Leo the Lion (MGM)

Leo the Lion (MGM)

Leo the Lion is the mascot for the Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and one of its predecessors, Goldwyn Pictures, featured in the studio's production logo, which was created by the Paramount Studios art director Lionel S. Reiss.[1]

Since 1924 (when the studio was formed by the merger of Samuel Goldwyn's studio with Marcus Loew's Metro Pictures and Louis B. Mayer's company), there have been around five different lions used for the MGM logo (although two other lions were used for MGM's two-strip Technicolor films in the late 1920s and early '30s). These lions include Tanner[2], and Leo, the current (and fifth) lion. Tanner was used on all Technicolor films and MGM cartoons (including the Tom and Jerry series), and in use on the studio logo for 22 years (Leo has been in use since 1957, a total of 54 years and counting). However, when the MGM animation department, which had closed in 1958, reopened with the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry shorts in 1963, these shorts used Tanner in the opening sequence rather than Leo, who had already been adapted onto the studio logo and the 1960–62 Gene Deitch cartoon logos.



Slats (1917–1928)

The lion used for the original Goldwyn Pictures lion logo (used from 1917–1924), which was later utilized for MGM.

Slats[2] was the first lion used for the newly-formed studio. He was born at Dublin Zoo, Ireland on March 20, 1919. Slats was used on all black-and-white MGM films between 1924 and 1928. The original logo was designed by Howard Dietz and used by the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation studio from 1917 to 1924 (see left). The first Goldwyn Pictures film to feature Leo the Lion was Polly of the Circus (1917). Goldwyn Pictures was ultimately absorbed into the partnership that formed MGM, and the first MGM film that used the logo was He Who Gets Slapped (1924). Dietz stated that he decided to use a lion as the studio's mascot as a tribute to his alma mater Columbia University, whose athletic teams' nickname is the Lions; he further added that the inspiration for making the lion roar was Columbia's fight song "Roar, Lion, Roar". Slats was trained by Volney Phifer to growl rather than roar (although in the logo he did nothing but look around), and for the next couple of years, the lion would tour with MGM promoters to signify the studio's launch. Slats died in 1936.[3] His skin is currently on display at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, Kansas.[4]

Jackie (1928–1956)

Jackie in the MGM logo (1928–1956)

Jackie[2] was the second lion used for the MGM logo. He was trained by Mel Koontz, and looked almost identical to Slats, his predecessor. He was also the first MGM lion to roar, which was heard by audiences of the silent film era via a gramophone record. Jackie growled softly; this was followed by a louder roar, a brief pause, and then a final growl, before he looked off to the right of the screen. In the early years that this logo was used (1928–c. 1932), there was a slightly extended version of the logo wherein, after roaring, the lion looked off to the right and returned his gaze to the front seconds later. Jackie appeared on all black-and-white MGM films from 1928–1956, as well as the sepia-tinted opening credits of The Wizard of Oz (1939). He also appeared before MGM's black-and-white cartoons, such as the Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper series produced for MGM by the short-lived Ub Iwerks Studio, as well as the Captain and the Kids cartoons produced by MGM in 1938 and 1939. A colorized variation of the logo can be found on the colorized version of Babes in Toyland (1934), also known as March of the Wooden Soldiers, and an animated version (done via rotoscope) appeared on the 1939 Captain and the Kids cartoon Petunia Natural Park.

Interestingly, in the early 1930s, MGM reissued some of its earlier silent films with soundtracks containing recorded music and sound effects. Among the films reissued in this manner were Greed (1924), Ben-Hur (1925) and Flesh and the Devil (1926). For these sound reissues, Jackie was used instead of Slats, causing some film authorities to assume that the lion had been in use before 1928.

In addition to appearing in the MGM logo, Jackie appeared in over a hundred films, including the Tarzan movies that starred Johnny Weissmuller. Mel Koontz performed with Jackie (as well as Tanner) at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Two-Strip Technicolor Experiments (1927-1934)

One of the two lions (referred to as "Coffee") used for Technicolor test logos on early MGM color productions (1932–1935).

MGM began experiments with two-color short subjects in 1927 and animated cartoons in 1930. Two two-strip Technicolor variations of the MGM logo were created, with two different lions being used. The first lion (referred to as "Telly") appeared on all color MGM movies until 1932. The second lion (referred to as "Coffee") made his debut in 1932, appearing on color films until 1934 (and 1935 for the Happy Harmonies shorts), when production was switched to full three-strip Technicolor filming. The Cat and the Fiddle (1934) had brief color sequences, but was otherwise in black-and-white (including its opening credits), so it used Jackie instead of "Coffee". (The Cat and the Fiddle however, showed its The End title card against a Technicolor background.) An extended version of the logo featuring "Coffee" appeared in the 1932 short Wild People. This variation features the lion roaring three times, rather than just twice.

Tanner (1934–1956)

Tanner in the MGM logo (1934–1956)

MGM began producing full three-strip Technicolor films in 1934. Tanner[2], also trained by Mel Koontz, was used on all Technicolor MGM films (1934–1956) and cartoons (late 1935–1958, 1963–1967). The Wizard of Oz (1939) had the Oz scenes in color, but it had the opening and closing credits (and the Kansas scenes) in sepia-toned black-and-white, so it used Jackie instead of Tanner. Third Dimensional Murder (1941) was shot in 3-D and in Technicolor, but it had the opening credits in black-and-white, so it also used Jackie instead of Tanner. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and The Secret Garden (1949) both had brief color sequences, but were otherwise in black-and-white (including their opening credits), so they used Jackie instead of Tanner as well. (The Secret Garden however, showed its The End title card and the cast list against a Technicolor background.)

Tanner, whose first appearance was before the short subject Star Night at the Coconut Grove (1934) (his first feature film appearance was before Sweethearts four years later, in 1938), was MGM's third longest-lived lion to be used (for a total of 22 years), after Jackie (who was used for a total of 28 years) and the current lion (who has been retained for 54 years). It is this version of the logo that was the most frequently used version throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood, although color did not really become the norm until the 1960s, and even then, black-and-white films were made more often than they are today. An extended version of this logo appeared on the short Star Night at the Coconut Grove and early James A. Fitzpatrick Traveltalks color shorts. This version features Tanner roaring as usual, but lasts a few seconds longer to feature two additional roars from the lion.

Tanner and Jackie were kept in the change from Academy ratio films to widescreen CinemaScope movies in 1953, with Tanner for color movies and Jackie for black-and-white films. The logo was modified for this change; the marquee below the ribbon design was removed, and the company name was placed in a semi-circle above the ribboning.

George (1956–1958)

George in the MGM logo (1956–1958)

The fourth lion, officially named George[5], was introduced in 1956, and appeared more heavily maned than any of the predecessors and the current lion. Two different versions of this logo were used; one with the lion roaring toward the right of the screen and then roaring at the camera, and another with the lion roaring twice toward the right of the screen. This logo would have either a black or dark brownish/grayish background; a blue background variant has been spotted on The Wings of Eagles (1957). This logo would also appear on black-and-white movies. From 1957 to 1958, this lion was used in tandem with the current lion. Although his official name was George, the lion is also sometimes referred to as "Brief Mane" or "Jackie II".

Leo (1957-present)

Leo in MGM's current print logo. Out of all the lions used in the MGM logo, Leo has been used the longest (a total of 54 years).

Leo, the fifth lion, is MGM's longest-lived lion, having appeared on most MGM films since 1957. He has a smaller mane than any of the other lions (which could be because he was at a slightly younger age than his predecessors were when his roaring was filmed). In addition to being used as the MGM lion, Leo also appeared in Tarzan movies starring Mike Henry and the television series adaption that starred Ron Ely, in addition to other productions such as Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), Fluffy (1965), and Napoleon and Samantha (1972).

Leo was purchased from famous animal dealer Henry Trefflich and trained by Ralph Helfer. Helfer's relationship with Leo led to his creation of what he called "affection training," which purported to replace the whips, guns, and chairs of old-school handlers with love, understanding, and respect. Two different versions of this logo were used: an "extended" version, with the lion roaring three times with extra head glances (used from 1957–1960), and the "standard" version, with the lion roaring twice (used since 1960). However, in the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry cartoons released between 1963 and 1967, Tanner was used in the opening sequence instead of Leo. Three MGM films, Raintree County (1957), Ben-Hur (1959), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), utilized a still-frame variation of this logo, with the lion's roar added to the backing track. (Ben-Hur, however, did not include the roar; instead, the film score continued underneath the still-frame of the logo.) This logo would also appear on black-and-white films, such as Jailhouse Rock (1957).

A different logo, a circular still graphic image of a lion known as "The Stylized Lion", appeared on three films in the 1960s: Grand Prix (1966), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and The Subject Was Roses (1968). Leo was reintroduced shortly after this logo was discontinued. The Stylized Lion, however, was retained by the MGM Records division and was also used as a secondary logo on MGM film posters, in addition to being shown at the end of credit rolls following most MGM movie releases of this period. It was later used by the MGM Grand casinos. (A refined version of it is currently used as the present logo for their parent company, MGM Mirage.)

The logo was retained in the corporate revamp following their acquisition of United Artists in 1981. The logo now read "MGM/UA Entertainment Co."; this logo would appear on all MGM/UA films from 1983 until Ted Turner's purchase of MGM in 1986. It was also at this time that the original lion roar sound was replaced with a remade stereophonic one, redone by Mark Mangini; the first film to use the new roar sound was Poltergeist (1982). Incidentally, the sound effect was also used for a beast in the film.

When the company began using MGM and UA as separate brands in 1986, a new logo for MGM was introduced, with the ribbons and text redone in a golden color. The logo had the byline "An MGM/UA Communications Company", as it followed the new "MGM/UA Communications Co." logo, which also preceded the United Artists logo. (The MGM/UA logo was discontinued in 1990, though the "MGM/UA Communications" byline would still appear on both the MGM and UA logos until 1992.) The lion roar was remixed again in 1995, because an MGM executive found the then-current roar to be "lacking muscle". Using digital audio technology to blend many roars together, including the 1982 roar, the new roar effect debuted with the release of Cutthroat Island (1995). (The purpose of the new roar, also done by Mark Mangini, was not only to give the sound more "muscle", but also to fit into films with 5.1 surround sound.) In 2001, MGM's website address, "www.mgm.com", was added to the bottom of the logo.

The logo was revised again in 2008, with the ribbons, text, and drama mask done in a more brilliant gold color; also, Leo's image was slightly refined and remastered. Leo's roar was remixed once again, but in some films, such as Fame (2009), Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), and most recently Zookeeper (2011), the 1995 lion roar was used. The website address was also shortened to, "MGM.COM". The newly-done logo debuted with the release of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

MGM also used a secondary logo, seen in the opening or closing credits of many classic MGM movies. This design originated as the Metro-Goldwyn Pictures logo from 1923 to 1924 and was seen in the opening titles of many MGM films from the late 1920s and early 1930s. The logo features a graphic image of a reclining lion (from a side view) on a pedestal that has the text "A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Picture" inscribed on it. Behind the lion is a semi-circular film ribbon with the Ars Gratia Artis (Latin for "Art for Art's Sake") motto, much like the film ribboning of the company's primary logo. On either side of the pedestal are torches. The secondary logo was used in the opening title and end titles of most MGM films from the late 1920s until the early 1960s, then moved to the main film credits until the early 1980s. For example, the logo is seen on the 1983 release A Christmas Story during the closing credits. In addition, many MGM films made in the late 1930s and early '40s set their entire opening credits against a background of a relief carving of an outline of the reclining lion image. Among the films that include this kind of credits sequence are the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, based on the Charles Dickens novel, and the 1939 Greta Garbo film, Ninotchka.


A spoof of the MGM logo from the Chuck Jones-produced Tom and Jerry cartoons, with Tom in place of the MGM lion.

In Roman Polanski's 1967 film, The Fearless Vampire Killers, the lion in the MGM logo morphs into a creepy-looking cartoon vampire with blood dripping from its mouth. Monty Python's film And Now for Something Completely Different (1971) parodied MGM's logo with a croaking frog in place of the lion.

MTM Enterprises television shows, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and others, parodied the Leo the Lion logo with its colophon, at the very end of the program. In place of Leo was Mimsie the Cat, who meowed at the end of each show. The ribbon over the kitten's head read "MTM" instead of "Ars Gratia Artis." On the later Newhart show, Mimsie's voice was replaced by Bob Newhart himself dryly saying, "Meow!"

In the Tom and Jerry cartoon Switchin' Kitten (1961), Jerry roars like Leo as his mouse hole resembles the ribbon of the MGM logo (in gold). In addition, the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry cartoons from 1963–1967 begin with a cartoon variation of the MGM logo. Tanner roars at the beginning, and is then replaced by Tom, who meows, which then transitions to the cartoon's opening.

MGM made their first of several spoofs of their own logo for the first Marx Brothers MGM film, A Night at the Opera (1935). Jackie appears in the opening credits for the actual film, but the trailer for the film shows an unknown lion that looks similar to Tanner, followed by Groucho, then Chico, roaring inside of the film circle, with the sound of the actual lion being heard, and then Harpo doing the same, but silently. (Harpo then honks his horn instead of roaring again.) The Muppets parodied the logo in two of their productions in 1981. It was spoofed by Animal in the role of Leo in The Great Muppet Caper, and by Fozzie Bear in the same role in The Muppets Go to the Movies.[6] Also, in one Muppet Babies episode, Baby Animal roars as Gonzo's face replaces the mask usually seen under the lion.[7]

In 1983, MGM parodied their logo once again in the comedy Strange Brew, which starred Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. The film showed a drunk lion, instead of the standard fifth lion. They scroll past the screen to reveal Bob and Doug McKenzie, the film's main characters, attempting to "sober up" the lion (one suggests the other to "crank its tail").

The Soviet animated film Ograblenie po... (1978 and 1988) parodied the logo, with Cheburashka replacing the MGM lion. In Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (2002), a salt-water crocodile takes the place of the roaring lion.

In The Pink Panther (2006), starring Steve Martin, with the logo tinted in pink, Leo starts roaring, but is then interrupted as Inspector Clouseau opens the circle like a door, looking around the place before leaving. The Pink Panther character appears behind him unnoticed, cleverly smirking, then the inspector starts chasing the Pink Panther before shutting the door, turning the logo back into its original color. Immediately afterwards, Leo blinks in utter bewilderment, then roars again. A black shade rolls down to cover the logo, then the Pink Panther appears in the right, smiling, to start the movie. A shorter version of this variation has also been used. Here, Leo roars, but Inspector Clouseau opens the circle like a door and the Pink Panther closes it. Leo blinks in utter bewilderment before the picture fades to black.

See also


External links

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