The Student News Site of Guilford High School

GHS Gazette

The Student News Site of Guilford High School

GHS Gazette

The Student News Site of Guilford High School

GHS Gazette


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Steamboat Willie: What do I need to know?

If you’ve been alive, then you’ve probably heard of Mickey Mouse. He’s the face of Disney, one of the most powerful entertainment companies in the world, and thus has his recognizable face on many of their products-from shirts and wearable ears, to animated shorts or ‘easter eggs’ in their larger films. The mouse is everywhere.

But recently, to cap off a miserable centennial for the company, Mickey Mouse’s first incarnation, a boat-bound rat named Steamboat Willie, was entered into the public domain 95 years after his conception. According to the Times, “in January 2024, the copyright on Steamboat Willie officially expired, and Mickey Mouse is now officially in the public domain. This means that now anyone in the U.S. can use the Steamboat Willie version of the Mickey Mouse character without fear of copyright infringement.” In layman’s terms, the rat is ours.

Steamboat Willie, as with characters such as Pooh or Bambi, can now be used without crediting Disney at all, without fear of legal repercussions. He can be animated into a monetized video, drawn and sold by an independent artist, turned into an NFT, or even be used by other companies. But probably the most prominent of these uses are horror projects. Winnie The Pooh and Bambi had very similar treatment when they entered the public domain, with Blood and Honey and Bambi: The Reckoning. The very same day that Willie became free to use, a horror game called Infestation 88 was announced by Nightmare Forge Games. A Canadian horror movie named Mickey’s Mouse Trap was also announced on that day.

But before you use the poor mouse for your definitely original horror project, you must remember something important: Disney still holds copyright for Mickey. Steamboat Willie is the one who is public domain. That means, if you use Mickey’s current name, or portray him with his yellow-and-red outfit, Disney is going to stomp you into the ground.This means projects like Mickey’s Mouse Trap can’t make money. But as long as you heed to the copyright rules,  you are free to make whatever you want with the little guy.

If I may suggest an actually good horror project based on Steamboat Willie, check out The Vanishing of the SS. Willie. It kept me up all night.

By Charlotte Shepter

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