Before there were the Muppets we know and love today, there was Alexander — the little grape who longed to be a watermelon.

Screenshot, still from “Alexander the Grape” (Jim Henson Company)

See the film after the jump.

The film gives us a glimpse at Henson’s early inspiration. And it demonstrates how far cut-paper and cut-felt animation, which have been enjoying a revival lately, have come. It’s a labor-intensive art requiring hundreds of shapes for just a few minutes of footage. For Spike Jonze and Olympia Le-Tan’s recent felt cutout film, “To Die By Your Side,” the pair used more than 3,000 felt figurines.

Though much of the early cutout animation featured 2-d cutouts against a flat backdrop, contemporary animators have experimented with 3-d paper figures, using computers to assist. “The Seed,” by Johnny Kelly, and “My Paper Mind,” by Javan Ivey, are two examples — and their themes are analogous to Henson’s strong little grape.

[via Flavorwire, Cartoonbrew]