SPEEDY GONZALESMedium: Theatrical Animation
Released by: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1953
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
Cat-Tails for Two (1953), directed by Robert McKimson, shows him looking like a hick, scrawny and buck-toothed. It was in his second cartoon, Speedy Gonzales (1955), directed by Friz Freleng, that he was re-designed as the sleek little speedster we all know today.
That cartoon is also the first to pit him against his best antagonist, Sylvester Pussycat. It won an Oscar, and set the tone for dozens of cartoons to come. Among them are three more Oscar nominees — Tabasco Road (1957), Mexicali Schmoes (1959) and The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961).
Freleng remained Speedy's sole director until 1965. His last use of the character was It's Nice to Have a Mouse Around the House, which was also the first to pair Speedy with Daffy Duck. It was an unfortunate partnership, but an enduring one — for the remainder of his career as a cartoon star, Speedy shared billing with Daffy. The last theatrically-released cartoon in which either character appeared was See Ya Later Gladiator (1968).
Speedy did not fare well in comic books, appearing in only one — Dell's Four Color Comics #1084 (1960).
Speedy Gonzales has not been a prominent part of the Looney Tunes revival (he didn't even have a speaking role in Space Jam), possibly because of fears that he might offend members of the Hispanic community. In fact, Cartoon Network, which since 1999 has been the only television venue for the old Warner cartoons, has removed him from the daytime schedule — he can now be seen only late at night, in obscure time slots, and even then, only rarely.
Such fears are apparently misguided, as Speedy is seen by Hispanic Americans as having many positive attributes. He is intelligent, he has a strong sense of justice, he is very good at what he does, and he has a healthy sense of humor. He is certainly no more offensive than Gordo, who has won his creator considerable recognition for promoting international friendship and understanding. In fact, the large and growing "Free the Mouse" movement has very strong support among Hispanic groups.
In a world where even the egregiously sexist Pepe LePew can be viewed by children, it's hard to believe this popular classic will be off the daytime schedule for long.