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| 1 minute read

Steamboat Willie-Era Mickey Mouse, the Next Great Horror Film Villain?

This week, Walt Disney's initial version of Mickey Mouse entered the public domain, marking a pivotal shift in the mouse house's IP portfolio. The 1928 classic short, Steamboat Willie, was the first appearance of the famous mouse and, due to its age, the short (and therefore its version of Mickey) has now entered the public domain and free to use by all, without securing permission from the owner.  This early version (and now outdated version) of Mickey introduced the mouse to the world without gloves, large shoes, and pupils - a far cry from the more modern, cartoon-y version we know today.

Content creators are already clamoring to work this newly accessible intellectual property into their own works.  For instance, two horror films starring the old mouse are on their way.  See a trailer for one of them here.  

While Disney still maintains rights to other, newer versions of the mouse, this is a significant shift in the company's rights to enforce against unauthorized uses of the old version of the mascot, which has been synonymous with the brand for nearly 100 years. It's also an important reminder to be mindful of unauthorized use of protectable works and to conduct proper due diligence for works that may be in the public domain. 


Mickey Mouse has landed a new role: horror-movie villain. At least two films starring an early version of the Walt Disney Company’s famous mascot were announced this week as the copyright for Disney’s 1928 animated short film, “Steamboat Willie,” entered the public domain for the first time.


copyright, intellectual property, disney, mickey mouse, copyright law, ip