The Walt Disney Company has recently parted ways with its earliest version of the Mickey Mouse character. Following the copyright expiration of the rodent-themed mascot, three NFT collections connected to the character have emerged on OpenSea, ranking among the trending collections in the NFT marketplace.
In 1928, American animators Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, for the first time, introduced the Mickey Mouse character in the short film titled Steamboat Willie. Unlike the present version of the character, the earliest version of Mickey Mouse has no white gloves or oversized shoes. Following its debut, the Mickey Mouse character has played a crucial role in the Walt Disney Company’s brand and pop culture, becoming a mascot.
However, the company has now lost its copyright over the earliest version of the mouse-themed character. The U.S. copyright law, updated in 1998, entailed that copyrights be held for 95 years before entering the public domain. The timeframe ended for the earliest Mickey Mouse version in late 2023.
Still, the Walt Disney Company retains copyright ownership over later Mickey Mouse versions. It implies that the firm can sue any entity that recreates an animated character resembling the Mickey Mouse character.
Following its entry into the public domain, several NFT collections have emerged, themed around Steamboat Willie’s Mickey Mouse. According to current data on OpenSea, an Ethereum-based NFT project dubbed Steamboat Willie ranks as the #1 trending collection. The collection portrays 1,927 Mickey Mouse-themed items with a floor price of 0.148 ETH.
Trailing the first collection is an NFT project called Steamboat Willie Public Domain 2024. The collection has a trading volume of 427 ETH, higher than the Steamboat Willie (174 ETH). It also has a floor price of 0.204 ETH. The third collection among the trending projects is Steamboat Willie’s Riverboat, with a floor price of 0.02 ETH and a trading volume of 17 ETH.
Although Disney has taken its Mickey Mouse mascot into the NFT realm, the latest foray by individual projects to promote the character further shows how animation, art, and non-fungibility can be bridged.