Hare Trigger (1945)
Mel Blanc (1945-1999)
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.
Other characters with Sam-like features appear in several Looney Tunes shorts. The Bugs Bunny entry Super-Rabbit (1943) features the character 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 characters who look and sound very much like Sam, 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), 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 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 its a 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 who ends up going to the moon.
While unscrupulous and ornery himself, Sam consistently displays an odd respect for religious conventions. Whenever he is preparing to shoot Bugs, he tells the "die," "Now say your prayers!", allowing Bugs enough time to foil his intentions.
Another source of humor is the ludicrous lengths Sam will go to just to "get even" -- often with disastrous results to himself and his surroundings. Sam is also called "Ate".
A running gag in Yosemite Sam cartoons is that Sam's animals (camel, elephant, dragon) or airplanes never stop when he wants them to; Sam then loses his temper and bonks the offending animal/machine. A short intermission clip from the Bugs Bunny Roadrunner show has Bugs about to sing on his banjo-which wakes up Sam who is trying to sleep; Sam loses his temper and smashes the banjo-but not Bugs.
Yosemite Sam made appearances in several television specials in the 1970s and 1980s, and in three of the Looney Tunes feature-film compilations.
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, Montana Max.
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.
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, Kate Houghton, Bugs Bunny, 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 (from Super Rabbit).
Sam makes a cameo appearance in Disney/Amblin Entertainment's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, complete with his "britches" on fire. He also appears in the movie Space Jam as a player for the TOON 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. 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 plays the role of alien occasional guest villain K'chutha Sa'am (a parody of the Luxan Ka D'Argo from Farscape, and right in line with Sam's aggressive personality) on the Duck Dodgers animated series. He also appears in the video games Loons: The Fight for Fame, Taz: Wanted, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Busters, Sheep, Dog, 'n' Wolf, Looney Tunes B-Ball, Daffy Duck in Hollywood and Looney 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.
In the first episode of Supernatural Season 5, we can see Yosemite Sam being played on the TV while they are on the plane.
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 lungs, 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 (and of Foghorn Leghorn, whose voice is similar) to others (most notably Joe Alaskey in Who Framed Roger Rabbit while Blanc did most of the other Looney Tunes roles in that movie). This makes Sam (and Leghorn) 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.
Yosemite Sam in popular culture
- Yosemite Sam appears in the Drawn Together episode "Charlotte's Web of Lies". He is seen in Ling-Ling's Anger Management group with Hulk, Marvin the Martian, and Skeletor.
- In an episode of How I Met Your Mother to make fun of the news anchor Sandy, Ted and Marshall make him "Yosemite Sandy" by putting a hat and mustache on the TV screen during the news.
- On an episode of Night Court, Dan (John Larroquette) is forced into impersonating Yosemite Sam by a mentally disturbed woman he's dating.
- On an episode of Two and a Half Men, Charlie remembers his mother having sex with a man that resembled Yosemite Sam, since then, when he sees Yosemite Sam on TV, he gets nauseated. At the end of the episode, we see Jake watching Yosemite Sam on TV, much to Charlie's dismay.
- He was one of Joey Gladstone's favorite impressions in the show Full House.
- In an episode of House, Act Your Age, Gregory House makes a remark on a woman whose hormonal imbalance makes her facial hair grow fast, noting that "No one runs out at lunch just to get a lip wax, unless you woke up looking like Yosemite Sam".
- In the season two Simpsons episode, "Principal Charming", Marge tells her sister Patty that she has to wax the mustache on her upper lip because, "...you don't want to go out on your first date looking like Yosemite Sam".
- In the Futurama episode, "Parasites Lost", Leela is ogled by space truckers at a space truck stop. When one of them refers to her as, "One of them things like on our mud flaps," another asks, "Yosemite Sam?"
- In the Family Guy episode titled "Tales of a Third Grade Nothing", Brian and Frank Sinatra Jr. change into skin tight jeans from a store called Barney's in order to fit in with others at the club that Stewie recently remodeled for them. Yosemite Sam (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is seen complaining about his "penis-compressingest, sperm-killingest, testicle-grippingest" jeans while at Barney's.
- In SuperNews!, Yosamite Sam is an employee of the Blackwater mercenary company and work as a drill sergeant to John Rambo, another employee of Blackwater company.
- Yosemite Sam may likely have been the inspiration for the Sesame Street Muppet character, "Sinister Sam".
- In Frasier, when a Texan becomes the new station manager, Frasier says "I'm sucking up to Yosemite Sam!"
- In Supernatural (TV series), Yosemite Sam appears talking to the devil in the drawing ("Devil's Feud Cake" is the name of the episode of the Looney Tunes), being consistent to the same episode, which the name is "Sympathy for the Devil" because Lucifer has been released from hell.
- In the Goosebumps (TV series) episode "Cuckoo Clock of Doom" Yosemite Sam appears on a poster in the background of the antique shop.
- In Terminator Salvation, Yosemite Sam is on the mud flaps of a truck during a chase scene.
- In Zombieland, Columbus compares Tallahassee to Yosemite Sam saying "I hate to give credit to anyone who looks like Yosemite Sam,But I'm writing it down"
- According to several historians, when former Vice President of the United States and Confederate General John C. Breckenridge grew a long mustache during the American Civil War, he bore a close resemblance to Yosemite Sam.
- Yosemite Sam is mentioned by name in the following songs:
- "Lady Cab Driver", performed by Prince on his 1982 album, 1999.
- "When the Shit Goes Down" by Cypress Hill.
- "The Coalition To Ban Coalitions" by Hank Williams Jr.
- "Egg Man" by The Beastie Boys on their album Paul's Boutique.
- "Rooting For The Bad Guy" by The Wildhearts on their 2007 self titled album.
- "Dirt Off Your Shoulder Freestyle" by Cassidy.
- "Khaki Suit" by Damian Marley on his 2005 album Welcome to Jamrock.
- "The Good, the Bad, and the Skinnee" by 2 Skinnee Js.
- "Dope-A-Delic (Do-U-Be-Leeve-in-d-Flo)" by Digital Underground from their 1993 album "The Body-Hat Syndrome"
- "Rounding Up The Cattle by Burning Skies (sample of yosemite used)
- "Young Boy" by The Clipse from the album "Lord Willin'".
- Yosemite Sam appears on the logo of the KIJHL hockey team, the Castlegar Rebels.
- Apart from cartoons, Yosemite Sam (in his pirate, "Sea-goin' Sam", alter ego) has a second career as a popular truck mudflap icon. He is shown brandishing old-fashioned flintlock pistols accompanied by the slogan "Back Off!" A 2006 Super Bowl ad showed a newly-animated version of mudflap Sam on a date with the silver silhouette mudflap girl.See also: Yosemite Sam (shortwave)
- Yosemite Sam was the cartoon icon of the similarly-mustachioed Pittsburgh Pirates player Phil Garner in the late 1970s.