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These classic characters lose copyright protection. They may never be the same again.

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

If you’re the creative type and struggling to come up with your next idea, fear not: some major works, including the original Mickey Mouse, will enter the public domain on January 1 in the United States.

And if, on the other hand, you prefer your Disney characters to be cute, cuddly, and unchanging, well…you might want to stop reading.

In 2024, thousands of copyrighted works published in 1928 will enter the public domain, after their 95-year term has expired.

This means that these characters and stories can be remade – on the page, stage or screen – without permission. (Finally, I can do that Peter Pan musical where a middle-aged Peter laments unexplained back pain at the end of Act I.)

“This is important for the preservation of our cultural heritage, for meaningful access to older works to inspire future creativity,” said Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School.

The crème de la crème of this year’s public domain class is Mickey Mouse and, of course, Minnie, or at least the black and white versions of our favorite squeaky rodents that appeared in “Steamboat Willie.” Disney is notoriously litigious, and this copyright only covers the original versions of the character.

The New York Times reached out to some writers, producers and directors to give you a taste of what might be unleashed in this strange new world.

Tigger will also be released on January 1 and could soon reunite with Winnie the Pooh in the resurrected character’s upcoming slasher film. Yes, you read that right. In a preview of what might lie ahead for other 95-year-old icons, the silly old bear became a hammer-wielding monster in “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.” The sequel is planned for February.

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“Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” introduces the beloved bear like you’ve never seen him before.Credit…ITN Studios and Jagged Edge Productions

“The first ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ was okay, but the horror of modern war will be much better illustrated by a crossover remake in which Mickey and Tigger trick the Kaiser into sticking his head in a bucket of water. mop,” said Zhubin Parang. , co-executive producer of “The Daily Show.” (“All is Calm on the Western Front” – at least the original German version of the novel – also enters the public domain, although later translations are not yet.)

Then there’s the stage version of JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan”; or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”, DH Lawrence’s novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando: A Biography”, Wanda Gág’s picture book, “Million Cats” and many others. (For a complete list, see here.)

“I’m kind of annoyed that we’re probably going to have more Peter Pan material now,” said comedy writer and producer Josh Lieb. “No one likes Peter Pan. In fact, I think I speak for all of humanity when I say that we hate Peter Pan and we hate people who make movies about him. »

Not everyone hates Peter Pan – sorry, Josh. Bob Greenblatt, producer of the Broadway musical “Smash,” has called for a new stage adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe as Peter, Lindsay Mendez as Wendy and Jonathan Groff as Captain Hook.

Nik Dodani, the actor, also had an idea for a Peter Pan film.

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“When Wendy meets Peter, a charismatic and seemingly ageless young man, she is drawn into a nightmarish journey of obsession, unveiling the sinister truth behind his eternal youth,” Dodani said. (We were unable to print the grim truth. You’ll have to wait for the film.)

Yes you can! Musical compositions, such as the original version of “Mack the knife” which was written in German for an opera by Bertolt Brecht entitled “The Threepenny Opera”, and musical recordings, such as “Dippermouth Blues” starring Louis Armstrong, will also be released on January 1.

“I often fantasize about the golden age of sampling where you could ostensibly release the greatest riffs of all time with complete impunity. I am looking at you, ‘Can I hit him?‘” said Guster founding member Ryan Miller, referring to the song A Tribe Called Quest. “Jan. 1, aka Emancipation Day, is now an annual ritual for digging in the mines with minimal guilt. I mean, who doesn’t need a new version of “Yes! We don’t ‘We don’t have any bananas? Don’t answer that. (The recording of “Yes! We Don’t Have Any Bananas” by Billy Jones will be available.)

Do not worry. It’s in the public domain! Freedom! Slip away! Gordon Greenberg, who is directing a Huey Lewis-inspired musical on Broadway this spring, said it’s an opportunity to “reimagine some classics from new points of view.”

Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino came up with a mix of titles.

“Perhaps a production of “Threepenny Opera” with Mackie Messer’s character recast as Mickey Mouse. Very Brechtian,” Ferrentino said. “But don’t ask me to write it.”

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The steamy “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” generated a lot of interest. Neil Meron, producer of the Broadway musical “Some Like It Hot,” suggested an “immersive, gender-fluid” musical adaptation with music by Sam Smith.

Karen Chee, author of “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” presented “Lady Chatterley’s Millions of Cats.” Ah, but let’s flesh this out! Chee added: “A lonely wife who forgoes sexy times to adopt millions of cats. ” (Of course.)

From Bob Gale, co-writer of the film and musical versions of “Back to the Future”: “Is Mickey Lady Chatterley’s new lover, or is he just a voyeur?

EM Tran, a novelist, was intrigued by a musical “Millions of Cats.”

“Just dozens, if not millions, of puppet cats on stage with an elderly couple singing and dancing,” Tran said. (Kristoffer Diaz, the playwright, agreed, saying the musical “writes itself.”)

Comedian Gabby Bryan requested an update on the recording of “The Charleston” but with Mark Ronson sampling James P. Johnson’s version.

“He did disco, he did dance, he did blues, he did country, he did Ken“, Bryan said, referring to Ronson. “Then I challenge you this Mark, if that’s your real name.”

And if that’s still not enough to get you started, wait. Over the next decade, freedom awaits all of these characters: Popeye; Pluto; Donald Duck; King Kong (the original film version); Superman; Daffy Duck; Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and others from The Hobbit; James Bond; Batman; Captain Marvel.

Get to work, friends. And remember: “Freedom is just another word for there is nothing left to lose.” »*

*This song the lyrics are still under copyright until 2064.