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Disney’s Steamboat Willie no longer charming animated relic as horror game planned

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It has taken less than a day since the earliest version of Disney’s most famous mouse became Public Domain.

After almost a century of holding the Copyright, Steamboat Willie is ours (almost) to do with as we like (almost) and the internet has gone into full production mode turning the once-loved dancing mouse into a plethora of absurd and frightening creations, that were never quite in the original ‘mood’ of the poor black and white rodent.

Infestation 88 from Nightmare Forge Games appeared almost instantly the character turned PD and features a very similar Steamboat Willie as one of its bad guys. The game is a co-op horror pitching you as an exterminator treating sinister infestations caused by “twisted versions of classic characters and urban legends.” It’s not all the mouse, although Willie features heavily in the trailer. Toot toot. No release date as yet other than 2024, but it’s unlikely to be another Tears of the Kingdom so it will be out sooner rather than later.

Besides video games it seems there is a movie on the way – a horror flick of course, where Steamboat Willie turns slasher. Mickey’s Mouse Trap (that title could still be asking for trouble) appeared as a trailer, again almost instantaneously.

Musically, it took just minutes to turn Steamboat Willie’s famous whistle into a dubstep remix and there will be so much more to follow.

We have been here before

In 2022 AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh also entered the public domain, bringing with it another horror film, Blood and Honey. While Pooh himself remains copyright-free, aspects of his look such as his red shirt are trademarked to Disney, so cannot be used. 

The full ramifications of Steamboat Willie’s transition into the Public Domain may not yet be apparent. Copyright cannot be reapplied but Disney could potentially apply for a trademark for the world’s oldest animated mouse.

Paul McNally

Paul has been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision. He spent over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title. Has written gaming content for GamePro, Official Australian PlayStation Magazine, PlayStation Pro, Amiga Action, Mega Action, ST Action, GQ, Loaded, and the Daily Mirror. Former champion shoot ’em-up legend.

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