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Mickey Mouse Horror Unleashed as Copyright Fades: Film and Game Take a Dark Turn

The expiration of Disney’s copyright on the earliest versions of Mickey Mouse in the US has given rise to a new genre – Mickey Mouse horror. Released on New Year’s Day, a trailer for the horror comedy thriller, “Mickey’s Mouse Trap,” showcases a masked killer donned in a Mickey Mouse costume terrorizing unsuspecting victims at an amusement arcade.

Simon Phillips, the film’s producer, emphasized the desire to create something radically different from the traditional family-friendly image of Mickey Mouse. “If you put Mickey into a family movie, you don’t cover new ground,” he explained. “In order to flip the coin, you have to come up with something that’s the polar opposite of what already exists.”

Accompanying the horror film is a video game titled “Infestation 88,” developed by Nightmare Forge Games. The survival horror game features the 1928 version of Mickey Mouse and centers around an outbreak of vermin turning into a more sinister force.

This creative explosion follows the expiration of copyright for the 1928 short film “Steamboat Willie,” marking the entry of early non-speaking versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse into the public domain. The move allows artists, writers, and filmmakers to freely rework and use these iconic characters without seeking permission or incurring costs.

While creatives have eagerly embraced this newfound freedom, Disney still retains trademark rights over Mickey as a brand identifier and corporate mascot. Modern versions of Mickey are also protected by copyright.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time a childhood character has undergone a horror transformation as Winnie the Pooh, upon entering the public domain, was featured in the R-rated horror film “Blood and Honey” last year.

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