Well, time marches on and it is an inescapable fact that Wallace and Gromit have been delighting film and television audiences for two decades.
This event is being celebrated with a multi-media exhibition at The Illustration Cupboard (opening tomorrow and running until 24 October) devoted to Wallace and Gromit's creator Nick Park and his original Wallace and Gromit artwork as well as a selection of the original Plasticine props used in the making of their films.
Also on show - and for sale - are several new pieces of colour artwork produced especially for this exhibition...
Pluto's Republic! Great gag! And note the penguin on the book spine.
And a limited edition anniversary full-colour silk screen print, signed and numbered by Nick showing the intrepid duo with their famous motorbike and sidecar...
The gallery is also offering signed first edition copies of the new book published by Egmont entitled The Art of Wallace and Gromit...
And it here that I come - tangentially - into the story.
It only feels like yesterday - certainly not almost twenty years ago - that I read in my morning paper that a young Bristol animator had received Oscar nominations for two films.
At the time I was one of the presenters of the BBC Radio 4 arts programme, Kaleidoscope, and I immediately suggested we ought to interview this British film phenomenon! The idea fell on deaf editorial ears, probably because the films were only animated movies: Creature Comforts and the first Wallace & Gromit adventure, A Grand Day Out.
A couple of months later, however, when Creature Comforts won the Oscar for animated short subject, the Beeb realised it had missed a scoop and I was dispatched, post-haste, to the Bristol studio of Aardman Animation to interview the shy, modest Mr Park...
Within a few months I was working with Nick on the script for what would be the next Wallace & Gromit caper, The Wrong Trousers. Our collaboration was huge fun and I have memories of crazy sessions in which we concocted elements for the storyboard what would never finally be seen on screen.
One such episode was the film's planned finale in which Wallace's house was surrounded by police, following the theft of the gem from the museum, so that they had to make their getaway in the moon rocket from A Grand Day Out - only to crash land on a ice floe in the Antarctic in the midst of vast flock of penguins!
My abiding memory of those scripting sessions is of Nick sitting with a sketchbook, filling it from margin to margin with wonderfully inventive doodlings.
Our partnership, unfortunately, didn't result in a filmable screenplay (though some scenes in the eventual film - such as the train chase ending with the Penguin in the milk bottle - were well on the way to their final form) and so we amicably parted company and the project was, if you'll pardon the pun, temporarily parked.
Nick later returned to the story with former Dr Who scriptwriter, Bob Baker, who has continued as his collaborator on the subsequent Wallace & Gromit films from The Wrong Trousers (1993), via A Close Shave (1995) and the feature length Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) to last year's A Matter of Loaf and Death.
I remained on great personal terms with Nick and Aardman and produced two books based on the storyboard for The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, as well as collaborating with Aardman's founder Peter Lord (creator of their first Plasticine superstar, Morph), on Cracking Animation, a book about the art and craft of stop-frame model animation.
I also got to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the making of Aardman's first feature-length film in Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie.
Then, a few months back, I was invited to write an introduction to the aforementioned new book celebrating the 20 years of the Wallace & Gromit double-act.
Now available from all good literary emporia (and signed from The Illustration Cupboard), The Art of Wallace and Gromit is stuffed with amazing drawings from Nick's sketchbooks...
Along with inspirational and storyboard art and pictures from film's storyboards...
There's also an opportunity to get a closer peep at the various cracking contraptions devised by Wallace and so often employed with disastrous results...
There are several surprises, such as discovering that Wallace started out life with a moustache and that Gromit began as an enormous dog with huge gnashers!
As well as tracing how the characters have developed over the years, the book catalogues all the friends and foes that they have acquired along the way including Penguin (aka Feathers McGraw), Wendolene Ramsbottom, Shaun the Sheep and Preston the Cybodog, Lady Tottington, Piella Bakewell and Fluffles.
Readers get a chance to scrutinise the amazing detail that goes into the creation of any Wallace and Gromit film but which often passes too quickly to be taken in on first viewing - like the paintings hung on the walls of Tottington Hall in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, one of which appears to be a portrait of Lady Campanula painted by Picasso...
It is also a testimony to the huge affection which we feel for these characters. As I note in my introduction:
Of course, we laugh at the heroic (or, perhaps, I should say, 'dogged') dedication, unsinkable optimism and utter seriousness with which Wallace and Gromit approach their various outlandish endeavours and confront the perils that, inevitably, follow.
But we also admire the indestructible nature of their relationship and their knack for co-existing in comparative peace and harmony, tolerating each other's faults and foibles with a loyalty and patience that are, surely, the hallmarks of true affection.
And since they clearly love one another - albeit in their reserved, British way - it's hardly surprising that we love them...
Check out the Official, Wallace & Gromit Website; and visit The Illustration Cupboard blogspot
The Illustration Cupboard is at 22 Bury St, London, SW1Y 6AL.
Monday to Friday: 10am to 6pm; Saturday: 12pm to 5pm
Closed Sunday and Bank Holidays
For map click here
All images © Aardman Animations