Some of my favorite cartoons while growing up were Transformers, He-Man, ThunderCats, and Ninja Turtles. I even enjoyed watching Jem, Strawberry Shortcake, and Rainbow Brite with my older sister. But between those shows there were always several Looney Tunes shorts to fill out the Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup. Of all the Looney Tunes characters, there was one that resonated with me the most. That would be the one “brown” Looney Tune character out of the whole bunch, Speedy Gonzales. This Bootleg Classic is the best of the Speedy Gonzales shorts, and the Academy Award win proves that.
Speedy Gonzales/ dir. Friz Freleng/ 1955
From 1930 – 1969, Warner Bros. had a cartoon series called Looney Tunes, that consisted of animated shorts that showed at movie theaters. These animated shorts featured the popular characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester, Tweety, Marvin the Martian, Taz, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite San, Pepe Le Pew, and many others. The Speedy Gonzales short featured the newly redesigned Speedy Gonzales, and was the first meeting between Speedy and Sylvester the Cat.
There are a group of mice who are starving and are trying to get cheese from the AJAX cheese factory. The only problem is that there is a cat, Sylvester, who is gurading the the factory and the cheese. Other mice have attempted to get past Sylvester and get the cheese, but all of them have been eaten and died in the process.
Then one of the mice has a brilliant idea to enlist the services of “the fastest mouse in all Mexico” Speedy Gonzales. After telling their plight to Speedy, Speedy agrees to help.
Then some hilarious confrontations between Speedy and Sylvester occur, with Speedy always ending up the victor. Eventually, Sylvester decides to blow up the whole factory so nobody will get the cheese, but the plan backfires as all the cheese lands near the hungry mice.
Speedy then says “I like this pussycat fellow; he’s silly!” and the short ends.
To watch this Academy Award winning short and find out WHY it is a Bootleg Classic, hit the jump…
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What makes this a Bootleg Classic?
Well besides the fact that Speedy was “brown,” and he stood up for his people who were in need. He fought for their basic human rights to eat and survive. He fought against a tyrant who would rather see everything (the cheese) be destroyed than handed over to the poor brown folk. Alright, I’m going to stop there with the “struggle against imperialism” analogy, because everything I write about that would be a huge stretch. I’ll just say this, as a kid growing up brown and Filipino, I knew I was a little different from the other kids. I asked for “punas” when I wanted a tissue, I asked for “baon” when I wanted my lunch, and I got shit for that sometimes. So when I see a positive “brown” person on TV, cartoon or not, Filipino or not, I tend to root for the “brown” person.
The brilliant Friz Freleng directed this short. And if you re-watch it again, everything just works in this film. The gags are clearly defined and clever. The animation rivals many of the things that come out on TV today. There was a clear story, it wasn’t a vehicle to go from joke to joke. And the best part was the characterizations of Sylvester (already established a long time ago) and the new guy (the brown guy) Speedy.
I wouldn’t be doing my part if I didn’t mention the stereotypical/ racist depictions (lazy and drunk) of Mexicans in this short. And yes, I point a finger at the WB because they did do plenty of racist cartoons from 1930 – 1969. But, let me defend this short, Speedy Gonzales, for a sec. If you were oppressed by a tyrant (Sylvester), and you were denied basic human rights like food, and anytime you stood up to the tyrant you would get killed, would you want to work hard? Wouldn’t you want a drink or two?
Oh and btw, yeah… That’s racist!