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Western Animation / Yosemite Sam

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Yosemite Sam is a cartoon character starring in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Having an intense hatred towards rabbits, he is another Arch-Enemy of Bugs Bunny.

Yosemite Sam was introduced in 1945 by Friz Freleng as a less sympathetic enemy for Bugs Bunny than the rather mellow and well-mannered Elmer Fudd. As an aggressive bully with a fondness for shootin', Sam gives Bugs moral license to unleash his Karmic Trickster on him without losing any audience sympathy. Sam was one of the rare characters to see exclusive use by only one of the Termite Terrace directors — his creator, Freleng (save for Dumb Patrol, which was directed by Freleng's longtime animator, Gerry Chiniquy). He never appeared in any Chuck Jones or Robert McKimson cartoons, with three exceptions: Hare-abian Nights, a Clip Show from 1959 directed by Ken Harris (an animator from Jones' unit) featuring archive footage from Freleng shorts, Dog Tales, a spot-gag short from 1958 directed by McKimson where he appears via reused animation from Piker's Peak, and From Hare to Eternity, a short from 1996 directed by Jones as a tribute to the then-recently deceased Freleng.

Sam has been used either as a prospector, outlaw, pirate, cowboy, black knight, prison guard etc., depending on the cartoon, sometimes with a different alias if the setting isn't based on Western. At heart, he stays a (usually gunslinging) cowboy, anyway.

Chuck Jones had a great-uncle who used to stay with his family sometimes; he was a retired Texas Ranger, short, redheaded, with a huge mustache and a hair-trigger temper, and generally thought to be the model of Sam. Others, however, say he was based on his own creator Friz Freleng, himself a short, mustachioed man with a large nose and (according to his daughter) a very bad temper.





Post-Golden Age


  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In The Looney Tunes Show, where he's no longer such a jerkass and obeys the laws about not firing off his guns at random. According to his musical "Blow My Stack", he's taken several jobs to try and keep his temper under control, but he's just not able to hold himself back.
    • In 2017 DC Comics published a series of one-off Crossover comics featuring the Looney Tunes cast interacting with DC characters. Yosemite Sam was paired off with Jonah Hex and in their comic he is depicted as a far more heroic character than in the original cartoons — still hot-tempered and pistol-packing, but an honest prospector, loyal friend and even a bit of a Heartbroken Badass whose wife had passed away.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: In The Looney Tunes Show, his last name is revealed to be Rosenbaum. Perhaps his nickname, Yosemite Sam, was a clue all along. Also worth noting that his creator and original voice actor were both Jewish.
  • Angrish: "Raggar fraggar friggin frazzer" is one of his catchphrases. He turns it up to eleven in From Hare To Heir.
  • Arch-Enemy: Bugs Bunny is this to him, though when it comes to Bugs himself, Sam shares that spot with Elmer Fudd.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!:
    • Bunker Hill Bunny: Yosemite Sam charges towards Bugs Bunny's fortress... only to run inside a huge cannon. As soon as he realizes this, he screams "Retreat!". Doubles as an Oh, Crap! moment.
    • The same thing happens in Captain Hareblower, in which, with a cry of "Charge!", Sam tries to board Bugs' ship, only to swing right into a cannon, after which he again screams "Retreat!"
    • In both cases, it's all in vain, as Sam doesn't get out in time before the cannon fires him out.
  • Badass Boast: At the start of almost every cartoon he's in.
  • Bad Boss: He is sometimes shown to be this he is shown beating or shooting his men for their failures. In one short sounds of beating and shooting come from his ship, and a man covered in bruises and tattered clothes runs out of the ship, telling the audience "I was a human being once".
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: He has a habit of abusing the animals he works with whenever they disobey him, which makes it even easier to root against him. The victims of his wrath include an elephant, a lion, a mule, a camel and even a dragon.
  • Bandito: The Mexican bandito 'Pancho Vanilla' in the Speedy Gonzales short Pancho's Hideaway is basically just Sam with brown hair.
  • Black Knight: His role in the Knighty Knight Bugs short, where he also rides a dragon.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • "I hates rabbits." / "I hate that rabbit!"
    • "Great horny toads!"
    • "Ya mule!" whenever he's riding an animal.
  • The Chew Toy: Being one of Bugs's enemies, his defeats are Played for Laughs. In fact, Word of God states that he was created specifically to one up Elmer Fudd in this role, as many viewers felt that Fudd was Unintentionally Sympathetic.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: A number of times he has offered Bugs an "alliance", but always quickly reneges as soon as he thinks Bugs' usefulness to him is at an end. It always backfires on him.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Honey's Money, the only short to feature Sam as the main protagonist and not contain any other Looney Tunes characters.
  • Deal with the Devil: Quite literally in Devil's Feud Cake, as well as "Satan's Waitin'", an episode of The Bugs Bunny Show. In both cases, Sam is killed and sent to Hell and has to deliver Bugs in order to stay on Earth. His efforts are presented through Stock Footage.
  • Determinator: He is capable of facing some of the biggest repeated defeats in his shorts and he always comes back for more.
  • Didn't Think This Through: He'll always enact step one of a plan, and after repeated screw ups maybe have a step two, but find himself short of ideas of how to go on from there before everything blows up in his face without fail. In several cases, he's so impulsive that he'll get tunnel vision in the face of what seems like imminent victory only for it to be pulled over on him with Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: A Southern sheriff in Stage Door Cartoon (1944) with the same voice, personality, and look, but without the hair-trigger temper and with a white mustache and eyebrows instead of red, was the prototype for Sam before his true debut in Hare Trigger (1945).
  • Evil Redhead: Quite obviously combined with Fiery Redhead.
  • Expy:
    • The De Patie Freleng Enterprises short Pancho's Hideaway features the bandit Pancho Vanilla, in terms of personality, role and design, Pancho's largest differences are his darker facial hair and Mexican accent.
    • Chuck Jones' Mississippi Hare has a character named Colonel Shuffle, who's similarly diminutive and hot-tempered but has a white beard and mustache with black eyebrows and talks in a thick Southern accent.
    • Robert McKimson's Oily Hare has a character named Devil Rich Texan who has the exact same personality and voice, a similar design, and even yells "OOOOOH!" when angered. The biggest differences are that his mustache is black, doesn’t cover his entire face, and he lacks a mask around his eyes.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: When he, hunting for Bugs in Rabbit Every Monday, catches an audience member excusing himself out of the theater and intimidates the man with his shotgun to sit down.
    Sam: The first one is tries to get out of here to warn that rabbit gets his hide blown off! [turns towards the viewers] And that goes for the rest of ya!
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Sam will enter the scene shooting every which way, including propelling himself up in the air by firing down.
  • Freudian Excuse: In a crossover comic, he tells Jonah Hex his hot temper is the result of being picked on for his short size.
  • Graceful Loser: In Bunker Hill Bunny, after being soundly defeated by Bugs, he admits he's a "Hessian without no aggression" and decides to defect to Bugs' side in the end.
  • The Gunslinger: Sam is most commonly a trigger-happy gunslinger.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: "Blow My Stack", his first musical number, in The Looney Tunes Show revolves around his temper. The 1960 short From Hare to Heir has Bugs exploit Yosemite's problems with anger management by deducting from his 1 million pound inheritance for each time he is observed (or even rumored to be) losing his temper (of course, with Bugs aggravating him at every turn).
  • Henpecked Husband: He accidentally turns out to be one to a wealthy shrew in Honey's Money. He ultimately decides the money is worth the abuse.
  • Hidden Depths: In The Looney Tunes Show, where he admits to having worked at a library, is implied to practice meditation to try and control his temper, and attends Anger Management classes. At the end of You Got Hate Mail, before angrily kicking out a book club, he gives them a very accurate summary as to why their new novel's protagonist fails to be a meaningful character.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: From Hare To Heir is a double whammy for him. Sawing through the ground right in front of the upstairs bathroom, covering the gap with a rug... What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Yosemite Sam digging for "buried treasure" on bottom of a ship... "What a maroon!".
    • Mutiny on the Bunny is only the tip of the iceberg.
    • Yelling loudly and shooting a gun right below a large avalanche-prone snow mass in "Piker's Peak".
  • I Have Many Names: Shanghai Sam, Sam von Schmamm, Riff-Raff Sam, Sam Schultz, Samuel Rosenbaum, etc.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Ironically offered as little a challenge to Bugs as Elmer at times. While designed to be a case downplayed from Elmer Fudd, his zeal and abuse still makes him somewhat pitiful.
  • Insufferable Imbecile: He's no doubt an idiot who's only slightly smarter than Elmer but he's also far more short-tempered, hostile and aggressive. An abrasive and belligerent man that would shoot a gun at anyone.
  • Jerkass: Created for the purpose of being more belligerent than Elmer, giving Bugs a more menacing opponent (or at the very least a palpable Asshole Victim) he could look heroic against.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: There are times that he gives up against Bugs and waves the white flag, or begs Bugs to just get out of his life, or "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
  • Large Ham: Practically all of his dialogue can be presented in all caps.
  • The Napoleon: Initially lots of jokes were about his height, and he sure is irascible and vicious.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Never seems to have the same profession twice. He's not even a cowboy half the time.
  • No Indoor Voice: His major trademark. His yelling-to-regular-talking ratio is probably in the 3:1 range.
  • Oh, Crap!: He flashes this expression a lot when finding himself at the losing end of his latest confrontation with Bugs.
    • In Roman Legion-Hare, after bonking a lion over the head with a club for roaring at him, when the lion roars at him again after Bugs opens his cage, Sam begins hitting him over the head with the club again, until he realizes the cage is open.
      Sam: How many times do I have to tell... [slowly realizes the cage is open] you... to... [stops hitting the lion with a This Is Gonna Suck face] shut... up?
    • At the end of Hare Lift, he bails out of a crashing plane with his bank-robbery loot and the last parachute.
      "So long, sucker! Ah, ha, hah, hah, hah! Ah, hah, hah, hah, hah! Ah, hah... [Notices he's about to land right in an open-topped police car filled with officers.] Ah huh... Uh uh... [Lands] oooh!"
  • Pirate: Apart from being a gunslinger, Sam's second most common role is that of a buccaneer.
  • Prehensile Hair: Yosemite Sam sports a huge muttonchop mustache, along with a smaller beard. He even has a musical in The Looney Tunes Show where it sings to him about being his lifelong friend and persuading him to never shave it. In the song, it punches out Daffy Duck for laughing at Sam getting knocked down. In the same show, it's revealed he's had it since he was a baby.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Has the stature and temperament of a rude and temperamental child, but packs heat (and a mighty fine 'stache, to boot).
  • Pushy Gun-Toting Villain: One of the ur-examples in western animation. He almost always threatened to shoot Bugs if he did not followed his orders or tried to do anything funny (of course, Bugs being Bugs, he always did and Sam got some painfully comedic retribution).
  • Recycled In Space: Has appeared in almost every stock villain role throughout his run, albeit always maintaining his bandit mask and western dialect. It literally happens in Lighter Than Hare.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: He and a black-haired lookalike brother are pitted against Daffy Duck in Along Came Daffy.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Of Bugs's two most notable enemies, Sam is the Manly Man to Elmer's Sensitive Guy. Clearly based on temperament.
  • Signature Headgear: A very large, light-colored cowboy hat.
  • Trigger-Happy: Sam is a Fiery Redhead with no manners, no patience, and loves to draw his two six-guns as a universal solution to any problem. Sam will even fire off his guns into the air when he's in a rare good mood, such as cheering for Fearless Freep in High Diving Hare.
  • Viler New Villain: Introduced as a worse antagonist compared to Elmer Fudd and thus deserving of the Karmic Trickster, being intentionally belligerent and a total Jerkass. It worked with varying degrees, though he's almost always written as viler than Elmer.
  • Villain Decay: While Sam was always a bumbler to some degree, he originally existed as a counter opposite to Elmer Fudd; a persistently evil and violent antagonist that could keep Bugs on his toes. As years passed, while his obnoxious streak remained, he became even easier to dupe than Elmer.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Though normally a true villain, in Big House Bunny, he's a police officer who thinks Bugs Bunny is a prisoner trying to escape when Bugs had only ended up there trying to escape hunters.
  • Vocal Dissonance: He speaks with a comically exaggerated Texas drawl, yet he's named for a national park in California.
  • The Von Trope Family: In two separate cartoons, Sam plays a German soldier aiding an enemy cause, both with a different name with the word "von" in it. In one, Bunker Hill Bunny, set during The American Revolution, Sam plays a Hessian named Sam von Schmamm. In the other, Dumb Patrol, set during World War I, he plays a German pilot named Baron Sam Von Shpamm.
  • Worth It: Played straight in Honey's Money (see its own entry); subverted in Hare Trimmed (when he beats a hasty retreat at the altar). Curiously, the former involved a $5 million inheritance and the latter was $50 million.
  • Worthy Opponent: Created as a more formidable villain compared to Elmer, it didn't ''quite'' last, however.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In Honey's Money, he tries to get 7-year-old Wentworth killed, or at least injured out of commission by tricking him into grabbing a ball from the street and releasing alligators into a pool before he gets in.


Video Example(s):


Ballot Box Bunny

The second cartoon to use this gag--Yosemite Sam rigs a piano with explosives for Bugs to play. When Bugs deliberately plays the wrong note twice, Sam then tries to correct his errors by playing the song correctly himself, only to have his plan literally blow up in his face.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / XylophoneGag

Media sources: