The Vanishing of S.S. Willie horror short film takes advantage of Mickey Mouse’s public domain status

The horror short film The Vanishing of S.S. Willie is inspired by the public domain Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie

As of January 1st, the earliest versions of Mickey Mouse – seen in the animated shorts Plane CrazyThe Gallopin’ Gaucho, and most famously Steamboat Willie – became public domain. Then director Jamie Bailey and writer/producer Simon Phillips revealed they’re already taking advantage of Mickey’s new public domain status by using a version of the character in their slasher movie Mickey’s Mouse Trap. A trailer for that movie made its way online, but it doesn’t have a release date yet. So technically, the first horror project to use Mickey Mouse is actually the short film The Vanishing of S.S. Willie, which was released through the Night Signal Entertainment YouTube channel yesterday. You can check it out in the embed above.

Here’s the info on The Vanishing of S.S. Willie: A lost 1928 documentary about a missing ship is discovered, and its dark secrets unearthed. A short analog horror film based on the public domain film Steamboat Willie by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney. This film is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by The Walt Disney Company.

The short was written and directed by Nick Lives, who also created the original artwork that can be seen in it.

While movies like Mickey’s Mouse Trap and Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey turn beloved children’s story characters that have lapsed into the public domain into bloodthirsty slashers, The Vanishing of S.S. Willie takes a different approach. Rather than showing Mickey slashing people up, it’s presented as a creepy old documentary about a tragic event… in a world where a mouse serving as a ship’s cabin boy apparently wasn’t considered unusual.

What do you think of Mickey Mouse becoming a horror star as soon as his earliest iterations become public domain? Share your thoughts on this turn of events by leaving a comment below – but also take a look at The Vanishing of S.S. Willie and let us know what you thought of it.

The Night Signal Entertainment YouTube channel has only been up and running for a few months. The company is described as “a horror studio making games, films and music from your half-forgotten memories.”

The Vanishing of S.S. Willie horror short

Source: Night Signal Entertainment

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.