31 iconic characters and properties will hit the public domain in the next few years

First, it was Winnie the Pooh, then Mickey Mouse. Many beloved characters are hitting public domain in the next decade and it's about to get absolutely bananas when you see who's up for fair usage.

Disney100 Mickey Mouse statue at Epcot. Image courtesy Rob Schwarz Jr.
Disney100 Mickey Mouse statue at Epcot. Image courtesy Rob Schwarz Jr. /
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2026

2026 probably isn't going to be the most notable as far as things hitting the public domain but there are definitely some at the end of this list that could, potentially, make it a pretty gross year.

The Maltese Falcon - The story that launched a million MacGuffins. The Maltese Falcon was an incredibly inspirational story for people needing a detective story that centers around a singular item. Expect this one to come back with some sort of bizarre twist in 2026.

Tintin - Yeah, I know there was already a Tintin film and all that, but that was licensed. This is free-range EARLY Tintin. The Tintin where he couldn't go on an adventure without running into some awful caricature of a non-white person. This one could get nasty depending on who gets to it first.

Nancy Drew - This one is going to have lawyers going full eagle eye on it. Nancy Drew is entering the public domain but only her first book appearance. What this means is that you can come up with your own story for Nancy Drew that year, but you better damn well make sure it doesn't come close to the plots from her...*checks notes*... 175 book history.

"Pluto" - The Disney dog that shadows Mickey Mouse enters the public domain but there's a reason I put his name in quotes. The visage of Pluto enters the public domain but watch yourself because he wasn't named Pluto. He was first just an unnamed dog and later was named Rover. So you can use the character just watch what you call him.

Betty Boop - This one is gonna suck. Betty Boop, beloved by boomers and car show enthusiasts alike, is a famous female cartoon character that, though drawn with the head to body ratio of a Funko Pop is often the target of sexual advancement by many of the characters she's seen with. There are probably a million ideas of what to do with her when she enters the public domain. Luckily every single person trying to get their ideas out will first have to wait for their kids to visit to show them how to send the email out with their spec script.

Blondie - The famous newspaper comic that started as a vehicle for a character named Blondie Boopadoop who was based on Helen Kane's iconic "Boop Boop Be Doop" line from "I Wanna Be Loved By You." If that sounds like a Betty Boop thing, Helen Kane was busy trying to sue the Betty Boop people for also stealing off her song's success. The 20s were wild. Later on, the comic went on to focus more on her boyfriend turned husband Dagwood Bumstead who inspired a million sandwich places to make something called a "Dagwood" which, essentially, is a sandwich with a ton of stuff in it.

Alright, on the next page we're going to get into 2027 which has some pretty wild ones.