As It Happens6:28Director of Mickey Mouse slasher film is totally cool with you hate-watching it
The director of a Mickey Mouse slasher movie has a message for all the haters out there: Bring it on.
The trailer for Mickey’s Mouse Trap dropped on Jan. 1, the same day the beloved Disney icon’s earliest iteration entered the public domain. And already, director Jamie Bailey says, “there’s a million TikToks” ripping it to shreds.
“We actually love the negative feedback because, you know, it just draws more interest,” the Toronto-based horror filmmaker told As It Happens guest host Megan Williams.
“There seems to be, you know, a market for people that want to hate this kind of stuff. And it doesn’t matter. Just, if you watch the movie — if you pay to watch the movie — then, yeah, that’s all we want.”
Bailey is aiming to release Mickey’s Mouse Trap in March, but says he is still in talks with distributors.
WATCH | Trailer for Mickey’s Mouse Trap:
He and his crew shot their low-budget indie horror film in September so they could release the trailer the minute the copyright dried up for Steamboat Willie — the 1928 Disney animated short that officially debuted the characters of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
But legally, the filmmakers have had to tread lightly. Only the Steamboat Willie iteration of Mickey is in the public domain — not the modern mouse who greets visitors with a warm hug at Disney’s theme parks.
Similarly, when Winnie the Pooh entered the public domain on Jan. 1, 2022, it only included Canadian author A.A. Milne’s 1926 short-story collection. Later additions to the franchise — including the character of Tigger, and Pooh’s iconic red shirt — were off the table.
That didn’t stop British director Rhys Frake-Waterfield from releasing his slasher movie, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, in 2023.
“They never got sued for that one,” Bailey noted hopefully.
Disney has refined Mickey since his steamboat days, giving him white gloves and more detailed eyes.
And while modern Mickey is known for his charming personality, Steamboat Willie Mickey was more menacing with his propensity to use his fellow animals as musical instruments.
Bailey’s movie taps into those sinister undertones. The antagonist is possessed by the Steamboat Willie mouse — the film even shows reels from the black and white cartoon — and dons a vintage mouse mask to terrorize his victims.
Asked if he’s worried about getting a dreaded call from Disney, despite his efforts to toe the legal line, he said: “Oh, absolutely. Obviously, this is a thing that can happen. Disney has one or two lawyers.
“What I can say is that we absolutely love Disney. We’re not trying to do anything to offend them or to degrade Mickey Mouse in any way, shape or form. We’re trying to play with the character,” he said.
Disney did not respond to a request for comment from CBC. But in a statement released ahead of the pending copyright expiry, the company said: “We will, of course, continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright.”
2 horror movies and 1 video game
Bailey isn’t the only person capitalizing on the Steamboat Willie copyright expiry.
Steven LaMorte, who previously directed a horror parody of The Grinch called The Mean One, has announced plans for a Mickey-inspired horror movie. On Instagram, he described the plot as: “A late-night boat ride turns into a desperate fight for survival in New York City when a mischievous mouse becomes a monstrous reality.”
What’s more, a Steamboat WIllie-inspired survival horror video game called Infestation: Origins inspired is slated for release in 2024 by company Nightmare Forge Games.
“It’s not limited to us. Anyone can do this,” Bailey said. “That’s the way it should be.”
Whether the film hits theatres or a streaming channel, he suspects people will watch it — even if they think it looks terrible.
“That’s the ironic thing that you see all the time is that people say, ‘Look, this looks like trash. I can’t wait to see it.'”