Goth Chick News: It’s January, So Let’s Start Our 2024 WTF File…

Goth Chick News: It’s January, So Let’s Start Our 2024 WTF File…

Writing a column called “Goth Chick News” is pretty much a dead giveaway that I love almost everything to do with the horror genre. I have, in past posts, made clear exceptions for what I call “sociopath training films” (Saw franchise, I’m looking at you), as well as examples of violence for violence’s sake such as haunted attractions like those explored in the Hulu documentary Monster Inside.

These exceptions have huge fan-bases and I make no judgment. They are just not my thing. It perhaps sounds weird to say, but to me, being scared is only entertaining when it doesn’t depict something that I could find on the True Crime channel. However, that’s not to say I still don’t frequently stare at my computer monitor and say “WTF” to it like I expect it to explain itself.

So, as we embark on this brave new year, I had to tell you about my first slow clap of 2024.

As you may or may not be aware, the earliest depiction of Mickey Mouse as he appeared in Steamboat Willie in November 1928 is now in the public domain. The Disney company fought to keep its copyright of the famous cartoon character as long as possible, asking the U.S. government to extend copyright protection before it was originally set to expire in 1984. Disney, along with other entertainment companies, successfully lobbied to extend copyright protections to life of the author plus 70 years to a maximum of 95 years.

This means that the original Mickey Mouse likeness can now be used by the public, without fear of legal retaliation from Disney. We’ve already gotten a look at what happens when other characters experienced expiring copyrights, such as Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, and Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare, so expecting that Mickey would escape similar treatment was probably too much to hope for.

And here we are.

First off, a horror game trailer depicting a murderous Mickey Mouse hit Steam bright and early on January 1. Infestation 88 is a first-person shooter featuring a blood-covered Steamboat Willie as the primary antagonist. Created by Nightmare Forge the game appears to be the company’s first and only release coming sometime in 2024. As it’s pretty far along from the appearance of the trailer, clandestine development has clearly been underway for some time.

Or course no desecration of our childhoods would be complete without a Mickey slasher film. Also dropping in the wee hours of Monday was a trailer for Mickey’s Mouse Trap featuring a masked killer dressed like Steamboat Willie. Actor/writer Simon Phillips (The Witcher, Age of the Living Dead) is doing both, while indie horror cinematographer Jamie Bailey takes the directing duties. Unlike Blood and Honey, which imagines Winnie the Pooh and his other public domain friends are the actual killers, Mouse Trap isn’t proposing Mickey himself is the actual homicidal maniac, which is a small comfort in light of the standard horror tropes being offered:

It’s Alex’s 21st Birthday, but she’s stuck at the amusement arcade on a late shift so her friends decide to surprise her, but a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse decides to play a game of his own with them which she must survive.

Creepy, after-hours amusement park? Check. Young, good-looking victims with raging hormones? Check. Final girl? Almost assuredly check.
Here’s the trailer if you want to see for yourself.

It’s important to note that the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey is the one and only depiction of him that is now in the public domain. As Disney is known for having more lawyers than animators these days, both the game and the film contain clear disclaimers noting that they are in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Disney. The film trailer’s description also notes it is making use of the “Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse only,” as a likely effort to ward off any Disney litigation.

However, I personally think it is extremely risky to utilize this Mickey, as the public domain image is incredibly narrow and all other depictions of Mickey are strictly off limits. For example, a scene from the film shows a silhouette of the killer in the Mickey mask, creating what could be a far-too-close depiction of the three-circled Mickey head logo used copiously throughout the Disney company.

Walt Disney Animation Studios also incorporated a snippet of Steamboat Willie into their company logo in 2007, and it looks like a fairly short legal jump from that logo to pestering anyone who uses the same image.

Legalities aside, do we really need this?

Oh, and Happy New Year.

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I’m not a huge Disney fan. I preferred Bugs Bunny to Mickey by a wide margin. That said this seems unnecessary.


Deconstruction is a needed movement in literature. For Comic Books we had a whole Deconstructionist era – from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Marshall Law to Flex Mentallo. That was because comics were stuck in the Comics Code dominant “Silver Age” which had many awesome things but also was crippled into stereotypically only children’s literature so it had to break the stereotype. Likewise the Science fiction and Fantasy world went “New Wave” with the hot headed Harlan Ellison inflicting his Dangerous Visions and serving up his Chocolate Alphabet. Funny how that was when the mass public had re-discovered and now loved “Adventure” scifi/fantasy but the editors who’d had “My Buck Rogers Rip off” novels submitted to them by the hundreds for decades were near suicidal – so the needed new wave crashed against a public wanting optimism, adventure, heroism…

In this case the need is for a cultural reaction to Disney’s damage to society and copyright law. The debasing of Fairy Tales from vital wisdom lessons to sugary fantasies meant to take money from parents is the least of the crimes. They extended copyright law and abused the legal system and government to extend it and create today’s world of copyright and patent trolling. Without Disney’s influence I strongly doubt there would have been the “Happy Birthday” racket nor the “Conan Doyle” estate claiming the character was “Perfected” in the mid 1960s. Due to Disney sending thugs and lawyers to paint over the walls in a day care the sane limits of “Fair use and Parody” have been crippled. Even approaching the “Penny Dreadful” era its hard to use even obscure characters without some slime slithering up to sue – who only maybe MIGHT have a legit claim…

Thus it’s time for people to do to Mickey Mouse what Walt Disney did to the Brother’s Grimm. Btw – it seems a poster was published that had Mickey in his modern form – look up “Mickey Mouse’s red shorts have entered the public domain” OH – and if you are bored with gory/horror – there is a Retro Gangster two-tone mouse game. Also there’s “Air Pirates Funnies” the classic Underground comic – that should be republished now and defended by the CBLDF at least…

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