After months of viral trailers and interviews, the horror film Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey has been released in US theaters. Considering the movie’s budget was just shy of $100k and it already made over $700k domestically at the box office, it’s easy to see why talk of a sequel to the film has already been considered. With plans for part II, and even other horror movie versions of classic children’s characters, the filmmakers are already thinking about characters that AREN’T in the public domain for horror movies. Speaking with Collider, director Rhys Frake-Waterfield teased at least one project he’s interested in that might get the courts involved.
“I’ve really been excited by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately,” the director said. “Because I think the story has a very kind of horrifying undertone anyway because it’s these half-human, half-turtles who live in the sewer who have a rat king who they follow, and then they come out of the sewer with weapons. [Laughs] It all just starts to link together to me. So I’d love to do that. I’d love to have them like down an alleyway cutting people up, feeding them to their rat king on pizza or something. I hope I can get the copyrights to that, but I don’t know if I can.”
The big difference in Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey and the potential for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles horror movie is, naturally, copyright. Pooh and most of his neighbors in the 100 Acre Wood (except for Tigger) are in the public domain meaning that their original forms and stories are free to be used by artists and creators in any way they choose. Various other versions of Winnie the Pooh, like Disney’s feature films, are still protected by copyright, which is the same case for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Owned by Viacom, the TMNT are still very much protected by copyright laws, however the potential for a horror movie of the property could still very well get made under the right conditions. As many people know, copyright law does have the provision of “fair use” which allows for persons to use copyright material without permission. This tends to lend itself exclusively to criticism, news reporting, and research.
However, maybe a movie that lampoons the TMNT through a horror lens (without using the recognizable names or the protected trademarks) might manage to skate by without triggering litigation. Fans could know what it is, but if the filmmakers don’t say “This is Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and now he’s a monster” in the film…it might work?