Published on November 29th, 2014 | by Allan Brown0
The Story Behind MGM’s Lion Logo
In today’s tech-driven culture, a company’s logo can set them apart from its competitors – as crazy as it sounds. An eye-catching logo keeps that brand in the consciousness of the consumer. Some well-known brand logos have existed in the public eye for well over 100 years, building an identity for the brand, and evolving as the years go by.
Some of the most iconic brands today rely heavily on adapting to the changing of time and ultimately tweaking their design to give them a more contemporary aesthetical edge. In the movie industry, none resonate with such historical meaning as Leo the Lion, the official mascot for Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
Lionel S. Reiss originally created the lion mascot when he was the Art Director for Paramount Studios back in 1924. Paramount’s predecessors Goldwyn Pictures also used it where it was the main feature of the company’s production logo. Since then there has been a total of seven different lions, which we will discuss in more detail during this article.
As the first lion ever used by MGM, Slats was born in 1919 at Dublin zoo. Goldwyn Pictures Corporation used him only on black-and-white films before serving the same purpose for MGM when they absorbed GPC in 1924.
Slats was first used by MGM on the 1924 picture ‘He Who Gets Slapped’. The most interesting fact about Slats is that he was the only lion that didn’t actually roar during the opening sequences – he just merely looked around without making a sound.
The first ever lion to roar under the MGM banner, Jackie’s bellowing roar was first heard on the company’s production of ‘White Shadows in the South Seas in 1928. The growl was said to be a softer growl than what you hear today from Leo with a brief pause in between the two.
In 1939 he featured at the start of one of MGM’s biggest productions, The Wizard of Oz. He also appeared on a series of cartoons, all of which were in black-and-white.
Two-Strip Technicolor Lions (1927-1934)
An experiment by MGM, the company started trialing two-color lions in 1927, and an animated cartoon a couple of years later. The two lions were called Telly and Coffee both making appearances on productions such as ‘The Cat and the Fiddle’ and the ‘Happy Harmonies’ short movies in 1935.
As MGM started to produce “full three-strip Technicolor films,” their new lion Tanner was ushered in and used on a series of films and cartoons. ‘Third Dimensional Murder’ in 1941 was shot in Technicolor and 3D however it still had the credits in black-and-white omitting Tanner and using one of the previous lions, Jackie as opposed to Tanner.
Tanner went on to feature in some truly great MGM productions such as the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’, ‘Star Night at the Coconut Grove’ which it made its debut on, ‘Three Stooges’ and ‘Hold That Lion’.
The most short-lived of all the lions MGM used during their tenure, George only lasted for two years. He was a lot stouter than the previous lions, and he featured in two different logos during his time. The most notable production that he featured on was the 1957 picture ‘The Wings of Eagles’.
The final lion is still being used to this day. Leo was also the youngest lion that MGM had ever used hence why he has a lot smaller mane than his predecessors. Now part of their global portfolio, Leo is the face of MGM Resorts International and Casinos as well as the film studio.
Starting off appearing in films such as Zebra in the Kitchen’ in the early 60s, Leo went on to feature in blockbusters such as ‘Poltergeist’, ‘Quantum of Solace’, ‘Skyfall’ and the ‘Hobbit’ film series.
As the MGM brand continues to prevail worldwide, evolving with its many markets changing landscape as there’s no better way to view the evolution than through this montage that features all the logos in one clip:
With digital media even more prevalent in todays pop culture, MGM will no doubt continue to redevelop the opening footage with Leo and aspire to tap into the younger generation’s psyche, making MGM ever relevant.
With many new platforms going digital, with the likes of Netflix now showing a lot of MGM’s more contemporary flicks, their logo will reach an even bigger audience in the coming years through mobile devices as well as the PC-installed base networks. And with “mobile Internet being one of the most powerful trends in the Internet landscape” per Gaming Realms, the creators of entertainment website Spin Genie, MGM will be looking to make their legendary brand even more eye-catching than before. Inspiring a whole new generation with their consistently brilliant films.
What is your favorite lion from the above list? Let us know in the comments section below.