LOS ANGELES — The earliest iteration of Mickey Mouse is causing quite a stir as it enters the public domain. Free from Disney’s copyright as of Monday, the iconic character from “Steamboat Willie” has already become the subject of two horror films. The first one, titled “Mickey’s Mouse Trap,” released its trailer on YouTube just hours after the 1928 short became public. And now, there’s another yet-to-be-named film in the works.
“Steamboat Willie” introduced early versions of both Mickey and Minnie Mouse to the world. Directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, it was the third cartoon featuring the duo, but the first to be released. In this movie, Mickey takes on a more menacing appearance, resembling a rat more than a mouse. He commands a boat and creates musical instruments out of other animals.
Interestingly, the first projects announced to feature Mickey are low-budget slasher films. This is not entirely unprecedented, as we’ve already seen Winnie the Pooh enter the public domain in 2022. Within a year, he became the star of a microbudget movie called “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey,” where he leaves behind a trail of bodies, all without his signature red shirt.
In the trailer for “Mickey’s Mouse Trap,” directed by Jamie Bailey, a person wearing a comically small Mickey mask terrorizes a group of young individuals at an arcade. The trailer is filled with intriguing text that reads, “A place for fun. A place for friends. A place for hunting. The mouse is out.”
It seems like Disney’s beloved characters are taking a dark turn as they enter the public domain. What other stories will emerge from this new era? Only time will tell.
Mickey Mouse Takes a Dark Turn in New Horror Films
A Unique Twist on a Beloved Character
Embracing the Absurdity
Bailey expressed his excitement about the project, stating that they wanted to have fun with it all. Referring to Mickey Mouse as a murderer may sound ridiculous, but Bailey believes their approach shows their dedication and enthusiasm for the film.
Untitled Film by Steven LaMorte
LaMorte, known for his horror parody of “The Grinch,” is set to direct a nightmarish boat ride turned fight for survival in New York City. In his Instagram post, he describes how a playful mouse transforms into a menacing reality, promising an intense and thrilling experience for audiences. Although production hasn’t started yet, the concept alone generates anticipation.
Navigating Copyright Limitations
The expiration of the 95-year copyright has opened up opportunities for filmmakers to use early versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. However, modern iterations remain protected by copyright. Disney has made it clear that they will continue to safeguard their intellectual property rights.
LaMorte and his team are cautious not to infringe on Disney’s copyrighted materials. To avoid any confusion or legal issues, they will refer to their terrifying rodent as Steamboat Willie instead of Mickey Mouse.
Protecting Creativity With Legal Support
LaMorte assured Variety that they are working closely with a legal team to ensure compliance with copyright laws and to stay on good terms with Disney. Their commitment to due diligence showcases their dedication to creating a unique film without crossing any boundaries.
No release dates have been announced for either project, leaving fans eagerly waiting for these distinctive takes on the beloved character.