In "Possessions," one of five very fine entries in The Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated, the ghost spirit of a broken old umbrella springs to life, causing a night of splendid havoc for a weary Japanese traveler. A gorgeously realized homage to the concept of Tsukumogami - that after 100 years, tools and instruments attain souls and self-awareness - Shuhei Morita's 'toon works as a metaphor for the process of animation itself: Whether the artist is using pencil and paper, or spacewarp software, the inanimate is transformed into something alive and vital. Imagination takes flight.
Flight is the idea behind "Room on the Broom," another of this year's Academy Award nominees. Adapted from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's children's book, this British-German featurette, narrated in whimsical rhyme by Simon Pegg, is about a witch, her cat, and her broomstick - which acquires a new passenger after each of a number of mishaps. By the end, the soaring sorceress is joined by a veritable Airbus-load of companions - a dog, a frog, a bird - all of them pursued by a lumbering, fire-breathing dragon. The CG animation has a bright, picture-book quality, and the voice talent reads like the cast of a promising parallel-universe film: In addition to Pegg, there are this year's supporting-actress nominee Sally Hawkins, plus Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, and Timothy Spall.