Warner Bros. is developing an animated movie based on the popular Looney Tunes character Speedy Gonzales, Deadline reported yesterday (April 4). The film, tentatively called Speedy, will be released in both English and Spanish.
Created in the 1950s, Gonzales was a crafty, lightning-fast Mexican mouse who became a children’s favorite in Latin America. But in the decades since, the character has been criticized for exhibiting ethnic stereotypes, including an oversized yellow sombrero and an embroidered Mexican accent. His friends, along with his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez, are usually depicted as lazy and dumb.
In 1999, Cartoon Network pulled Speedy Gonzales re-runs from the air after deciding they were too offensive. The network reinstituted him three years later after fans protested.
Despite the cartoon’s many clichés, he’s also been embraced by Latino communities, especially in Mexico. Some argue the mouse subverted white audience’s expectations—here was a heroic Mexican character that routinely outsmarted others, always winning in the end. The League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino anti-discrimination organization, helped get Speedy back on the air after Cartoon Network shelved him.
“In Mexico we grew up watching Speedy Gonzales,” Eugenio Derbez, who will voice Speedy in the film, told Deadline. “He was like a superhero to us, or maybe more like a revolucionario like Simón Bolívar or Pancho Villa.”
David Sellers, one of the film’s producers, told Deadline he thinks that there’s never been a better time for the character, citing the US presidential race in which one candidate in particular has peddled racist stereotypes. “In a time when Donald Trump is gaining momentum, the world needs Speedy more than ever,” he said.
Warner Bros. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Speedy Gonzales is one of a number of characters that Warner Bros. has recently developed into feature films. The studio released Pan, based on Peter Pan, last year, and is set to release Tarzan and Jungle Book adaptations in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Warner Bros. owns the rights to the entire Looney Tunes universe, so if Speedy is successful, it’s possible the studio will want to adapt other characters, such as Bugs Bunny or Road Runner.
Disney, meanwhile, is in the midst of reimagining several of its classic animated films, including Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, and Beauty and the Beast.