Looney Tunes considered many different names for Yosemite Sam
Does "Denver Dan" sound like "the meanest, roughest, toughest hombre that's ever crossed the Rio Grande" to you?
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One of the toughest characters that Bugs Bunny ever comes up against is Yosemite Sam.
Though short, the hot-tempered gunslinger with the bushy red mustache and eyebrows was much quicker to pick up on Bugs Bunny's tricks than some of the slower adversaries of the wascally wabbit. (We're looking at you, Elmer Fudd.)
Created in 1944 by animator Friz Freleng, Yosemite Sam is rumored to be based on the colorful animator himself. It's said even Freleng's daughter noted she saw the resemblance between the iconic character and her dad.
Freleng flatly denied basing the character off himself and claimed the character was influenced instead by many characters he loved, including some created by Tex Avery and Red Skelton, as well as a Toonerville Trolley comic strip character named Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang.
When coming up with the name for Yosemite Sam, there were a few other titles considered for the character first, including Texas Tiny, Wyoming Willie and Denver Dan.
None of those names sound quite right when you are so accustomed to thinking of the little man who's blown his last fuse as Yosemite Sam.
It seems that when choosing a name, animators just couldn't decide on where the origin story of Yosemite Sam should begin.
In the end, his name references Yosemite National Park, which is located in not Texas, Wyoming, nor Colorado, but in California.
Among Looney Tunes characters, Yosemite Sam sticks out because, along with Elmer Fudd and Granny, he's one of the few human characters we regularly see in the universe.
And for sure, of all the humans, Yosemite Sam's depicted as the one with the most malicious intentions. That's because when Freleng created Yosemite Sam, he really was trying in earnest to make one of Bugs Bunny's worthiest adversaries. In Chuck Jones: Conversations, animator Chuck Jones explained how Freleng made Yosemite Sam so memorable.
"He took a grown man and had him act like a baby," Jones said. "If anything displeased him, he'd bellow and scream."
In his other book, Chuck Amuck, Jones said Freleng had a similar duality of his own. Jones said that Freleng was "insane, to be sure" but also "one of the sanest men I have ever known — and the funniest."
Jones also remembered Freleng had a tuft of wild red hair that always reminded him of Yosemite Sam.
"He used to have a Friz frieze of red hair around the gray matter in that baffling skull," Jones wrote of Freleng. "Yosemite Sam lived there — usually caged, but so did caged birds and fluttery little old ladies and frustrated cats and voracious mice, too."
In one of the few cartoons where Yosemite Sam faces off against Daffy Duck instead of Bugs Bunny, Freleng's unpredictable imagination even introduced us to a rather significant member of Yosemite Sam's family.
In the 1947 cartoon "Along Came Daffy," we meet Yosemite Sam's twin brother. We're never told his name, but he looks exactly like Yosemite Sam, except all his hair is black.
The plot of the cartoon finds the brothers in a cabin, snowed in and starving, when Daffy Duck knocks on the door. He's a door-to-door salesman, but the brothers only see him as a potential roast-duck dinner.
In case you're wondering, Freleng did not have a twin brother like Yosemite Sam did, but he did have a bunch of brothers and sisters. And we have one of his sisters to thank for nearly all the Looney Tunes characters Freleng created.
When Freleng was first invited to join the animation studio to do more Looney Tunes after he created the original Looney Tunes character Bosko, he wasn't sure he wanted to go. Thankfully, his younger sister Jean wouldn't hear of him turning it down. She convinced him that he had to say yes.
The rest is cartoon history, especially for the biggest fans of Yosemite Sam, the meanest, roughest, toughest hombre that's ever crossed the Rio Grande — someone we just wouldn't recognize by any other name, or coming from any other state.