A scene from Winne the Pooh: Blood and Honey
It's Mickey, but not like you've never seen him before.
A trailer for a slasher film, featuring a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse, was released on January 1, the day Disney's copyright on early versions of the cartoon character expired in the United States. United.
“We just wanted to have fun with it,” the film’s director said.
A new Mickey-inspired horror game, showing the rodent covered in bloodstains, was also released on the same day.
Steamboat Willie, a 1928 short film featuring early non-speaking versions of Mickey and Minnie, entered the public domain in the United States on New Year's Day.
This means that cartoonists, novelists and filmmakers can now rework and use early versions of Mickey and Minnie.
In fact, anyone can use these versions without permission or fees.
Creatives were quick to take advantage of the new rules, with a trailer (contains violent scenes) for a Mickey horror film released the same day.
In the comedy-horror thriller Mickey's Mouse Trap, a young woman is thrown a surprise birthday party at a video arcade – but things quickly take a turn for the worse when she and her friends encounter a knife-wielding murderer in a Mickey costume.
“A place for fun, a place for friends, a place to hunt. The mouse is out,” the trailer screams in red text.
“I mean, it's Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie murdering people. It's ridiculous,” said director Jamie Bailey.
“We ran with it and had fun doing it and I think it shows.”
The film itself does not have a confirmed release date but is expected to be released in March.
Not to be outdone, a new video game has been revealed, also featuring the 1928 version of Mickey.
Game studio Nightmare Forge Games said the game, titled Infestation 88, is a survival horror game in which a vermin outbreak turns into something more sinister.
At the beginning of the teaserA man is heard saying nervously, “I thought it was just rodents, but there's something else here.”
A huge blood-splattered Mickey then appears on screen, while mice scurry around him.
In the game's description, it states that players – who take on the role of exterminators – are tasked with dealing with “mysterious infestations caused by twisted versions of classic characters and urban legends.”
Mickey isn't the first childhood character to get the horror movie treatment.
When Winnie the Pooh entered the public domain, the adorable bear was made into the R-rated horror film, Blood and Honey, which was one of the lowest rated films of last year.
U.S. copyright law states that rights to the characters can be held for 95 years, meaning the Steamboat Willie characters entered the public domain on January 1, 2024.
Disney has repeatedly faced losing copyright to its original cartoons.
The characters were first scheduled to enter the public domain in 1984, but Congress extended the term by 20 years.
Before the next expiration date, in 2004, another 20-year extension was granted.
Disney's efforts to protect its characters even led to the law being nicknamed “the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” But the time finally came, and it was hailed as “deeply symbolic” according to experts.
The company still separately holds a trademark on Mickey as a brand identifier and corporate mascot. This means that there are still limits to how the public can use these images.
And Disney insisted that more modern versions of Mickey were still covered by copyright.
“We will of course continue to protect our rights to more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright,” the company said.