Ottawa-made Mickey Mouse horror movie debuts as copyright ends

The film, Mickey’s Mouse Trap, comes after Disney’s copyright protection for the “Steamboat Willie” version of Mickey Mouse expired after 95 years.

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An Ottawa-made film is making waves as one of the first productions of the year to portray Mickey Mouse in a way that likely won’t meet with Walt Disney’s approval. In fact, it probably would have made his hair stand on end.

Mickey’s Mouse Trap is a live-action horror film in which a murderous villain dressed as Mickey terrorizes a group of friends trapped in an arcade. Ottawa-based actor and filmmaker Simon Phillips released the film’s chilling trailer on January 1, the day the copyright expired on Steamboat Willie, the 1928 animated film that is considered Mickey’s debut.

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Ninety-five years after his release, the Steamboat-era Mickey character is now in the public domain, making him fair game for imaginative creators. You may remember that something similar happened to Winnie the Pooh last year when that character entered the public domain and soon became a savage killer in an independent horror film.

Phillips, a British expat who immigrated to Ottawa about five years ago, said he was inspired to approach Mickey after reading an article last year about the impending copyright expiration. He not only wrote and produced the film, but also plays the murderous villain.

Why terror? With a couple of horror films under his belt, including 2020’s Butchers and 2022’s Deinfluencer, Phillips has experience with the genre. Additionally, he considered it an interesting experiment to change Mickey’s carefree personality.

“Yeah, when Mickey Mouse came into the public domain and I made some kind of warm and fuzzy comedy or family movie about it, it wasn’t exactly breaking new ground,” Phillips said in an interview. “This is an opportunity to break new ground, to do something that Disney might not have done with his character. That is being creative in a constantly evolving world.”

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The film was shot after hours at Ottawa’s Funhaven, a location chosen for its size and visual appeal. The cast and crew would arrive after closing and work until dawn.

Mickey Mouse Trap
A horror film written by and starring Ottawa-based filmmaker Simon Phillips, it was filmed at Ottawa’s indoor amusement park, Funhaven. Photo courtesy of Simon Phillips /ott

“It’s a completely Ottawa film,” Phillips says. “The actors are from Ottawa, as well as the production team, the design team and the makeup team; the entire cast and crew are based in Ottawa. The only person who came from Toronto was the director, Jamie Bailey.”

Born in Ireland, Phillips moved to Ottawa with his brother after experiencing the city while producing a television drama called No Easy Days. He spent seven months in the country’s capital to film the show’s 10 episodes.

“Because I was here for so long, I fell in love with it a little more as a place to live at a pace that I like,” he said. “In my opinion, Ottawa is more of a big city than a city. “It doesn’t have the traffic of Los Angeles or Toronto, but it has enough city for me.”

With his bearded face and menacing gaze, Phillips, 43, has earned a reputation as an effective bad guy. He has won awards for his portrayal of Santa Claus in Christmas horror films and has appeared in feature films alongside action stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Jean-Claude Van Damme. You can currently see him in the Netflix series, FUBAR, with Schwarzenegger, and in the third season of The Witcher.

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Simon Phillips
British actor and filmmaker Simon Phillips, now living in Ottawa, came up with the idea of ​​casting Mickey Mouse as the murderous villain in a new horror film that takes advantage of the fact that Mickey’s copyright came into the domain. public on January 1, 2024. . Photo courtesy of Simon Phillips /ott

There are no Disney credits to his name, so far, but don’t get the idea that Phillips has any kind of problem with the magical kingdom. He is a big fan of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and all the other Disney characters.

“People wonder if this is revenge against Disney and I say, ‘Not at all.’ I love Disney. I grew up with Mickey Mouse. I love everything Disney does,” he says. “There is no revenge here. “We’re just doing what Disney would encourage you to do: be creative and play.”

A full release of Mickey’s Mouse Trap is expected in March.

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