(Los Angeles) Barely 24 hours after the first version of Mickey entered the public domain, two new independent horror films featuring the iconic rodent have been announced.

The copyright for the cartoon Steamboat Willie, the 1928 black-and-white short that made Walt Disney’s creature famous, expires on January 1, after 95 years, under U.S. law.

A deadline which now allows any filmmaker or fan to freely copy, share, reuse or adapt the image of the characters appearing there, including Mickey and his companion Minnie.

Disney may be careful after taking measures to protect its emblematic character, but some gore lovers have not hesitated to rush into the legal mouse hole offered to them.

“We just wanted to have fun with the whole thing,” Mickey’s Mouse Trap director Jamie Bailey explained in a trailer posted to YouTube. “He’s the Mickey from Steamboat Willie who murders people. It’s ridiculous. »

This low-budget horror film is set to release in March.

For his part, director Steven LaMorte – known for The Mean One, a 2022 Grinch-inspired horror film – told Variety magazine that he was working on his own “twisted interpretation” of Mickey. A production that does not yet have a title.

“Steamboat Willie has brought joy to generations, but beneath that joyous exterior lies the potential for pure, disordered terror,” the director said in a statement.

Both projects are reminiscent of the release of Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey, an independent production that hit the headlines after the copyrights for the first Winnie the Pooh books expired.

Because only the first version of Mickey, a skinny and mischievous mouse in black and white, is in the public domain. The colorful, rounder and more personable character of later films like Fantasia is not free of rights.

Additionally, trademark protection means that any film or product that could mislead consumers into thinking it was made by Disney can be prosecuted.

In a press release to AFP, the multinational Disney assured that it would “continue to protect [its] rights to more recent versions of Mickey and other works that remain protected by copyright.”

But Mr. LaMorte is not afraid to play cat and mouse.

“We’re trying to make sure there’s no doubt or confusion about what we’re doing,” he told Variety. “This is our version of a public domain figure.”