed after a Labrador Nick encountered on a bus in Preston. Gromit, meanwhile, got his name after Nick heard his brother, an electrician, talking about ‘grommets’ – rings, or washers, used in the trade.

It's said that Gromit’s intellectual, cultured character is perhaps a little inspired by the character Snowy from Tintin - Hergé's classic cartoon creation was a favourite of Nick’s when he was growing up.

Nick launches the new Wallace & Gromit Experience at the Science and Industry Museum, London in 2009

Following its debut at the Arnolfini Gallery in November 1989, A Grand Day Out was transmitted on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve, 1990 - six years after production began.

A Grand Day Out became a major talking point and, along with another of Nick's creations, Creature Comforts, was nominated for an Academy Award. In the end Creature Comforts won the award in the short animated film category, but Wallace and Gromit had captured the public's heart and it wasn't long before the next short film was in production.

For those who are unfamiliar with the storyline of A Grand Day Out, it follows Wallace and Gromit as they enjoy a trip with a difference when a quest to find cheese prompts a visit to the moon.

Despite a few hiccups with their homemade rocket, the duo make a successful lunar landing, arriving just in time for lunch.

But a strange, mechanical being, described as a gas cooker on wheels with a coin slot for a mouth and a wonky antenna, isn’t too happy to see Wallace eating slices of moon cheese.

And Wallace and Gromit have to make it back to the safety of their rocket before the Cooker dishes out its punishment. Fortunately for them the Cooker gets distracted by a skiing brochure and discovers a new hobby.

Since A Grand Day Out, there have been plenty more adventures including 1993's Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, 1995's A Close Shave and 2005's Curse of The Were-Rabbit.

And the iconic duo, who are adored by fans across the globe, are returning for a new film in 2024.