Cover of a Lariat Sam coloring book.


Original Medium: Television animation
Released by: Terrytoons
First appeared: 1961
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The western genre, in cartoons as well as other media, is replete with heroes who tote guns. In fact, one of them was even named The Gunmaster. But the genre also sported a few heroes who renounced that form of deadly violence, such as The Presto Kid and, over in 1970s live-action TV, Kwai Chang Caine, who used nothing more violent than his skill with Kung Fu (the title of his series). Another of that sort was Lariat Sam, who appeared in a venue where guns would have seemed seriously out of place, the old children's TV show, Captain Kangaroo. Sam replaced the Captain's earlier cartoon segment, Tom Terrific, and was produced by the same animation studio, Terrytoons, whose earlier stars include …

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Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle. Sources differ on exactly when the replacement took place. They range from December, 1961 to December, 1962, with the only specific date cited being September 10, 1962. In any case, Sam ran his entire course during the early 1960s.

Just as Tom was assisted by his talking pet, Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog, Sam had an animal sidekick, Tippy Toes the Wonder Horse, who wore a derby hat and liked to recite poetry. Their regular villain was Badlands Meeny, who may or may not have been "rotten to the core" like Tom's main bad guy, Crabby Appleton, but was certainly rotten enough, at least where it showed. Not that the fact was all that visible to Sam, a cheerful, optimistic guy who tended to see the good in everyone he encountered, even Badlands. Still, he'd defeat the bad guy as needed, using his great skill with the lariat to do so.

Another similarity to Tom's series was that Sam's was produced in the form of five-minute serial chapters. Tom's serials were each five chapters long, broadcast Monday through Friday to make a complete story each week. Sam's were completed in only three chapters. There were 13 such stories, or 39 episodes, which were run and rerun on Captain Kangaroo over the course of three years. After that, they were syndicated separately.

All three characters' voices were done by Dayton Allen, whose other credits include Deputy Dawg, Luno the Flying Horse and Sidney the Elephant's friend, Cleo the Giraffe. The 39 episodes were directed by Bob Kuwahara, creator of Hashimoto-San.

Lariat Sam wasn't made into a comic book, as even such minor earlier Terrytoons stars as Little Roquefort and The Terry Bears had been. But he did get into coloring books and other merchandising, at least in a small way. But by the end of the '60s, he'd completely passed from the scene, with few if any traces remaining.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Viacom, Inc.