Every language and culture has its own ways of celebrating cats. In the United States, we have many famous English-speaking felines like Garfield and Felix the Cat. Japan has quite a few as well (Hello Kitty, Maneki Neko, etc). One of the most famous Spanish-language felines is a character named Don Gato (Mr. Cat in English). There are actually 2 different Don Gato characters that are famous in Mexico despite the fact that neither was created there.
Title Image Credit: Agustín Ruiz via Flickr, sombrero added
The Top Cat Cartoon
Our first Don Gato got his start in the United States. Hanna Barbara (famous for the Flintstones) produced a cartoon named Top Cat from November 26, 1961, to April 18, 1962. Top Cat was about a gang of feral cats who love to hang out in the alley and play music together. The leader of the gang, Top Cat (or T.C.), was a wise-cracking con man type who was always getting into trouble with the local policeman.
The Top Cat cartoon and its characters were loosely based on a popular 1950’s military comedy named The Phil Silver’s Show. Top Cat was analogous to Sargent Bilko, an army sergeant who always had something up his sleeve. Some of the voices from Top Cat were even made to sound like the characters in The Phil Silver’s Show.
Top Cat Becomes Don Gato
After Americans gave only a mediocre response to the show, it was released abroad to Mexico, Argentina, and Peru. Top Cat was renamed Don Gato Y Su Pandilla (Mr. Cat and his gang) and the characters were given new names and accents. The Top Cat character was named Don Gato. The Spanish language version of the cartoon was a huge hit!
In 2011, a brand new feature film starring Top Cat and his gang was released. In the film, a tyrannical chief of police has taken over New York City and it will take Top Cat and his gang to set things straight. If you would like to see the original series, reruns of all 30 episodes of the show are now on Cartoon Network.
Senior Don Gato Song
The second Don Gato comes from a slightly morbid children’s song. Senor Don Gato is believed to have originated in Spain or Portugal but has been commonly sung throughout Mexico. Spanish, French (Monsieur le Chat) , and English language versions of the song exist. The English version loosely translates the Spanish lyrics and puts them to the tune of a different song – Ahora Que Vamos Despacio (Now That We’re Slowly).
The song depicts a male cat, Senior Don Gato, who is standing on a roof when he gets a love letter from a beautiful female cat. When he reads that she would like to marry him, he jumps for joy and falls off the house breaking his bones and eventually dying. As he is taken to the cemetery, he is carried past a fish market and the smell suddenly brings him back to life.