Mickey Mouse Goes Broadway in Gory New Musical

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Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia

Credit: Disney

Now that Mickey Mouse is in the public domain, anybody can use the most famous rodent for whatever project they want. If you didn’t think that a dark, violent stage musical starring Mickey was going to hit the scene sooner or later, you haven’t been paying attention to pop culture.

Mickey mouse in the spotlight, dancing to the music.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Mickey Mouse entered the public domain at the beginning of 2024, ending decades of iron-fisted control over the world’s most recognizable cartoon mascot. Disney’s copyright over Mickey Mouse should have ended decades ago, but armies of Magic Kingdom lawyers lobbied Washington to get the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 passed. The act, often pejoratively known as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” managed to help them hang onto the icon for a while longer, but finally, the public domain has taken over.

As expected, there are some caveats. Technically, the version of Mickey Mouse that is available for Creative Commons use is the one seen in Steamboat Willie, the 1928 cartoon short that introduced the character to the world. Anything in the nearly eight-minute cartoon (created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks) is fair game, including early versions of Minnie Mouse and perennial Disney heavy Pete.

Steamboat Willie
Credit: D23

Related: Cartoon Network Airs Graphic Mickey Mouse Ad Making Fun of Disney

Keep in mind, Disney has already publicly stated that it will pursue full legal action against anyone who uses any aspect of Mickey that was developed after Steamboat Willie, so be cautious with any projects you’re currently developing. For what it’s worth, the same goes for Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and everything else that celebrated Public Domain Day 2024.

Creators have not been shy when it comes to utilizing Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse as soon as possible. Multiple video games are currently in development (at least one of which has come under accusations of anti-Semitic dog-whistling), while various funny people, and also Elon Musk, have been utilizing the famous mouse ears for various off-color jokes.

Elon Musk superimposed over Disney+ logo
Credit: Disney, edited by ITM

But not even Mickey Mouse can escape the gravitational well that was the recent April Fool’s Day. A recent gag article from American Theatre claimed that the newly available rodent would star in Threepenny Mickey, a mash-up production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s classic Der Dreigroschenoper, better known as The Threepenny Opera.

According to American Theatre, a small company in New Mexico would launch a workshop production of Threepenny Mickey that would later transition to Broadway, a pretty big upgrade.

Related: Artists Are Turning Mickey Mouse R-Rated, and Disney Can’t Stop Them

Along with Steamboat Willie, Threepenny Opera, a dramatic stage musical widely perceived as a critique of capitalism (take that, Disney!), entered the public domain in 2024. If it wasn’t an April Fool’s prank, that meant we could actually see Mickey Mouse sing “Mack the Knife” at some point.

The not-real musical claims that not-real producer Max Gribble envisioned the musical play as” two iconic 20th-century works together onstage in a way that was never possible before…We think audiences will be surprised how well these two contrasting pieces of IP complement each other.”

Alas, ’tis not to be. Perhaps someday you’ll fulfill your Broadway dreams, Mickey!

What was your favorite April Fool’s Day joke this year? Let’s hear it in the comments below!

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