There’s striking when the iron is hot, and then there’s this. Within hours of the original Mickey Mouse moving into the public domain, a new horror video game puts the Steamboat Willie Mickey front and center, and it looks wild.
The Mickey Mouse trademark is a tricky thing for Disney. Walt Disney was smart to trademark the version of Mickey that debuted in 1940’s Fantasia, the one fans know today. However, Walt never got around to an official trademark on the original version of Mickey that debuted in the first sound cartoon, 1928’s Steamboat Willie.
Over the years, the rights to that version have been extended a few times thanks to special congressional deals. However, at last, Disney has lost ownership, and this version of Mickey Mouse has now entered the public domain. This means that, like Robin Hood, Dracula, King Arthur and others, this Mickey can be used by just about anyone.
There are a few restrictions as it’s only the original Steamboat Willie Mickey that can be used, not the modern version. It’s like how the horror movie Pooh: Blood and Honey used the original A.A. Milne characters, not the Disney versions.
It was expected someone was going to jump on a wild way to use Mickey Mouse, and within hours of the public domain reversion, someone did.
What is Infestation 88?
Early on January 1st, 2024, Nightmare Forge Games announced Infestation 88, a new survival horror co-op game where a rodent infestation transformed into monstrous creatures. One of these is a hideous version of the Steamboat Willie Mickey.
The title refers to the game set in 1988, which just happened to be Mickey’s 60th birthday. The trailer shows this terrifying take on Mickey ready to clash with players who need to use everything from guns to traps to take down rodents of various sizes.
Per IGN, the game developers have hinted there may be other famous rodents involved in this game which is still in development.
The trailer alone has been released as clearly, Nightmare Forge is taking advantage of this original Mickey being in the public domain for a game that Disney may not approve but could also be the start of other non-Disney projects utilizing Mickey Mouse in very family-unfriendly ways.