Jon Oliver Trolls Disney With Steamboat Willie Promo: ‘What Are They Gonna Do, Sue?’ Most Popular Must Read Sign Up for Variety Newsletters More From Our Brands Viral Watch


Jon Oliver, public-domain fan and self-appointed gadfly to powerful institutions, poked a finger in the eye of the Mouse House in a new promo for his HBO show.

In a teaser for the Feb. 18 return of “Last Week Tonight With Jon Oliver” for its 11th season, the host posed next to someone dressed in a suit resembling Steamboat Willie, the 1928 version of Mickey Mouse that entered the public domain on Jan. 1 after Disney’s copyright on the character expired.

“What are they gonna do, sue?” reads the poster for the show’s upcoming season premiere. Cheeky monkey!

It’s not clear whether Disney will be a target for Oliver on this season of “Last Week Tonight” or if he’s just opportunistically seizing the Steamboat Willie moment because he can. (A rep for HBO didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification.)

For decades, Disney has been famously litigious in policing the usage of its intellectual property, including of Mickey Mouse. Disney has said that it “will continue to protect our rights in the more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain subject to copyright, and we will work to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and our other iconic characters.”

After Steamboat Willie entered the public domain, one indie filmmaker announced plans for a horror-comedy based on Mickey Mouse’s cartoon debut in which a sadistic mouse torments a group of unsuspecting ferry passengers.

Last December, HBO announced it renewed the Emmy-winning “Last Week Tonight” for three additional seasons, through 2026. The series airs Sunday nights on HBO and is available to stream on Max.



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