Speedy Gonzales (commonly shortened to just Speedy) is an animated caricature of a mouse in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons. He is portrayed as "The Fastest Mouse in all Mexico" with his major traits being the ability to run extremely fast and speaking with an exaggerated Mexican accent. He usually wears an oversized yellow sombrero, white shirt and trousers (Which is a common traditional outfit worn by men and boys of rural Mexican villages), and a red kerchief, similar to that of a reveler in the San Fermin festival. To date there have been 46 cartoons made either starring or featuring this character.
Speedy debuted in the 1953 cartoon Cat-Tails For Two, directed by Robert McKimson. This early Speedy was a leaner, rattier-looking creation with a sizable gold front tooth and also wore a red Polo shirt. The cartoon featured him outwitting a smart-and-stupid pair of cats, George and Benny (parodies of George and Lenny from the novel Of Mice & Men), aboard a ship. Later on, this original version of Speedy is used as an unnamed background character a couple of times. Although he was created by McKimson, the majority of the cartoons with him were directed by Friz Freleng.
It would be two years before director Friz Freleng and animator Hawley Pratt redesigned the character into his modern incarnation for the 1955 Freleng short, Speedy Gonzales. The cartoon features Sylvester The Cat guarding a cheese factory at the American/Mexican border from a group of starving Mexican mice. The mice call in the plucky, excessively energetic Speedy to save them, and amid cries of "¡Ándele! ¡Ándele! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!" (Spanish for "Go on! Go on! Up! Up!", although "Ándele arriba" may have been intended as meaning "hurry up") courtesy of Mel Blanc, Sylvester soon gets his comeuppance. The cartoon won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons).
While Speedy's last name is given as "Gonzalez" in Cat-Tails (on a printed business card shown in the cartoon), it is spelled with an 's' from Speedy Gonzales onward. Today, the earlier spelling is occasionally used by accident.
Friz and Robert soon set Sylvester up as Speedy's regular nemesis in a series of cartoons, much in the same way Chuck Jones had paired Wile E. Coyote and The Road-Runner in his Road-Runner cartoons. Sylvester (often called "El Gringo Pussygato" by Speedy) is constantly outsmarted and outrun by The Fastest Mouse In All Of Mexico, causing the cat to suffer all manner of pain and humiliation from mousetraps to accidentally consuming large amounts of Tabasco hot sauce and everything in-between. Other cartoons pair the mouse with his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez, The Slowest Mouse In All Of Mexico. Slowpoke regularly gets into all sorts of trouble that often require Speedy to save him—=but one cat in Mexicali Shmoes says that as if to compensate for his slowness, "he pack a gun!" In the mid-1960s when DePatie-Freleng Enterprises took over the production of Looney Tunes, Speedy's main nemesis became Daffy Duck.
In 1999, Cartoon Network ceased to air Speedy Gonzales. In an interview with Fox News on March 28, 2002, Cartoon Network spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg commented, "It hasn't been on the air for years because of its ethnic stereotypes." This is widely believed to refer to Speedy's fellow mice, who are all shown as being very slow and lazy, and sometimes even appear intoxicated. However, fan campaigns to put Speedy back on the air resulted in the return of the animated shorts to Cartoon Network in 2002, although the shorts are rarely shown.
In Gonzales' Tamales, the town mice instigate a feud between Speedy and Sylvester because the speedy rodent has been stealing the hearts of all the females. Much of the dialogue between Mexican characters is in English and the small amount of Spanish that peppers the dialogue consists of basic greetings, goodbyes, exclamations, and misplaced references to popular Mexican foods. This criticism prompted Cartoon Network to largely shelve Speedy's films when it gained exclusive rights to broadcast them in 1999. However, fan campaigns to put Speedy back on the air, backed by The League Of United Latin American Citizens, saw the shorts' return to air from 2002.
Despite the controversy in the U.S.A., Speedy Gonzales remains a very popular character in Latin America. In Mexico, The Speedy Gonzales Show has been on and off part of the regular programing of Televisia Canal 5 national channel ever since it was created, as well as the Mexican Cable children's network, ZAZ, where they show a still shot title card of Speedy Gonzales playing a guitar with the words "Buenas Noches" (Spanish for "good night") when they end their broadcast for the night.
In 2010, a Looney Tunes New Year's Day marathon the Cartoon Network showed the cartoon Mexican Boarders having both Speedy and Slowpoke.
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