Every Bugs Bunny Ever: Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948)

Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948)
Directed by Friz Freleng
Written by Tedd Pierce
Music by Carl W. Stalling
Animation by Gerry Chiniquy

This is the second, count ‘em, second short in a row where we get Yosemite Sam crossing our friendly neighborhood rabbit! There was a long period there where we didn’t see Sam at all and now he’s back after a failed stint as a pirate. Yosemite Sam is so hilarious because of his clear cut lack of self awareness. He is about as deadpan serious as it can get, and he’s so much funnier than a lot of the one and done Bugs Bunny villains. Heck, in his introduction to the short as the other cowboys shudder in fear announcing him, Sam appears at the Saloon doors and because he’s so short he walks under them, rather than smashes them open.

He walks right through with guns drawn making the gag hilarious, especially as he draws no real attention to the gag and presses on. Hell, when he and Bugs go on a big chase on horseback, Yosemite takes a ride on a small horse fit for his stature, and again the fact that it’s not paid mind to is what makes it so funny. The animators thankfully would slowly realize that fact, over time as Sam makes more appearances and becomes one of the bigger Bugs Bunny foils. He even becomes a character in his own right, which isn’t too bad. I don’t think he warranted a spin off, but I’m happy we get him more and more.

With “Bugs Bunny Rides Again,” the writers don’t get too spectacular and take us back to the wild west once again. The set up involves a small town in the old west where a local saloon is interrupted by Yosemite Sam: “The roughest, toughest, he-man stuffest hombre whose ever crossed the Rio Grande…!” After chasing off some of the goons (and a literal skunk) and shooting others, he challenges anyone to take him on. Of course, Bugs shows up and delivers one of the best Gary Cooper impressions around. Bugs is modeled after Clark Gable, but here he takes on the guise of Gary Cooper, even donning his signature stance that might be recognizable to any classic film buff.

I imagine back in the day when Cooper was a huge star that audiences found the reference a stitch. Bugs even breaks the fourth wall declaring “Just like Gary Cooper, huh?” A lot of the animated short was censored by the WB in television syndication, which isn’t surprising as much of the short’s set up revolves around guns and smoking cigarettes. In the first few minutes alone there’s a hilarious gag involving shootouts and bullets waiting at traffic lights, as well as a drinker at the bar shooting another customer casually. The animation is so sharp and funny that even the mild violence behind these scenes can be forgiven, easily. When Yosemite enters, he even shoots a hapless patron like a carnival ride.

Those gags are shockingly hilarious and work thanks to the direction and ace animation. Easily the best gag of the lot involves the two drawing on one another where Sam draws a six shooter, prompting Bugs to draw a seven shooter, Sam then replies with an eight shooter, and so on. It’s so silly, but still a gag that garners healthy chuckles from me to this day. The entirety of the tussle between the pairing is capped off by Bugs forcing Yosemite Sam out of town and on to a train. Before Sam boards, they gaze on to a cart filled with scantily clad women, prompting Bugs to fight with him to get on board.

It’s too bad that the WB felt the need to take out these gags as they set up Yosemite Sam very well. Nevertheless, on its own “Bugs Bunny Rides Again” is absolutely hilarious and one of the better Western themed shorts from his library. I’m glad the writers are finally realizing what Yosemite Sam is capable of here as he just teems with potential for big laughs. He’s such a funny and outrageous nemesis that you want to see more and more of.

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