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Now that Steamboat Willie is out of copyright, a lot of creators have fun with independently-owned adaptations of Disney’s first-ever animation.
Steamboat Willy’s entry into the public domain opens the doors for untraditional creativity in Disney’s classic animation. Surprisingly enough, Disney’s oldest creation which included Mickey and Minnie Mouse, has completed its copyright period after its release in 1928, following many adaptations from indie creators.
As of January 1, 2024, Steamboat Willie lost copyright renewal and now qualifies as public domain in the United States by law in 2024.
This move paves the way for the upcoming horror movie, “Mickey’s Mouse Trap,” made by indie creators, and is set to release in March 2024. Disney intends to protect recent versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, as mentioned in their statement to the press:
“We will, of course, continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright,”
Mickey Mouse, the legendary character that holds significance as Disney’s emblem, has been all over Disney’s movies and shows and even introduces several celebrities to the public in the form of a club. After 95 years, this character in Steamboat Willie is free to the public to remake as they like.
Mickey’s not the only character to get the complete opposite turnaround after the expiration of copyrights. In 2022, we witnessed Winnie the Pooh getting all bloody and horror, with a reinterpretation called “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.” Before Winnie, 2009 saw a parody of Jane Austen’s famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
The director of Mickey’s Mouse Trap expressed the team’s desire to reiterate the concept of Mickey and have it turned over from its conventional role as an unexpected thriller antagonist. The movie’s plot revolves around Mickey’s desire to kill anyone who’s planning to celebrate their birthday – a unique and horror blend of Disney’s iconic character.
This release of the public domain in 2024 doesn’t limit itself to Disney classics. Works like All Quiet on the Western Front, Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and The Cameraman starring Buster Keaton are all having their copyrights expired.
As the public starts receiving rights to iterate these timeless masterpieces, the entire entertainment landscape will be set for fresh (or not-so-fresh) works that challenge the perception of the audience on their favorite characters.