After 95 years of U.S. copyright protection, Disney’s iconic front-mouse Mickey has entered the public domain. Well, the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey has.
During his first day of fair use, Mickey popped up in all kinds of precarious situations. Below, we’ve highlighted five of the most egregious uses of the character.
Mickey’s Mouse Trap
When Winnie the Pooh (the A.A. Milne book version) hit the public domain two years ago, the most high-profile exploitation of the bear was in a blood-soaked slasher flick, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey, which somehow made over $5 million at the box office. It’s entirely unsurprising, then, that Mickey is getting his own live-action horror adaptation, Mickey’s Mouse Trap.
The film’s synopsis reads:
It’s Alex’s 21st Birthday, but she’s stuck at the amusement arcade on a late shift so her friends decide to surprise her, but a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse decides to play a game of his own with them which she must survive.
No release date has been announced yet, but there is a trailer.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of Mickey appearances in video games. According to this fandom page, the mouse headlines at least 60 games and appears as a non-playable character in 14 more. We’d be willing to bet that developer Nightmare Forge Games’ Infestation 88 is the first in which Mickey is portrayed as a blood-thirsty antagonist. According to the company, Infestation 88 is:
A co-op horror in which you’re an exterminator treating sinister infestations caused by twisted versions of classic characters and urban legends.
The studio released a brief teaser for the game, which is currently available to Wishlist on Steam and scheduled to be released sometime in 2024.
Steamboat Willie NFT Collection
Having the world’s most famous cartoon mouse murder teenagers and eat people alive may seem sinister, but the most tasteless exploitation of Mickey we’ve seen so far is a Steamboat Willie public domain NFT collection that went live at 12:00 pm EST on January 1.
That someone is trying to sell 2,000 copies of the same still image that can be freely copy and pasted by anyone isn’t that surprising. What is shocking is that more than 700 of the tokens have been purchased already, some for more than .449 ETH, or approx. USD $1,000.
Mickey Is Public Now
There are surely plenty of “adults-only” uses of Mickey and Minnie out there – she debuted in Steamboat Willie, too – but I’m avoiding those corners of the internet as best I can. That said, there is plenty of PG13 mouse content available on Youtube, and ThatOneGuy’sAnimations’ Mickey is Public Now features a more grown-up Mickey that looks like he’d be a lot more fun to party with than the 1928 version.
Steamboat Willie (2024)
Alright, I actually kind of love this one. And it’s far more eerie than the horror pilots put out there so far. In this reimagining of the original Disney short, a live-action Mickey whistles his way around a real-life steamboat.
Pictured at top: Infestation 88