Animated Word

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Regarding a Legend - A Talk With Yosemite Sam

I have written about a couple of the brightest stars in the cartoon world already, but when it came time to take a good look at the fastest gun north, south, east, and west of the Pecos, I admit that I was at a loss. After all, the subtle layers of the star persona that is Yosemite Sam could not truly be peeled away by one self-important animation writer. I thought about consulting some of the finest minds of the animation historian world for assistance, like Jerry Beck or John Canemaker, but I had a sneaking suspicion they'd be at as much of a loss for words as I was. But then it came to me: why not let the man speak for himself? And that's how, after much finagling with his agent, I found myself in a dusty saloon with the worst sarsparilla I've ever had, speaking with the great Yosemite Sam.

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Alex: First of all, Sam, I must once again thank you for this immeasurable honor in being able to speak with you.

Sam: I dunno what you're on about. I cames to get the five thousand dollars I was promised, and I aims to collect!

A: Yes, well, we can discuss that after the interview, heh. Anyway, your cartoons have afforded you a wide range of origins, from England to the high seas to ancient Rome to even outer space. Where are you actually from?

S: I came from a durned littl' hidey-hole called Santa Margarita in Montana.

A: Really? (pulls out map) I know there's a Santa Margarita in California and Texas, but there doesn't seem to be one in Montana.

S: Well, let's just say that I was the last one to mosey on outta that place....heh heh heh....

A: Okay...next question. What made you decide to come out to Hollywood to act?

S: I didn't wanna be no fancy-pants actor, boy! I cames to Hollywood 'cause the richest durned folks in the world live here, and their banks is probably stacked with more gold nuggets than Fort Knox! I figgered that just a coupl'a bank hold-ups would put me on easy street. But they must put extra sugar in the donuts in these here parts, because the coppers seem to be a lot quicker than the sherriffs back home. So whiles I was fleeing for me life, I ran into this broken-down little studio. One of the guys in charge there, a desperate fella named Friz Freleng, asked me to play a train robber in his cartoon, and I said I'd only do it if'n I can win in the end! The sneaky bastard paired me with that varmint and befores I knew it, I'd signed one of them durned "contracts" and I was stuck. Kept me away from barred windows, though!

A: So, it sounds as if your on-screen feud with Bugs Bunny bled over into real life. Would you say you still hold animosity towards Bugs after all these years?

S: Ani-what?

A: Animos.....well, do you still hate him?

S: Hate him?! COURSE I hates the critter! That durn cotton-tailed, carrot-chompin' varmint's been makin' me look like a durned monkey fer years! I figger maybe if I can find his loved ones, maybe I can make the rabbit suffer! You don't happen to know him too well, do ya's?

A: Uh, no, I don't know Bugs, nor does he have any vested interest in my well-being.

S: Blast it! Reckon I'll figger out who I can threaten someday.

A: Continuing on, obviously your beginnings as a cowboy helped you get roles like the ones in Hare Trigger and Bugs Bunny Rides Again, but how about your turns as a pirate or a knight or a politician? Can you shed any light on why Friz felt you could fit into these roles?

S: Friz just figgered that a crook was a crook. I gotta admit, it was fun tryin' to imagine myself runnin' fer some kinda public office, since the coppers would probably never let that happen in real life! Not 'cause I'm a crook, ya realize, but 'cause I don't gots the friends in high places who can cover it up. I will tell ya, I gots new respect fer pirates after doin' those cartoons.

A: Why is that?

S: 'Cause it's one thing to be a thievin' man on solid ground, but to be one of them "scallywags" or whatever they're called, that's tough business. Thievin' is tiring work, and to do it on them boats that keep rockin' back and forth, it makes a man sick to his boots.

A: Now that IS interesting. How did you manage to keep tabs on your weak stomach?

S: Weak stomach? Wait a gall-durned minute, I didn't say nuthin' like that! That ain't goin' in yer article, you hear me?!

A: Consider it stricken from the record! (Ed. note: Sam does not have any say over what does and does not make it to print, as stipulated by his agent, and our interviewer is in no danger from him. This account is unedited.)

S: 'Sides, I didn't have a stomach nearly as boilin' as that durned dragon in...uh...whatever the cartoon was that the critter won his award fer.

A: Knighty-Knight Bugs?

S: Yeah, that's the one. And ain't that just a kick in the pants, that the varmint gets credit fer that booby prize he won! I practically made that picture work! Makes a man fit to be tied, it does!

A: So, would you say that you've become more of an actor after all these years, and less of a crook? Which is why you deserve awards?

S: I deserved awards back when I was rustlin' sheep! Folks don't realize what kinda work that is, especially silencin' those fool sheepdogs. 'Course, that Jones fella always kept a sheepdog around in those days, so I couldn't practice my craft, if'n you know what I mean. But t'answer yer question, yeah, I reckon I've become one of these Hollywood folks. I'm certainly rich enough now to pay off the idiot coppers in this town to do anything I wants! And you can put THIS in yer article: all the crooks out there, Yosemite Sam says you can make a hefty mint out here in Los Angeles by becomin' a celebrity! It worked fer me!

A: Well, Sam, it's been an absolute pleasure and honor getting to share these words with you. I hope our readers have gained new insight into the enigma that is "Sam".

S: Where's the money?

This interview was entirely fabricated and done without interaction with anyone at Warner Brothers.

A critique by Alex Weitzman
First Published on November 29, 2003

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