Company That Profited From Disney’s Mickey Mouse Since 2021 Urges Buyers to Cash In NOW

pete and mickey mouse
Credit: Walt Disney Animation

A company that began profiting from the upcoming demise of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse almost three years ago is telling its customers to cash in now.

pete and mickey mouse

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

Lying in Wait For “the Mouse”

In 2021, as the clock on the copyrights to Walt Disney’s initial iteration of Mickey Mouse began its multi-year wind-down, one entity created an elaborate way to make money from the Famous Mouse–as it refers to Mickey, by selling “tokens” that would be cashed in after January 1, 2024, when Steamboat Willie would finally step into the public domain.

The entity, known only as MSCHF, explained that, beginning on January 1, 2024, it would begin developing conceptual artwork that would eventually yield actual pieces of artwork that will be produced and shipped to customers who purchased tokens by the third quarter of 2024.

mschf famous mickey mouse design website

Credit: MSCHF x Famous Mouse/Canva

“We are making and selling the idea of a MSCHF ‘Famous Mouse’ artwork now that will not exist–even as a design–until 2024,” reads an answer to a frequently-asked question posted on the company’s website in 2021. “If you purchase this artwork, we give you a temporary token with a unique code that can be redeemed for the actual piece in 3 years.”

mschf famous mickey mouse design website

Credit: MSCHF x Famous Mouse/Canva

Now the company is urging those who purchased a token sometime through December 31, 2023, to activate those tokens to be certain they receive their limited-edition piece of artwork “inspired” by Steamboat Willie. The only drawback is that no one has any idea what the artwork will look like.

Bitter Toward Disney?

The entire tone of the MSCHF x Famous Mouse website is one of angst and even bitterness, seemingly aimed at The Walt Disney Company, which the website refers to as “Famous Animation Company.” In the company’s so-called manifesto, MSCHF slams the “multinational behemoth” for changing federal law “to suit the interests of a cartoon mouse.”

walt disney and mickey mouse

Credit: Walt Disney Archives

The original span of U.S. copyright protection was 14 years. Through a tremendous amount of gradual creep, it is now 95 years from the publication of a work made by a corporate entity due to a piece of 1998 legislation that was derisively referred to as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” Disney is a true multinational behemoth, able to change national laws to suit the interests of a cartoon mouse.

mickey mouse steamboat willie

Credit: Disney

The copyright on the earliest iteration of Mickey Mouse (from Steamboat Willie) is due to expire in 2024. At that point, Mickey will enter the public domain, and MSCHF, and anyone else who so desires, can make their own works using the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse without infringing Disney’s copyright.

The manifesto, originally written in 2021, three years before Disney was set to lose the rights to Steamboat Willie, continues by slamming the United States Federal governement’s idea of “fair use” and describes The Walt Disney Company as “rabidly litigious.”

Fair Use is a sick joke when one side is a rabidly litigious $120Bn+ corporation. And because it is 2021–and conceptual art is at this point more history than novelty–we are well past the idea that the physical manifestation of an artwork need exist. The idea is the art. You can pay Maurizio Cattelan $120K for instructions on how to tape a banana to the wall; you can buy the idea today of an unlicensed Mickey that will exist in the future.

How Did the Company Know Their Plan Would Work?

In 2021, MSCHF believed it was entirely possible that Disney might lobby for a copyright extension, as the company did in the 1980s and 1990s, and they knew it could create concern in potential customers–or token-buyers, as it were–so MSCHF even explained its plan if Mickey’s copyright were to be extended beyond 2024.

“If Mickey’s freedom date changes,” reads a post on the MSCHF website, “we will change the token redemption date accordingly. We will notify all original token purchasers if that occurs, as well as update the Famous Mouse website accordingly. The core of MSCHF x Famous Mouse is the ambiguous/hypothetical status of the artwork. If the date changes, MSCHF considers this to also be a part of the piece.”

steamboat willie

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

There’s almost a sense of sour excitement on the website now, in 2024, as MSCHF is thrilled that Public Domain Day 2024 has come and gone, and Steamboat Willie was not sheltered from the depths of the public domain. Perhaps MSCHF shares similar sentiments and goals with developers who have already announced a new horror film featuring Steamboat Willie and a new horror video game with Walt’s first version of Mickey as well.

mschf famous mickey mouse design website

Credit: MSCHF x Famous Mouse/Canva

For those who did purchase a MSCHF “Famous Mouse” token, redemption day is upon them. No pun intended.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!