Mickey Mouse’s precursor Steamboat Willie was introduced by Disney in 1928 but, on January 1, the character entered the public domain. While companies will need to be very careful to avoid being pursued by Disney for copyright infringement, the parodies have already begun.
In a statement issued late last year, the studio made it clear that it will be keeping an eye on these projects with a statement that warned they will “continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright.”
There’s only so much they can do, though, and as we first reported on FearHQ.com, at least two low-budget horror movies in the same vein as Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey are already in the works. That includes an untitled horror-comedy from Steven LaMorte, the filmmaker behind The Mean One, a horror parody of The Grinch.
In the movie, a sadistic mouse will torment a group of unsuspecting ferry passengers. Production is set to begin in the spring and LaMorte says, “Steamboat Willie has brought joy to generations, but beneath that cheerful exterior lies a potential for pure, unhinged terror. It’s a project I’ve been dreaming of, and I can’t wait to unleash this twisted take on this beloved character to the world.”
He added, “We are doing our due diligence to make sure there’s no question or confusion of what we’re up to. This is our version of a public domain character. It’s a scary thrill ride with heart and humor, based on this character that everybody knows.”
Here’s a sneak peek at the reimagined, murderous, Steamboat Willie:
That design is very close to the original Steamboat Willie (the lawyers must have been happy it’s not too close to Disney’s take), though the same can’t be said for Mickey’s Mouse Trap.
In the movie, which is directed by Jamie Bailey, It’s Alex’s 21st birthday, but she’s stuck at the amusement arcade on a late shift so her friends decide to surprise her, but a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse decides to play a game of his own with them which she must survive.
So, yes, it’s just a killer in what’s clearly a Mickey Mouse mask. The cast includes Sophie MacIntosh, Callum Sywyk, Allegra Nocita, Ben Harris, Mirelle Gagne, Mackenzie Mills, James Laurin, Kayleigh Styles, Jesse Nasmith, Madeline Kelman, Dair Kovic, Nick Biskupek, and Simon Phillips, and no release date has been announced yet.
We do, however, have a trailer and poster for what looks like a very low-budget project.
It’s not just in theaters (or on Digital, more likely) that Steamboat Willie is entering the horror realm. Nightmare Forge Games, for example, has announced Infestation 88, a new 1-4 player survival horror co-op PC game.
“In the year 1988, what was thought to be an outbreak of rodents in various locations morphed into something far more sinister,” reads an official description teasing a deadly new take on Steamboat Willie. It adds that players will take on the role of, “an exterminator treating sinister infestations caused by twisted versions of classic characters and urban legends.”
You can take a look at the trailer for Infestation 88 below (via GameFragger.com):
It’s hard to know how to feel about these plans, particularly when Steamboat Willie is such an iconic part of Disney history. Some will no doubt be pleased to see the studio lose its IP, though it’s clear that no major studio is currently planning to take on the House of Mouse!
Stay tuned for updates as we have them and let us know your thoughts on these plans in the comments section below.