Speedy debuted in 1953's "Cat-Tails for Two," directed by Robert McKimson. This early speedy was a meaner, rattier creation, and it would be two years before 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 menacing a group of mice. The mice call in the plucky, excessively energetic Speedy to save them, and amid cries of "Andale! Andale! Ariba! Ariba!" (courtesy of Mel Blanc), Sylvester soon gets his painful comeuppance. The cartoon won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film.
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 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 hot sauce. Other cartoons pair the mouse with his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez, the "slowest mouse in all Mexico." Slowpoke predictibly gets into all sorts of trouble which only Speedy can get him out of. In the 1960s, Speedy's main nemesis became Daffy Duck.
Speedy's cartoons have come under fire in recent years for their alleged stereotypical depictions of Mexicans and Mexican life. Mice in the shorts are usually shown as lazy, womanizing and hard-drinking while Speedy wears a huge sombrero and sometimes plays in a mariachi band. It was this criticism that 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, as well as lobbying by The League of United Latin American Citizens turned the tide in his favor, and in 2002, "the fastest mouse in all Mexico" was put back into rotation.