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Yosemite Sam in the short 14 Carrot Rabbit
Super-Rabbit (Early Version)
April 3, 1943
Hare Trigger (Official Debut)
May 5, 1945
|Created by||Friz Freleng|
|Voiced by||Mel Blanc (1943-1989)
|Occupation||prospector, cowboy, sailor and many others|
Yosemite Sam is an American animated cartoon character in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons produced by Warner Bros. Animation. The name is somewhat alliterative and is inspired by Yosemite National Park. Along with Elmer Fudd, he is the de facto archenemy of Bugs Bunny. He is commonly depicted as an extremely grouchy gunslinging prospector, outlaw, pirate, or cowboy with a hair-trigger temper and an intense hatred of rabbits, Bugs particularly. In cartoons with non-Western themes, he uses various aliases, including "Chilkoot Sam" (named for the Chilkoot Trail; Sam pronounces it "Chilli-koot") in 14 Carrot Rabbit (although in the same cartoon, when he tries to gain Bugs Bunny's trust, he cleverly invents alias "Square-deal Sam"), "Riff Raff Sam" in Sahara Hare, "Sam Schulz" in Big House Bunny, "Seagoin' Sam" in Buccaneer Bunny, "Shanghai Sam" in Mutiny on the Bunny, and "Sam Von Schamm the Hessian" in Bunker Hill Bunny and many others. During the Golden Age of American animation, Yosemite Sam appeared in 33 shorts.
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Animator Friz Freleng introduced the character in the 1945 cartoon Hare Trigger. With his fiery, irascible temper, short stature (in two early gags in Hare Trigger, a train he is attempting to rob passes right over top of him and he has to use a set of portable stairs to get on his horse; in Bugs Bunny Rides Again, he rides a miniature horse), and fiery red hair, Sam was in some ways an alter-ego of Freleng. The animator often denied any intentional resemblance. However, in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, surviving members of his production crew assert, and the late director's daughter acknowledges, that Sam definitely was inspired by Freleng. Other influences were the Red Skelton character Sheriff Deadeye and the Tex Avery cartoon "Dangerous Dan McFoo". When he does a "slow burn" and cries "Oooooh!" he borrows a bit from such comedic character actors as Jimmy Finlayson (a frequent foil to Laurel and Hardy) and Frank Nelson (one of Mel Blanc's costars on The Jack Benny Program). Freleng also cited the Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang, a character in the Toonerville Trolley comic strip, as an influence. In his memoir Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, Chuck Jones says that a great-uncle who occasionally visited his family was a retired Texas Ranger who was short, had red hair, a large mustache, and a hair-trigger temper (but no beard, unlike Sam). Mike Maltese originally considered calling the character Texas Tiny, Wyoming Willie, or Denver Dan, but then settled on the final name.
A running gag in the show is that sometimes Yosemite Sam tells Bugs "Open up this door open it up now!" and Bugs opens it when Yosemite Sam is in its way of opening and then closes it leaving a raging Yosemite Sam flattened.
Other characters with Sam-like features appear in several Looney Tunes shorts. The Bugs Bunny entry Super-Rabbit (1943) features the cowboy character "Cottontail Smith", who sounds a lot like Sam. Stage Door Cartoon (1944), another Bugs Bunny offering, features a southern sheriff character that sounds very much like Sam, except for a more defined southern stereotype to his voice. In a Daffy Duck cartoon called Along Came Daffy (1947), Daffy has to contend with two Yosemite Sams, one with Sam's red hair and one with black hair. Finally, Pancho's Hideaway (1964) features a Mexican villain who is designed much like Sam but has a different accent. In addition, in the 1949, Chuck Jones-directed cartoon Mississippi Hare, Bugs Bunny battles with an old, pistol-toting gambler called Colonel Shuffle, one whose role could have easily been portrayed by Sam. (The Colonel reappears in "Dog Gone South", this time pitted against Charlie Dog, and accompanied by a bulldog named Belvedere, who resembles Hector the Bulldog).
Freleng created Yosemite Sam to be a more worthy adversary for Bugs Bunny. Until then, Bugs' major foe had been Elmer Fudd, a man so mild-mannered and dim-witted that Freleng thought Bugs actually came off as a bully by duping him. Sam, on the other hand, was extremely violent and belligerent, not at all a pushover like Fudd. Freleng compacted into a tiny body and 11-gallon hat the largest voice and the largest ego "north, south, east, aaaaand west of the Pecos".
For over 19 years, except for one cartoon (Hare-Abian Nights in 1959) Freleng's unit had exclusive usage of Sam at the Warner studio. Though officially a cowboy, Freleng put Sam in a different costume in almost every film: a knight, a Roman legionary, a pirate, a royal cook, a prison guard, a duke (Duke of Yosemite, no less), a Confederate soldier, a mountain climber (climbing the 'Shmadderhorn' mountain in Switzerland), a hen-pecked househusband and even a space alien. The humor of the cartoons inevitably springs from the odd miscasting of the hot-tempered cowboy. However, some countries seem to prefer his pirate incarnation, as "Sam the pirate" is his official name in France and a frequent alternative name in Italy.
While Sam's basic character is that of a cowboy, he wears a black Domino mask (or actually, just a wide black outline on the outer sides of his eyes) to show that he's an outlaw. This is so associated with his persona that he wears the mask even when dressed as a duke, a riff, a pirate, or a Viking.
Sam is significantly tougher and more aggressive than Elmer Fudd when challenging Bugs Bunny. He is also quicker to learn from his mistakes, and never falls for the same ploy twice. But despite Sam's bluster, he doesn't prove much brighter than Elmer in his encounters with Bugs. His noise contrasts to the calmly cocky rabbit. Sam's own cockiness gets the best of him; Bugs can see he is incapable of turning down a challenge. Every time Bugs dares Sam to "step across that line", he can't help but do so, even if he steps off into empty space or down a mine shaft. In Wild and Woolly Hare Sam and Bugs play "Chicken" in two locomotives going toward one another-Sam doesn't crash into Bugs but still ends up losing. In the classic Knighty Knight Bugs Sam is a black knight with a fire breathing dragon.
While unscrupulous and ornery himself, Sam consistently displays an odd respect for religious conventions. Whenever he is preparing to shoot Bugs, he tells the "varmint," "Now say your prayers!", allowing Bugs enough time to foil his intentions.
Yosemite Sam is one of Bugs' toughest antagonists. Yosemite Sam is a character more violent than Bugs' most famous antagonist Elmer Fudd given that Sam has a tougher accent, a higher fierce voice, and a more violent spirit. Yosemite Sam has had several occupations in his life that Bugs has gotten in the way of. Among his occupations are:
- Prison Guard: In Big House Bunny, Yosemite Sam arrests and imprisons Bugs for a false accusation (escaping prison) and gives him 99 years in jail. However, he gets infuriated and lets Bugs out of prison after Bugs annoys him including briefly getting Sam beaten up and locked up in jail himself. However when letting Bugs out, he is jailed by the Warden (who gets infuriated with the antics that causes Bugs to get Yosemite Sam in trouble with him) for Bugs' doings and for letting a prisoner (Bugs) escape. Yosemite Sam then vows to get even with the stool pigeon who squealed on him. It then cuts to Bugs on a stool making the sounds of a pigeon.
- Pirate: In Captain Hareblower, Yosemite Sam is a pirate captain who is able to intimidate and scare sailors and other pirates. Captain Sam encounters a trading ship led by Bugs Bunny and decides to take it for himself. With all of Bugs' fellow sailors too cowardly to face Sam and drowned in the ocean; Bugs challenges Sam to a fight. Captain Sam and Bugs Bunny battle each other's ships with Bugs on the verge of winning. The battle ends up with Sam being forced to abandon ship to escape an inevitable explosion on his own pirate ship. Captain Yosemite Sam then triumphs over Bugs by lighting Bugs' gunpowder room into exploding and escaping by himself, but not before giving a warning for Bugs to leave (an order Bugs Bunny does not follow).
- Riff-Raffer/Cowboy: In Sahara Hare, Yosemite Sam is a proud intimidating North African version of a cowboy; a Riff-Raffer who owns the Sahara Desert. When Bugs ends up in the desert when trying to find Miami Beach, he sees Bugs trespassing and chases Bugs into a deserted castle. Yosemite Sam sees Bugs using the castle for protection and tries several unsuccessful attempts at breaking into the castle; eventually ending with Bugs escaping after causing a booby trap that Sam falls for; an armed bomb coated door that will explode if Sam opens the door to the castle.
- Indian Chief: In Horse Hare, Yosemite Sam is the chief of an Indian tribe during the Indian-American wars in 1866. One day Yosemite Sam sees a USA fort and decides to steal it for his tribe. He sees that Sergeant Bugs Bunny is guarding the fort and challenges him to war. Chief Sam has his men attack through various means such as launching himself into the fort, firing guns, etcetera but Sam is put on probation when he is accused of firing at one of his soldiers (It was actually Bugs). Eventually the USA cavalry return and help Bugs defeat Sam and his army of Indians.
- Legendary Mountain Climber: A legendary mountain climber in Piker's Peak, Sam hears of a contest where whoever hikes up and reaches the deadly highest mountain in the world, will receive money equaled to trillions of dollars in today's money; 50,000 Cronkites (named after legendary TV host Walter Cronkite). Yosemite Sam takes the contest and decides to climb up the mountain which is based on Pike's Peak. However when he reaches base-camp at thousands of feet, he encounters Bugs Bunny who hears about the contest. With both of them wanting the prize, Yosemite Sam then must race and defeat Bugs along the way up to Piker's Peak to get the money.
- Cowboy: In Wild and Woolly Hare, Yosemite Sam is a legendary cowboy gangster who dominates much of the wild west through intimidation. One day he comes to take over a cafe in an old western town and is insulted by Bugs Bunny. Angered by the insult, Yosemite Sam challenges Bugs Bunny to a fight to the death. With Bugs on the verge of winning through trickery and deception, Yosemite Sam decides to try one last time to intimidate the town; to rob a train. But Bugs Bunny hijacks the train to save it. Yosemite Sam tries to follow it by horse and orders Bugs to get off by the time he counts to a specific number. However just before he reaches his final number he always runs into something such as a telephone pole, a tunnel wall and falling off a bridge. A frustrated Yosemite Sam tries to get on another train and force Bugs to surrender by preparing to ram head-on into Bugs' train. However Bugs foils him by switching the railroad tracks causing Sam's train engine to crash hundreds of feet, into a gorge's river.
- Alien: In Lighter Than Hare, Yosemite Sam of Outer Space is an alien from a foreign planet. Inside a flying saucer spaceship, Yosemite Sam reveals his mission to find an earth creature to take back to his planet for uses such as slaves, producing on their planet Etcetera. Yosemite Sam detects Bugs Bunny and has his armies of robots to attack Bugs' hideout. After a long struggle Yosemite Sam's armies of robots are blown to pieces. Finally, an exasperated Yosemite Sam uses an incinerating laser cannon to threaten Bugs into surrendering and boarding his space ship. Yosemite Sam then flies out of earth to his planet, unaware that he has actually captured a decoy of Bugs filled with bombs. When Yosemite Sam presents the dummy to his leader, the bombs explode.
- Sailor: In Rabbitson Crusoe, Yosemite Sam is a sailor whose boat has sank in a thunderstorm in the Pacific Ocean and lives as a castaway. Yosemite Sam jumps across rocks to a deserted island and spends there for many years but being targeted for a meal by a shark named Dopey Dick. After some time, Yosemite Sam grows tired of eating coconuts and finds Bugs Bunny. He decides to cook up Bugs for dinner. After a long battle, eventually the island is reclaimed by the seas and Yosemite Sam ends up being chased by Dopey Dick. Yosemite Sam is then forced to make a deal with Bugs where Bugs will not let Dopey Dick eat Sam and take Yosemite in his boat (the cooking pot) back to civilization....but only if Yosemite Sam is the one that does all the work in paddling 2,736 miles to San Francisco California USA.
- Chef: In Shishkabugs, Yosemite Sam has one of his rare performances where his goal is not for evil purposes and where he is not the aggressor. In this episode, Sam is a very kind, generous chef for a very rude spoiled king who has Sam enslaved through blackmail. One day, Sam makes the king a usual buffet only for the King to rudely kick it away and demand something new. That something new is Hasenpfeffer whose base is cooked rabbit. Sam captures Bugs and puts Bugs in the meal, but Bugs outsmarts Sam twice and the King blames it all on Sam. Eventually, the King loses his patience and has guards arrest Sam and installs Bugs as his new chef. The King claims to have set up Sam's death. But since Sam is seen alive in more episodes, it is presumed that either he was found not guilty by the kingdom court, the citizens demanded Sam's release, or Sam escaped.
- Knight: In Knighty Knight Bugs, Sam is the Black Knight and has stolen the Singing Sword. King Arthur hires court jester Bugs Bunny to retrieve the sword. After retrieving it, Bugs escapes Sam and manages to lock Sam out of his castle. Sam attempts to break back in, but each attempt backfires. Eventually, Bugs leads Sam and his fire-breathing dragon into the dynamite storage facility. The dragon sneezes, blowing the two of them to the moon.
In all Sam episodes, even though he is disguised in different outfits, the red moustache and beard, his short stature, and voice remains the same. It is an exaggerated Western accent (except for Pancho's Hideaway, which is a Mexican one, and isn't really even Sam, but very well could be), and many of the things he says return from each previous Sam cartoon. here are some of the most common, or as Sam would say, the common'nest:
"I'm givin' ya one last chance ta surrenda!"
"Say yer prayers, varmint!"
"Great horni-todes (horny-toads). I'm (or I've)..."
"I'm a gonna blow ya ta smithereens (smithereenies)!"
"...or I'll blow ya ta Kingdom Come."
"I'm the roughest, toughest, root'nest, toot'nest, fastest gun-slinger west of the Pecos!"
"...or else my name ain't...(name within episode)"
In response to Bugs' "Dem's fight'n words, "Yeah, dem's fight'n words."
"Start walkin', varmint."
"Clear out, ya lily-livers."
"Ah hates rabbits."
Yosemite Sam made appearances in several television specials in the 1970s and 1980s, and in three of the Looney Tunes feature-film compilations.
Sam was the star of his own comic book series from 1970 to 1984, for a total of 81 issues. Published by Gold Key / Whitman Comics, the official title of the series was Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny.
Yosemite Sam was one of the classic Looney Tunes characters who appeared as faculty members of Acme Looniversity in the 1990s animated series Tiny Toon Adventures. Sam was shown teaching classes in Firearms and Anvilology (the study of falling anvils, a staple joke in the Looney Tunes genre), and was sometimes portrayed as the school principal (though at least one episode identified Bugs Bunny as the principal, and Wile E. Coyote was Dean of Acme Loo). As with all the main Looney Tunes characters, Sam had a student counterpart at Acme Loo in Montana Max. In "K-Acme TV," Yosemite Sam was seen as the judge of "Toon Court" (a parody of The People's Court) where he proceeded over a trial where Calamity Coyote issues a complaint against the ACME Corporation for negligence and faulty workmanship. The ACME Corporation's representative Bobbo ACME claims that the devices made by the ACME Corporation work if they are used right as he demonstrates the catapult on Calamity Coyote. Judge Yosemite Sam finds in favor of the ACME Corporation. In the same episode, Yosemite Sam appeared as a prospector in a documentary detailing about the sightings of a furry creature called Bigbutt (a spoof of Bigfoot).
Yosemite Sam also appeared along with Bugs Bunny in a number of Mirinda commercials in early 90s, most probably due to direct competition to Fanta, being advertised with Disney Characters at that time.
He also appears in the movie Space Jam as a player for the Tune Squad. In a memorable scene, he and Elmer Fudd shoot off the teeth of one of the Monstars while clad in Pulp Fiction-esque attire, complete with Dick Dale's Misirlou playing. In an earlier scene, when the Nerdlucks hold all the toons hostage, Sam sneaks up on the Nerdlucks, pointing his pistols at them, and orders them to release all the toons, only to have the Nerdlucks fire a laser pistol back at him, which leaves Sam naked and beardless as the phasers burned off his mustache.
Sam also appeared in The Warners 65th Anniversary Special and two episodes of 1995's The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries.
In the 2003 movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Yosemite Sam is a bounty hunter employed by the Acme Corporation who was hired to finish off DJ Drake and Daffy Duck. In this film, he owns a casino in Las Vegas, which he calls Yosemite Sam's Wooden Nickel, and is accompanied by Nasty Canasta and Cottontail Smith (who may be originally employed as his security guards) (from Super Rabbit). He goes as far as betting a large sack of money to get the card, stealing Jeff Gordon's car, and even using a stick of Dynamite to beat DJ and Daffy. Though putting up a good chase, in the end, his car crashes into the wall of his own casino while the spy car flies above it. He get launched in a pitch black room full of Dynamite, and he lights all of them when he tries to look around with a match. He is last seen in the Acme building trying to cover his failure on DJ, Dusty Tails, and Daffy, though his boss couldn't even understand what he's saying.
A younger version of Sam had appeared in Baby Looney Tunes, in songs. In one episode, Bugs dresses up as Baby Sam for Halloween.
He also appears in the video games Loons: The Fight for Fame, Taz: Wanted, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 3, The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Busters, Sheep, Dog, 'n' Wolf, Looney Tunes B-Ball, Daffy Duck in Hollywood and Loony Tunes: Back in Action the video game.
In Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal, Yosemite Sam makes an appearance riding a railway cart on the Wild West level.
Yosemite Sam appears in multiples episodes of The Looney Tunes Show, voiced by Maurice LaMarche. He first appeared in the show in two Merrie Melodies segments called "Blow My Stack", and "Moostache". Yosemite Sam is one of Bugs and Daffy's neighbors. In the episode "Daffy Duck, Esq.," it's revealed that his full name is Samuel Rosenbaum. In "Ridiculous Journey," it is revealed that Yosemite Sam has a cousin in Blacque Jacque Shellacque who Yosemite Sam enlisted to recover Sylvester, Tweety, and Tasmanian Devil after they were accidentally shipped to Alaska. It was through Yosemite Sam that Bugs Bunny and Granny enlisted Blacque Jacque Shellacque's help.
Yosemite Sam made two cameo appearances in a MetLife commercial in 2012. In one of the ads, a producer knocked on Yosemite Sam's trailer and he thought there were "varmints" bothering him and he took down and shot some fur coats of animals with rage. Even though he would shot some animals with rage, his temper calmed and revived the animals with puppies.
The role of Yosemite Sam was originated by the Warners' principal voiceman, Mel Blanc. In his autobiography, Blanc said he had a difficult time coming up with the voice. He tried giving Sam a small voice, but didn't feel that it worked. One day, he decided to simply yell at the top of his voice, which was inspired by a fit of road rage he had that day. It fit perfectly with the blustery character, but also took a toll on Mel. He always made it a point to record Sam's lines at the end of a recording session so he wouldn't have to play other characters with a hoarse voice. In his final years, it was simply too much, and he passed along the role of Sam to Joe Alaskey in Who Framed Roger Rabbit while Blanc did most of the other Looney Tunes roles in that movie. This makes Sam one of the few voices created by Blanc to be voiced by someone else during his lifetime. Blanc used a voice similar to Yosemite Sam's for Mr. Spacely on The Jetsons.
- Charlie Adler (Tiny Toon Adventures)
- Maurice LaMarche (Tiny Toon Adventures, Taz-Mania, Carrotblanca, Looney Tunes: Reality Check, Looney Tunes: Stranger than Fiction, Duck Dodgers, Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, The Looney Tunes Show, various video games)
- Barrier, Michael (6 November 2003). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. United States: Oxford University Press. p. 672. ISBN 978-0-19-516729-0. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
- "Sam le pirate". Telemaniac.free.fr. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
- Yosemite Sam at the Comic Book DB
- Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny checklist at Comics-DB.com