It’s a weird time for The Walt Disney Company as Mickey Mouse, the animated rodent that started it all, finds himself free for use in the public domain.
STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING
Mickey, being arguably the most iconic character of all time, has been an overtly protected brand for Disney. However, as of January 1, 2024, the highly recognizable character has found himself free for use.
Probably most notable, Mickey Mouse is now the feature of a wild horror game entitled ‘Infestation 88,’ and featured horror film. Although the game will feature our favorite mouse in a warped and twisted way, it isn’t the first time Mickey has had a questionable demeanor, and fans are shaken as they recollect racism and sexual assault, as well as an instance of death by gas, from the fab five mainstays.
Mickey Mouse Enters Public Domain
As stated, the iconic character has entered the public domain, marking the beginning of a new era. This long-anticipated milestone has sparked excitement and ignited discussions about the future of the beloved Disney character.
As we all know, Disney’s famous mouse was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks following the loss of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in a sideways deal. Although Mickey is credited as being born in 1928, after his first full-length cartoon, ‘Steamboat Willie,’ it wasn’t the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. It was only the first to be released.
After the success of Steamboat Willie, Mickey Mouse would see a sharp rise to fame that would take the character far away from his origins at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mickey would become a formidable character, leading the way for Disney Animation through popular series such as the well-known ‘Silly Symphony’ cartoons to full-length animated features like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Mickey Becomes the Face of Disney
Mickey Mouse would go on to be the face of The Walt Disney Company, heading up his own programming and following, including The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Mickey Mouse Club.
Originally named Mortimer Mouse, he was renamed Mickey following the recommendation of Lillian Disney, Walt Disney’s wife. For the rest of the literal history, Mickey would soon see other iconic characters join him, like Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.
After the completion of Disneyland Resort in California, soon followed by the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida, Mickey, of course, would be the biggest draw to Disney’s expanding theme parks.
In fact, even to this day, meeting Mickey Mouse brings large crowds to the parks, with wait times often equal to hours upon hours.
Protection Act of 1988
Of course, a character like Mickey Mouse deserves to be protected. In 1988, the Copyright Extension Act was placed into law, not only protecting Disney’s famous mouse but also ensuring other intellectual properties were protected from misuse.
However, as time has expired, the famous rodent, at least a version of him, is now up for grabs. To be clear, this isn’t the finely polished version of the mouse that you and I know, but instead, the early-inked idea of Mickey made famous in infancy-staged cartoons like ‘Plane Crazy.’
Fans Recall Questionable Behavior
Mickey Mouse is depicted today as a clean-cut, All-American, ethically upstanding version of his past self. However, as fans dive deep into the archives for usable old school content, some have been shocked by early representations of the popular character.
For starters, X, formerly Twitter user @PokoChoko, posted a very early clip of the famous rodent from the 1928 short film, ‘Plane Crazy.’
Watching old Mickey Mouse cartoons and holy FUCK bro pic.twitter.com/PvdIH1J0LI
— ✨PokoChoko ✨ (@PokoChokos) January 2, 2024
The scene features an aggressive act of what some may consider lewdness from Mickey, as he ignores a clear “no,” and instead forces himself onto another mouse character.
As you’d expect, this post garnered a lot of attention, with almost half a million views. Those commenting on the video presented a mixed review ranging from jokes about Mickey not respecting women to hints at other instances of bad behavior by the mouse.
Others noted 1933’s ‘Mickey’s Mellerdrammer’ which featured Mickey and Minnie in blackface and questionable hairstyles deemed racist, while some noted uncomfortable moments of other popular Disney characters like Donald Duck in 1943’s ‘Old Army Game.’
Mickey Mouse As You Know Him is Safe
Despite weird and racy decisions made by Disney early on with their frontman, the characters, as he stands today, remain safe from misuse. Although the early version of himself has become the stuff of nightmares already since his inclusion in the public domain, you don’t have to worry about the Disney Parks or Disney Junior version of the iconic character popping up as a flesh-eating monster in other forms of media anytime soon.
Although the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” has expired, rights to the modern version of the short film star remain intact for The Walt Disney Company. In other words, the version of Mickey you’d see at Magic Kingdom is still safe.
Although social media is sure to do its thing and the creative powers that be are certain to adapt original concepts of Mickey in extremely weird ways (don’t believe just look at what they did to Winnie the Pooh), our favorite mouse remains an iconic symbol of entertainment.