To say that the Walt Disney Company is known for the fierce protection of its intellectual property (copyright, trademarks, etc) is probably the understatement of the year. So I was not surprised when they asked musician Deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) not to trademark his ‘trademark’ DJ costume. Like the name implies, it resembles a mouse. Disney has a trademark on the look and feel of Mickey Mouse so they were understandably worried. But the two really don’t have anything in common other than what mice naturally share (ears, eyes, and a mouth).
I think Disney might be making a mountain out of a molehill on this one. As a creature, a mouse is pretty ubiquitous. No one, even an idiot in a hurry, is going to confuse the technopunk Deadmau5 headpiece with the classic Mickey Mouse silhouette. Letting Zimmerman have his intellectual property appear on toys, clothing, or other products will in no way harm Disney’s vast wealth in the same arena.
Since I expect Deadmau5 to win pretty handily in court, I’ve been paying attention to the case only loosely. But a story in The Hollywood Reporter today, caught my attention. Turns out, while one arm of Disney was preparing to sue Deadmau5, another appendage was asking him to collaborate.
Disney’s music division asked him if he wanted to produce some music for Disney’s new animated series Star Wars Rebels. But he lost that opportunity because of the dispute. Disney, through a third party, also offered him the opportunity of contributing to a live concert series commemorating the 75th anniversary of Fantasia. In the invitation, Disney’s business partner states:
“Deadmau5 is the most innovative musician of our time, and Disney the most successful entertainment brand to ever exist. Bringing these two visionaries together, with this particular franchise, provides for an incredible opportunity that could touch millions of people around the world.”
They even sent Deadmau5 a mockup of his intellectual property combined with Disneys iconic Sorcerer Mickey (above).
How would that have worked? Disney would have had DeadMau5 compose a 90 minute re-imagining of the original Fantasia to which Disney would add new visuals. It would be performed live at the Hollywood Bowl, filmed, and used to kick off a whole concert series that would play in iconic venues around the world.
That idea is Fantastic! I’m not sure it’s in the spirit of the original Fantasia, but it does jive with the goal of exposing classical and modern forms of music to new audiences. As far as I can tell, that concert series never made it past the planning phase (the first concert would be next month had it launched). A shame, I think Deadmau5 would have made a fantastic contributor to Disney’s legacy. Now his victory in court will just be a footnote.