‘Steamboat Willie’ Escapes Chains, Enters Public Domain, Unleashing Horror

'Steamboat Willie' Escapes Chains, Enters Public Domain, Unleashing Horror (Walt Disney Studios)

The 1928 version of Mickey Mouse from “Steamboat Willie” is now in the public domain, inspiring indie filmmakers to create darker and unconventional versions of the iconic character.

Steven LaMorte, a noted indie horror producer, is leading this charge with a new horror-comedy based on Mickey’s first cartoon, promising a fresh and twisted interpretation of the beloved mouse.

Steamboat Willie Unleashing Horror after escaping from the chain (Walt Disney Studios)

This new horror-comedy, which has yet to be titled, is set to begin production in the spring. Steven LaMorte, who previously directed the horror parody “The Mean One,” is at the helm. LaMorte is enthusiastic about the project, seeing hidden horror potential in the cheerful “Steamboat Willie.”

In a press statement, LaMorte said, “Steamboat Willie has brought joy to generations, but there’s a darker side waiting to be explored. This is a project I’ve been eager to tackle, and I’m excited to share this twisted version of such a beloved character.”

During an interview, LaMorte stressed his love and respect for the original characters, noting that the goal isn’t to tarnish their legacy but to offer a new perspective. He likened the process to children playing creatively with their favorite toys, bringing fresh stories to life.

With the expiration of Disney’s copyright on “Steamboat Willie” and the original Mickey and Minnie Mouse, LaMorte and his team are working closely with legal advisors to ensure their production adheres to legal guidelines.

Although Disney no longer holds the copyright to the 1928 version, they retain rights to newer versions of Mickey Mouse and intend to protect their trademarks.

LaMorte assured, “We are making sure there’s no confusion about our intentions. This is our version of a public domain character, offering a scary thrill ride mixed with heart and humor, based on the character everyone knows.”

The film will be titled “Steamboat Willie” and will avoid using the name “Mickey Mouse” directly, maintaining a clear distinction between the classic character and this new interpretation.

LaMorte’s previous project, “The Mean One,” grossed around $1 million globally in 2022. The producers from that film, including LaMorte, Amy Schumacher, and Martine Melloul, are joining forces with Steven Della Salla and Michael Leavy, producers of the hit film “Terrifier 2,” which earned $15 million.

Through “Steamboat Willie,” LaMorte and his team aim to deliver a unique blend of horror and comedy, reimagining a classic character in a way that is both thrilling and respectful.