When the Warner's cartoon studio was at its best in the 1940s and early 1950s, the animators there turned out shorts which were original, well-crafted, and above all funny. But by the 1960s, its cartoons were seldom better than routine. Gags which had been "done earlier and better" became dominant, and in most cases there was little wit to the stories.
"Mexican Cat Dance" serves notice right away that originality is not its strong point, for it uses footage of El Toro and his human opponent from "Bully for Bugs." During this sequence, the bull's bellows are heard with annoying frequency when the beast is off screen.
The film improves for a while when Sylvester shows up in atypical posture, pawing and snorting like a bull. But the amusement doesn't last long. Once Speedy begins his one-sided duel with Sylvester, the film becomes predictable and unfunny. "Bully for Bugs" lets two wily characters fight each other with the outcome uncertain until the last minute, but "Mexican Cat Dance" presents a sadistic Speedy and hapless Sylvester. Plus dozens of mice whose obnoxious laughter overwhelms one of the film's few virtues -- surprisingly pleasant music from Bill Lava.
A signature gag finds Sylvester chasing Speedy until the mouse opens a door for the cat to crash into. We see Sylvester's pitiful face framed in the wood. It would have been better to fling Sylvester out of the arena and through a market so that the cat could be garlanded with flowers and fruit (the artists still had more than enough talent to make such a sight gag pleasing).
Sylvester does leave the arena at the end -- upside down, plowing the ground while rocket skates on his feet provide thrust. This gag was done earlier and to more audience laughter by Wile E. Coyote. Overall, "Mexican Cat Dance" is an example of director Friz Freleng at his most derivative and least funny nature.
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