Speedy Gonzales is a speedy mouse character appearing in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Nicknamed "The Fastest Mouse In All Of Mexico," his major characteristics are 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 45 cartoons in the Golden Age 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.
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 has one appearance in the Tiny Toons episode segment The Acme Acres Summer Olympics, as the coach, and serving to be 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! entitled "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 Porky Pig sits on Daffy Duck, prompting him to say, "I knew I should've chosen Speedy Gonzales as a sidekick!"
As of May 2011, Speedy has appeared in The Looney Tunes Show in a lot of episodes voiced by Fred Armisen. The Looney Tunes Show features a deeper voiced Speedy Gonzales. He lives with Bugs and Daffy as their "mouse-in-the-wall" and runs a pizza parlor called "Pizzarriba". He is shown to act as Daffy's "Jiminy Cricket," which is a far cry from the antagonistic relationship they had in the old days. The episode Sunday Night Slice show that Bugs buys his favorite pizzeria to prevent it from being closed and hires Speedy to help him. When Bugs decides he doesn't want to own a restaurant anymore, he hands ownership of it to Speedy. He is also in a Zorro parody Merrie Melodies segment called Queso Bandito, and appears in his other Merrie Melodies segment called Pizzarriba, and another Merrie Melodies segment called Table For One.
In 1962, pop singer Pat Boone scored a top 10 hit in the United States with the song Speedy Gonzales which featured Mel Blanc spouting fake-Mexican phrases as Speedy. It was also sung by Manolo Muñoz and A.B. Quintanilla's Kumbia All Star], whose music video featured Speedy.
Henry Mancini borrowed the character's name for the title of an instrumental composition, first featured on his 1961 album Mr. Lucky Goes Latin.
In the Family Guy episode Padre De Familia Peter creates an American version of Speedy called "Rapid Dave" after deciding that immigrants shouldn't be allowed into America.
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.
In October 2010, Speedy Gonzales appeared alongside other Looney Tunes characters in a Virgin Media T.V. advertisement. Speedy also serves as the current mascot for Virgin Media, a double reference to his own speed and to that of the company's fibre optic broadband.
Speedy briefly appears in the Robot Chicken episode Werewolf Vs. Unicorn when he penetrates Sylvester's fence.
Speedy Gonzales appears in the Drawn Together episode The One Wherein There Is A Big Twist, Part II when he is one of the candidates who wants to be the new housemates.
Speedy Gonzales is also a name for a third-party cheat to the popular Indie-game, Minecraft. It enables users to travel at a faster speed than normal.
Speedy also appeared in the MetLife Super Bowl commercial in 2012.
In February 2010, New Line Cinema and parent company Warner Bros. Pictures announced that they are planning a live-action/animated combo feature film based on the Looney Tunes character, set to be released sometime in 2014. Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen, who adapted the comic Garfield into a similar-style live-action/animated Family film, will write the script for the coming-of-age story which is set in the present day. The story features Speedy, a young and misunderstood Mexican mouse, finding himself leaving his family to go out in the world and figure out what he's good at. He soon makes friends with a nervous racecar driver. Eugenio Derbez will voice the character.