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Arts: Animators all agog with the lure of Hollywood fame

The quirky tales of Wallace, the inventor, and Gromit, his long-suffering canine sidekick, have captured a niche market for British talent. Almost single-handedly, Nick Park, 37, the characters' inventor, has blazed the 3D animation trail in this country. But now he has a rival. Make way for Gogs, courtesy of young, animators from north Wales, Deiniol Morris, 33, and Michael Mort, 25.

If you have not heard of Gogs, you soon will. The animated series features an earthy Stone Age family consisting of grandfather, parents, son, daughter and baby. Refinement is not in their vocabulary: this lot are up to their ears fighting dinosaurs and inventing fire.

Until now Gogs has only been seen on S4C, the Welsh-language fourth channel - though as the characters grunt rather than speak, the language could be immaterial. Soon, though, the animated Plasticine characters may appear on BBC2. The network has shown an interest, perhaps spurred by ratings beingpushed up by the adventures of Wallace and Gromit.

This month Gogs won the top animation award at the prestigious Banff television festival in Canada.

Three weeks ago the down-to-earth animators, who together formed AAArgh! animation a year and a half ago, were invited to Steven Spielberg's Los Angeles ranch.

Spielberg, a founder of the new production company, DreamWorks SKG, is interested in luring them to the United States to work on animation projects, which possibly could include a feature film.

"It was quite nerve-racking, but great," said Morris. "The meeting took place in this little ranch of Spielberg's. I think it was given to him as a gift from the investors of ET. The toilets were like something out of The Flintstones. We sat with them for an hour going over some ideas. We had some ideas we wanted to do, too."

Spielberg was particularly taken by the first episode of Gogs, which shows how the family discover fire after lightning hits a tree. They order their son to guard it but the warmth sends him to sleep.

"In the morning there's a dinosaur right in front of him and there's one flame left, so the son picks up the burning twig and sticks it up the dinosaur's backside. The dinosaur runs away and in triumph the son blows the twig out, so the family kick him in," said Morris.

Unlike Park, who has met Spielberg for talks but resisted being bought by Hollywood "lock stock and barrel", Morris and Mort admit they would be tempted by an offer from DreamWorks.

Morris, who left school at 16 to do a foundation art course, agrees it would mean moving to Los Angeles: "But obviously, we wouldn't like to turn down the chance."

This spring Park won his third Oscar - in the Best Animated Short Film category - with Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave. If they do take up Spielberg's offer, it might not be long before the men behind AAArgh! are on the Oscar podium, too - thanking, among others, the grunting Gogs.