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‘Steamboat Willie’ enters public domain, inciting slasher movies and crude memes

Craig+Duffy+%7C+Flickr
Craig Duffy | Flickr

The earliest version of Disney’s Mickey Mouse entered the public domain after the 95-year copyright for “Steamboat Willie” on Jan. 1.

First seen in “Steamboat Willie” and a silent version of “Plane Crazy,” the black and white versions of Mickey and Minnie are free for creatives to use. Legally, this means anyone can now copy and reproduce the 1928 version of Mickey Mouse without Disney’s permission.

Although the first versions of the beloved characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse are free for the public to use, more modern versions of the characters are still under copyright protection.

As soon as the news broke, people took to social media to express their views on the release of the iconic character. Some edited Steamboat Willie in shocking situations, like crashing his boat into the original World Trade Center and smoking joints, to poke fun at the company’s squeaky-clean reputation. Others expressed concern that he will be made into a bad horror film.

Many beloved animated characters have been released into the public domain in recent years.

In 2022, A.A. Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh stories entered the public domain, taking away Disney’s exclusive rights to Winnie the Pooh. 

Since then, Winnie the Pooh has been turned into a murderous bear in the low-budget movie, “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.” The film received many poor reviews from critics and has a 2.9-star rating on IMDB. The sequel to “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” dropped its first look at bloody Tigger after Winnie the Pooh’s friend entered the public domain this year alongside Mickey.

Two horror films and a video game have already been announced using this newly released version of Mickey. 

Screenwriter Simon Philips posted a teaser trailer for the film “Mickey’s Mouse Trap” on YouTube, “Mickey’s Mouse Trap” the same day. Variety reported director

Steven LaMorte also announced an untitled “Steamboat Willie” horror movie. Shortly after the announcement, Nightmare Forge Games announced the horror game, “Infestation: Origins.” 

Other properties that entered the public domain in January include Peter Pan, Tarzan, and The Wizard of Oz characters. Other Disney characters are not in the public domain but will be in the coming years. Mickey’s dog, Pluto, will enter the public domain in 2025, and his friends Donald Duck and Goofy will follow in 2029.

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Sonia Kalo, News Editor
Sonia Kalo is the News Editor of The Ticker
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