Speedy's first appearance was in 1953's Cat-Tails for Two though he appeared largely in name (and super speed) only. It would be two years before Friz Freleng and layout artist Hawley Prattredesigned 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 international border between United States and Mexico from starving Mexican mice. The mice call in the plucky, excessively energetic Speedy (voiced by Mel Blanc) to save them. Amid cries of "¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!" (Spanish for "Go on! Go on! Up! Up!", although "Ándale arriba" may have been intended as meaning "hurry up"), Sylvester soon gets his comeuppance. The cartoon won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons). in New Looney Tunes he appears to have reverted back to his personality from his earlier shorts in the episode Tweet Team. He also is involved with the Sylvester the Cat problem and says he's classic phrase too.
While Speedy's last name was given as Gonzalez in Cat-Tails (on a printed business card shown in the cartoon), it was spelled with an 's' from Speedy Gonzales onward. Today, the earlier spelling is sometimes used.
Freleng and McKimson 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 Mouse, causing the cat to suffer all manner of pain and humiliation from mousetraps to accidentally consuming large amounts of Tabasco hot sauce. Other cartoons pair the mouse with his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez, the "slowest Mouse in all 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, Speedy's main rival and second nemesis became Daffy Duck, whom Speedy usually referred to as "the loco duck."
Notable cartoon appearances
- Cat-Tails for Two (1953) - Debut, prototype
- Speedy Gonzales (1955) - Debut, official, Academy Award-winner, 28th (1955) - Short Subject (Cartoon)
- Tabasco Road (1957), Academy Award-nominated
- Mexicali Shmoes (1959), Academy Award-nominated
- The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961), Academy Award-nominated
- It's Nice to Have a Mouse Around the House (1965) - first appearance with Daffy Duck.
- See Ya Later Gladiator (1968) - final theatrical appearance.
Concern about stereotypes
Feeling that the character presented an offensive Mexican stereotype, Cartoon Network shelved Speedy's films when it gained exclusive rights to broadcast them in 1999 (as a subsidiary of Time Warner, Cartoon Network is a corporate sibling to Warner Bros.). 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."
Despite such controversy over potentially offensive characterizations, Speedy Gonzales remained a popular character in Latin America.
The Hispanic-American rights organization League of United Latin American Citizens called Speedy a cultural icon, and thousands of users registered their support of the character on the hispaniconline.com message boards. Fan campaigns to put Speedy back on the air resulted in the return of the animated shorts to Cartoon Network in 2002.
On the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD box sets, when the DVD is first loaded, it will be introduced by a disclaimer which states:
The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were false then and are still false today. While the following does not represent the WB view of society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim these prejudices never existed.
Mexican American tennis great Pancho Gonzales was at the peak of his fame in the years coming up to Speedy's first appearance, and in one cartoon Speedy is seen playing tennis with himself. Cultural theorist William Nericcio states that the name may have been derived from one of the jokes about a Mexican man nicknamed "Speedy Gonzales" either because of his premature ejaculation or of his ability to quickly grab a chance for copulation, though the name of the character was not intended to be derogatory.
Main article: List of Speedy Gonzales cartoons
In 1983, he co-starred in Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island. In 1988, he made a cameo appearance in the ending scene of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He had one appearance in the Tiny Toons episode segment "The Acme Acres Summer Olympics", as the coach, and serving as the mentor of Lightning Rodriguez. In 1996, he made a short appearance in film Space Jam. In 2003, he made a cameo appearance alongside Porky Pig in the film Looney Tunes: Back in Action, making fun of his politically incorrect status. At around the same time, he made a non-speaking cameo in an episode of ¡Mucha Lucha! titled "Lucha, Rinse and Repeat". In 2009, he made a cameo appearance on Kid vs. Kat in "The Kat Whisperer".
Volume 4 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series, released on November 14, 2006, has an entire disc of Speedy shorts, although some of his other shorts had previously been released on Volumes 1 and 3. Speedy is mentioned in one Duck Dodgers episode, after Cadet sits on Dodgers, prompting him to say, "I knew I should've chosen Speedy Gonzales as a sidekick!"
Speedy Gonzales appears in Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas. He is an employee at the Lucky Duck Superstore for the greedy Daffy Duck where he confuses Daffy with the Feliz Navidad comment.
Speedy Gonzales also appeared occasionally on The Looney Tunes Show. He is seen living with Bugs and Daffy as their "mouse in the wall" and running the pizza parlor Pizzarriba. Speedy is shown to act as Daffy's conscience, which is a far cry from the antagonistic relationship they had in the old days. The episode "Sunday Night Slice" showed that Bugs bought his favorite restaurant, Girardi's, to prevent it from being closed and hired Speedy to help him. When Bugs decides he does not want to own a restaurant anymore, he hands ownership of it to Speedy. In "The Black Widow", Speedy Gonzales answers Daffy Duck's call and races to Tacapulco to convince his cousin Sheriff Slowpoke Rodriguez to let Daffy Duck and Porky Pig out of jail.
Speedy Gonzales appeared in the 2015 straight to video movie Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run. He is seen as Lola Bunny's landlord.
An elderly Speedy Gonzales (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui) was "interviewed" by Al Madrigal for Madrigal's one-hour comedic documentary special Half Like Me (currently available on YouTube and formerly on Hulu).
Speedy Gonzales appears occasionally in New Looney Tunes, often as the leader of a gang of mice that also includes Hubie and Bertie, Sniffles, and "Minnesota Rats" (originally Minniesoda Fats; an aborted 1970s character revived and fleshed out in this series),he seems to have reverted back to his personality from Merrie Melodies.
In other media
In 1962, pop singer Pat Boone scored a top 10 hit in the United States with the song "Speedy Gonzales" which featured Mel Blanc samples spouting faux-Mexican phrases as Speedy. It was also sung by Manolo Muñoz and several other artists.
In 1965, the movie Wild on the Beach included the song "Little Speedy Gonzales" which was written by Stan Ross and Bobby Beverly and performed by The Astronauts.
In 1995, he appeared in a video game, Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos, for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
In 2006, Volkswagen licensed Speedy Gonzales for a series of Spanish-language commercials for the Volkswagen Golf, using footage from the cartoon of the same name.
Speedy Gonzales starred in several video games: Cheese Cat-Astrophe Starring Speedy Gonzales for the Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System and Game Gear, Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos for the SNES, Speedy Gonzales for the Game Boy and Speedy Gonzales: Aztec Adventure for the Game Boy Color. He also appeared as an enemy in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and Looney Tunes: Marvin Strikes Back! as both a miniboss and playable character. In the 2018 film Overboard, Eugenio Derbez has a tattoo of Gonzalez.
In 2010, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema announced a new Speedy Gonzales live action / animated feature film. George Lopez was attached to voice the character. In December 2015, it was reported that an animated film is in development at Warner Bros. In April 2016, it was announced that Eugenio Derbez will voice the character.
- Mel Blanc (1953–1986)
- Joe Alaskey (Tiny Toon Adventures, Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor, commercials)
- Greg Burson (Yosemite Sam and the Gold River Adventure!, Acme Animation Factory, Speedy Gonzales: Los Gatos Bandidos)
- Eric Goldberg (Looney Tunes: Back in Action)
- Billy West (Looney Tunes: Back in Action – The Video Game)
- Bob Bergen (Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas)
- Fred Armisen (The Looney Tunes Show, Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run)
- Tim Dadabo (Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes: Cartoon Universe)
- Eric Bauza (Looney Tunes Dash!, Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem)
- Dino Andrade (New Looney Tunes)
- Carlos Alazraqui (Looney Tunes Cartoons)
- Eugenio Derbez (upcoming Speedy Gonzales film)