John Oliver on HBO's Last Week Tonight.

John Oliver Just Took On His Biggest Foe Yet

John Oliver isn't afraid of any mouse!

Even if you’re a passing fan of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, then you know that the British host and his gaggle of unique writers are not ones who shy away from controversy. Whether it’s staging an elaborate musical number in the middle of Times Square just to tell a coal industry executive to “eat shit” or being confronted by an A-list celebrity after months of making super horny comments about them, Oliver definitely likes to spend HBO’s money on pushing the envelope as far as it can go.

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Now, it seems like Oliver is ready to put his lawyers’ time and patience to the test as he’s decided to ruffle the feathers of one of the largest companies in the world: Disney. During his show on April 3rd, Oliver used the last segment to quickly point out that Steamboat Willie, Disney’s first iteration of the iconic character Mickey Mouse, will be released into the public domain starting January 1, 2024. This is a huge deal because that means any distribution of this character will no longer be protected under copyright law and can be used “without obtaining permission from or compensating the copyright owner.”

Just because Steamboat Willie will be part of the public domain doesn’t mean that there’s no catch when it comes to using his likeness. According to Cartoon Brew, “any public-domain use of the Steamboat Willie characters cannot be perceived as coming from the trademark holder, in this case, Disney. In any case where there is a possibility that consumers could assume that Disney is behind the use, expect the company to act.”

Disney is known to be incredibly protective of their characters, as Oliver pointed out during his segment. One example he highlighted was the fact that Disney went after a grave-maker who wanted to etch the character of Winnie the Pooh onto a child’s gravestone, but the company refused, citing that it would be a breach of its copyright. And, though the company eventually walked back that decision, it just showed how hard they were willing to fight to keep their characters’ image pristine.

So, it didn’t come as much of a shock when Oliver revealed his deliciously evil plans for Steamboat Willie even before he became available in the public domain in 2024. Because it’s likely that Disney will try to sue anyone who uses the mouse character due to it being tied to their animation studio logo, Oliver argued that his show can fight back because Steamboat Willie is now closely tied to their brand, as well. Since the beginning of Season 10, the character can be seen in the opening credits for the show, which is an absolutely hilarious detail that no one probably noticed until he pointed it out.

And, to really catch Disney’s attention and goad them into suing him, Oliver debuted the mascot costume made up of the mouse’s likeness and gave him super cool catchphrases like “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.” He also stated that, as of January 1st, 2024, the Steamboat Willie costume will be available for birthday parties, funerals, theme park openings, and “sex dungeons.” Oliver is truly doing everything in his power to feel the wrath of the House of Mouse, and I couldn’t love this chaotic energy more.

I can’t wait to watch the Disney lawsuit episode when it airs!

(featured image: screenshot)

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Kayla Harrington
Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a staff writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or cuddling with one of her four pets. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.