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Yosemite Sam

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 24, 2004

    Dynamic, short-tempered antagonist, usually of Bugs Bunny, who featured prominently in a number of classic Friz Freleng shorts. There is some speculation that Sam was based on Freleng himself, both being short, red-haired chaps with volatile tempers. Freleng himself seems to have been equivocal as to whether he was the model for the character. Mike Maltese originally considered calling the character Texas Tiny, Wyoming Willie, or Denver Dan, before settling on the final name.

    While Sam had a wide variety of roles -- including desert sheik, prison guard, English lord, and shifty small town mayor -- his two best known roles were as Western outlaw, which was his metier in his first few cartoons, and as a pirate in some of the finest entries in the Bugs Bunny series. Interestingly, the Freleng unit maintained his black mask, even in roles that did not require it.

    Freleng developed the character as an alternative to Elmer Fudd, who he felt did not provide enough of a challenge to Bugs. The southern sheriff in Stage Door Cartoon (Freleng, 1944) can be considered something of a “dry run” for the character. Mel Blanc has pointed out that while the voice is based on a Texas accent, the name derives from a National Park in California.

    The second cartoon to feature the character, Along Came Daffy (Freleng, 1947) introduces a black-haired twin brother to Sam.

    Filmography, all Freleng, except where noted:

        Hare Trigger (1945)
        Along Came Daffy (1947)
        Buccanner Bunny (1948)
        Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948)
        High Diving Hare (1949)
        Mutiny on the Bunny (1950)
        Big House Bunny (1950)
        Bunker Hill Bunny (1950)
        Rabbit Every Monday (1951)
        The Fair Haired Hare (1951)
        Ballot Box Bunny (1951)
        Fourteen Carrot Rabbit (1952)
        Hare Lift (1952)
        Southern Fried Rabbit (1953)
        Hare Trimmed (1953)
        Captain Hareblower (1954)
        Sahara Hare (1955)
        This is a Life? (1955)
        Roman Leigon Hare (1955)
        Rabbitson Crusoe (1956)
        A Star is Bored (1956)
        Pikers Peak (1957)
        Knighty-Knight Bugs (1958)
        Hare-Abian Nights (Harris, 1959)
        Wild and Wooly Hare (1959)
        Horse Hare (1960)
        From Hare to Heir (1960)
        Lighter Than Hare (1960)
        Prince Violent (Freleng/Pratt, 1961)
        Shishkabugs (1962)
        Devis Feud Cake (1963)
        Dumb Patrol (Chiniquy, 1964)

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• The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion is © (copyright) 1996 E. O. Costello. All rights reserved.

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