On January 1, 2024, Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie officially became a part of the public domain. That means that anyone can access the whistling captain and use him as they please. And Steamboat Willie is not the only one — Disney’s original Minnie Mouse, as well as the original images of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, are also public domain.
And one company is wasting no time in taking Steamboat Willie and turning him into something that most people will only see in their nightmares.
Nightmare Forge Games has created a new video game called Infestation 88. According to the game creator, in this cooperative video game, players will work together to exterminate “sinister infestations caused by twisted versions of classic characters and urban legends.”
Here’s more from the developer:
“In the year 1988, what was thought to be an outbreak of rodents in various locations morphed into something far more sinister.” Sometimes you’ll need to fight, sometimes you’ll need to run, and sometimes you’ll need to hide in a locker. You can set traps and utilize CCTV cameras to try and stay one step ahead of the infestation, and item layouts are randomized in order to help keep matches fresh.”
They even released a trailer, which you can watch below.
A lot of people might still not know that, because Steamboat Willie is in the public domain, anyone has the right to use the images and change them how they like. So, there is also a disclaimer, letting users know that Nightmare Forge has the legal right to turn Steamboat Willie into a monster. They are also informing gamers that Disney and the creators of Steamboat Willie are not sponsoring or endorsing the game.
This game is inspired by works that are now in the public domain. This independent creation has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise endorsed by any original authors of said works. All content in this game is used under appropriate public domain guidelines, and is not affiliated with, related to, or endorsed by any existing intellectual property or trademark holders.
Disney’s Steamboat Willie is not the only Disney film that became a part of the public domain on January 1. Plane Crazy — a silent short film also released in 1928 — also became available for public use. Plane Crazy was the first appearance of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. In the film, Mickey tries to learn how to fly a plane so he can be like the famed Charles Lindbergh.
While Mickey and Minnie images in Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy are free to be used, any subsequent image created by Disney is still under copyright and can still only be used by Disney.
For decades, Disney fought against Steamboat Willie entering the public domain. They were successful in both the 1970s and the 1990s and, in 1998, Congress passed the 1998 Copyright Protection Act. Unfortunately, they were not able to extend protections further. But the company has said they will be vigilant in protecting the material they still can.
What do you think of Steamboat Willie becoming public domain? Let us know in the comments!