Halloween Cartoons in Public Domain

According to US law, all motion pictures made and exhibited before 1923 are in public domain, but copyright law is seriously complex and since other countries have different copyright laws than the USA, it can be downright confusing when trying to get correct information. Shepherded works from golden age of American animation typically fell into public domain due to registration failures, clerical errors, or a variety of other personal and business reasons. Recently, I was researching Halloween cartoons in public domain and I thought I’d share my research on three of the most commonly misidentified Halloween cartoons.

  1. Disney’s Silly Symphonies Skeleton Dance, 1929

Despite what you may have heard or seen online, the Skeleton Dance is not public domain, likewise, neither is Mickey Mouse’s Haunted House. Due to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (CTEA), copyright protection was extended 95 years from the publication date for any works published before January 1, 1978. That meant, any films released in 1923, which would have entered public domain in 1998, were scheduled to enter on January 1, 2019. Due to extensive lobbying, the Walt Disney Company was granted more extension for their works, therefore, all early Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as Steamboat Willie, won’t enter public domain until 2023. Keep in mind, there’s a very good chance that Disney will be granted another extension. Thus, why some people refer to CTEA as the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act’.

It’s important to note, that all Disney characters are not only copyrighted but also trademarked and that lasts for forever, so long as the owners continually use the trademarks commercially. Bottom line, Disney characters may NOT be commercially used whether they’re part of the public domain or not.

skeleton_dance

  1. Betty Boop’s Halloween Party, 1933

Betty Boop’s Halloween Party is not in public domain. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyrights are automatically applied to a work and last the entirety of someone’s life, plus 95 years after creator’s death. Before 1976, however, companies needed to register and re-register their works to ensure copyright protection. In the case of Betty Boop, after a few company mergers and failure of the original owners, Fleischer Studios, to re-register the copyright of many of Betty Boop’s earliest cartoons, many fell into public domain. Unfortunately for fans, Halloween Party is not one of them.  Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of Betty Boop’s cartoons and indicates which ones are public domain.

For the record, it appears that the character of Betty Boop is owned by Paramount, the Betty Boop name itself is owned by Fleischer Studios, and the right to distribute the cartoons (those not public domain) are split between three different companies, Trifeca Entertainment & Media, Olive Films and Melange Pictures.

betty boop halloween party

  1. Casper, The Friendly Ghost, 1945

Casper’s very first movie The Friendly Ghost is public domain. In the 1950s, when Harvey Publications purchased Casper the Friendly Ghost and bunch of other cartoons from Noveltoon, lawyers failed to inform Harvey that they needed to register copyrights for the first works of the character, thus, The Friendly Ghost and four other Casper titles (There’s Good Boos To-Night, A Haunting We Will Go Boo Moon, and Spooking About Africa) all wound up in public domain, however, these are the only works that are public domain. Because Harvey trademarked Casper and continued to make newer cartoons, they retained ownership of the character of Casper and all subsequent Casper works. These days, Universal Studios holds ownership over Casper and all films except for the five mentioned above.

Here are a few more spooky cartoons in public domain:

Felix the Cat, Switches Witches 1927
Swing You Sinners 1930
Bimbo’s Initiation 1931
The Mad Doctor 1933
The Headless Horseman 1934
Cobweb Hotel 1936
Popeye, Fright to the Finish 1954

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This is one of the very few Disney cartoons they let slip into public domain. It’s considered too dark and violent for their programming

I’m not a legal expert, so please don’t assume any of this is legal advice. Please seek out your own legal counsel and do your research before posting potentially copyrighted or trademarked material on websites.

If you’re interested in more animation films in public domain, check out TV Tropes and Wikipedia, which both have a pretty comprehensive list of films.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PublicDomainAnimation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animated_films_in_the_public_domain_in_the_United_States

 

What’s Your Halloween Style?

ani pumpkin line

A recent bout with illness gave me plenty of time to surf the web, where I came across a debate over how to celebrate Halloween. Sounds silly, since the beauty of Halloween is that it can be celebrated by anyone, in absolutely any way. It got me thinking though, do you have a Halloween style? It’s totally okay not to. It’s fascinating how all the different cultures and types of people come together and form this global Halloween convergence, that only grows with more and more ideas as Halloween moves into the mainstream consciousness. So, I thought, let’s have some fun discussing Halloween styles and see what people identify with.

Sweet ‘r Vintage
This is the barely scary, family friendly, vintage loving, zero gore Halloween. Their costumes are cute, their jack o’lanterns are cuter, and they never miss an airing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This crowd is into Beistle vintage repros and genuine antiques. They spend a lot of time preserving the history and innocent traditions of Halloween, and I suspect there’s a lot of baking going on.

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Halloween Collection ©Beistle

Classic and Spooky
These are the people who want a little more bite to their Halloween, but they are no gore hounds. They celebrate in the most typical of fashion, i.e., costume parties, parades, haunted mazes, theme parks, and midnight showings of classic monster movies. Every box is checked on the Halloween bucket list. They’re fine with the fact that Halloween only comes once a year, even though they’ll spend all year preparing for it. Say what you want about the consumerism, but these are the true Halloween traditionalists.

Grim & Goth
Halloween macabre. Vampire mystique. Red velvet. Dark eyeliner. Hearse rides around Forest Lawn. Candles. Candles. Candles. Tattoos and latex outfits are optional, but the devil-may-care attitude is a must.  I look at Halloween goths as classic traditionalists who have a deeper appreciation for the darker, supernatural, more grim side to Halloween.

 

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Scary ‘n Gory
Do you turn your own backyard into a terrain of terror every Halloween because you like the sound of people screaming? Have you ever had the cops called on you over a gruesome yard display? Have you ever petitioned the Academy to take another look at the artistic merits of the movie Hostel? If you answered yes to any of these questions, and are patiently waiting for the Saw series reboot, this could be your Halloween style.

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Heads on Spikes ©DapperCavader.com Los Angeles

$exy / #Trendy
Yes, this gets its own category because, candy corn Jello shots! Controversial masks and slutty Halloween costumes are not going away anytime soon, so long as frat parties are still around, but, here’s the thing, college kids always grow up. Whether or not, they stay Halloween fans and pass on appreciation for the holiday to their own children, depends on how they were embraced by the Halloween community. So stop being so judgmental, and let people wear what they want. Instead of bullying, urge people to respect each other, be kind, drink responsibly, and be safe on Halloween night.

harley by darcy delia
Harley Quinn costume ©Darcy Delia

Your Halloween style doesn’t and shouldn’t define you, but instead, allows you to connect to people who you normally wouldn’t. If you match one thing or two things or all things on this list, great! And, if you don’t, but you still love Halloween, well, there’s a style for that too.

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