Lame Mickey Mouse-inspired movies and games flood the market after Steamboat Willie enters public domain

Just hours after Steamboat Willie entered public domain, we've been bombarded with movies and games that feel like cheap Mickey Mouse cash grabs.
Copyright Protection Expires On Earliest Version Of Mickey Mouse
Copyright Protection Expires On Earliest Version Of Mickey Mouse / Brandon Bell/GettyImages

Earlier this week, Steamboat Willie, the earliest version of Mickey Mouse, entered the public domain. And as we saw when A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh hit the public domain last year, it didn't take long for money-hungry publishers and producers to try and capitalize on the iconic character.

Just hours after Steamboat Willie entered the public domain, the internet was flooded with movies and video games inspired by the 1928 animated short, which featured the very first appearance of Mickey.

Although the public domain has the potential to enhance creative expression by enabling artists to re-imagine established characters and works in innovative ways, the initial projects inspired by Mickey Mouse seem lacking in effort and creativity.

One of the first projects announced was Mickey’s Mouse Trap, a cheap-looking horror film that follows a group of friends being hunted by a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse. From the generic premise, which feels like a rip off of Five Nights at Freddy's and last year's poorly received Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, to the poor acting, this feels lazy and uninspired. It feels like a quick cash grab trying to capitalize off being the "first ever Mickey Mouse horror film."

Another project announced shortly after Mickey entered public domain is Infestation 88. Also in the same vein as Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, this is a survival horror video game in which a group of players will team up to explore and treat a dark building that has become infested by, you guessed it, rodents, including one that looks like Mickey Mouse.

Although this isn't quite as low-budget as Mickey's Mouse Trap, it still feels bland and generic.

I don't mind putting a horror spin on an iconic family-friendly character, but both of these projects just feel lazy. The National News put together an article that explores why we see so many horror spin-offs of family-friendly characters when they enter public domain, and one of their points is that these are typically cheap to make and generate high returns due to the genre's built-in audience. And honestly, these feel like a cheap cash grab.

That said, there is one game that was announced in recent weeks that actually looks like a unique take on Steamboat Willie. It's called Mouse, and it's a "gritty, jazz-fueld shooter."

Although this seems to also be inspired by both classic FPS and noir films, it's clear that Steamboat Willie was also a big influence. Set to release in 2025, you'll play a private detective who very closely resembles early Mickey Mouse and blast your way through the corrupt city full of crooks and danger.

I'm sure we'll get more Mickey Mouse-inspired projects in the future, but hopefully, some of them start to offer genuinely creative takes on the character. Aside from Mouse, the other two projects just feel super lame.