Sometime yesterday, a red cowboy-style hat began mysteriously appearing on the home screen of some Moto X phones. As the quirky icon suggested, it wasn't anything sinister: Motorola had delivered a digital story — something between a movie and a game that the company expressly describes as being neither — to owners of its new flagship handset. The story is called Windy Day, and it tells a short slapstick tale of a cartoon mouse chasing after his hat as the wind whips it around the forest.

Shaky views, charming discoveries

Motorola's twist on the tale is that viewers get to control the camera using their smartphone. By spinning yourself around, you can twirl the virtual camera around in place, letting you see the main character, what's above it, what's below it, or what exactly it's walking toward. Sometimes that just gives you an uneventful view of the cartoon forest, but other times, in what feels like charming serendipity, you'll stumble upon whatever funny obstacle the mouse is going to run into next before it gets there. The camera control isn't always perfect though, as there's a reason why cameras aren't usually held completely freehand: the image can get pretty shaky.

For the most part though, Windy Day tells a fine story for a cartoon short — it's even created by Jan Pinkava, the co-director of Pixar's Ratatouille. It may not have all the charm of a Pixar film, but it's also Motorola's very first effort and a free surprise for its customers. And there's more to come too: Motorola isn't saying when, but it promises that through its built-in Spotlight app, more interactive shorts or something like them could just appear again down the road.