Mickey Unleashed Indie Horror Takes a Dark Twist in the Public Domain
Barely 24 hours after the expiration of Disney’s copyright on Mickey Mouse, indie horror enthusiasts wasted no time in announcing two unsettling films featuring the iconic character.
“Steamboat Willie,” the initial Disney movie showcasing Mickey, entered the public domain under US law, granting freedom to copy, share, and adapt the early versions of the characters, including Mickey and Minnie.
Despite Disney’s warnings, opportunistic filmmakers swiftly revealed their unofficial remakes.
One of the announced films, “Mickey’s Mouse Trap,” introduces a masked killer dressed as Mickey, haunting a group of friends in an amusement arcade.
Another untitled horror-comedy explores a sadistic mouse tormenting unsuspecting ferry passengers. Director Jamie Bailey, in a YouTube trailer, expressed, “We just wanted to have fun with it all.
It’s Steamboat Willie’s Mickey Mouse murdering people. It’s ridiculous. We ran with it and had fun doing it, and I think it shows.” This low-budget horror-comedy is set to launch in March.
Meanwhile, filmmaker Steven LaMorte, known for “The Mean One,” a 2022 slasher inspired by The Grinch, is working on his own “twisted take” on Mickey.
He stated, “‘Steamboat Willie’ has brought joy to generations, but beneath that cheerful exterior lies a potential for pure, unhinged terror.” Production on the untitled film is scheduled to begin this spring, promising a unique perspective on the beloved character.
These projects evoke memories of “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey,” a micro-budget slasher film that garnered attention last year after the copyright on the first A.A.
Milne books expired. Analysts suggest Disney will closely monitor these indie creations, ready to deploy legal action if necessary. While only the earliest black-and-white version of Mickey is in the public domain, trademark protections remain, making films susceptible to legal action if they mislead consumers into thinking they are Disney productions.
In response, Disney emphasized their commitment to protecting the rights of the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other copyrighted works. They stated, “We will work to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and our other iconic characters.”
Despite Disney’s warning, LaMorte remains unfazed, assuring that they are diligent in avoiding confusion and see this as their unique interpretation of a public domain character.
First look & poster for ‘MICKEY’S MOUSETRAP’, a new Mickey Mouse horror movie releasing in March. pic.twitter.com/DIXyETnCsT
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) January 2, 2024
The clash between indie creativity and corporate protection sets the stage for an intriguing showdown in the realm of copyright and artistic expression.