Leo the Lion (MGM)

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Leo the Lion is the mascot for the Hollywood film studio Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, featured in the studio's production logo.

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, including Tanner[1], and Leo, the current (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 (the current lion has been in use since 1957, a total of 52 years and counting). However, when the MGM animation department—which had closed in 1958—re-opened with the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry shorts in 1963. These shorts used Tanner in the opening sequence rather than the current lion, which had already been adapted onto the studio logo and the 1961-63 Gene Deitch cartoon logos.


[edit] Logos

[edit] Logo 1: 1924-1928

The original Goldwyn Pictures lion logo, which was later utilized for MGM.

Slats[1] was the first lion used for the newly-formed studio. He was born at Dublin Zoo, Ireland on March 20, 1919.[2] 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 1916 to 1924 (see left). The first Goldwyn Pictures Corporation film to feature Leo the Lion's roar was Polly of the Circus (1917). Goldwyn Pictures Corporation 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, 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]

[edit] Logo 2: 1928-1956

Jackie in the black and white version of the MGM logo, 1928-1956

Jackie[1] was the second lion replacing Slats, depicted on the left from a still from The Wizard of Oz (1939). Jackie looked almost identical to Slats, his predecessor. Jackie was also the first MGM lion whose roar was heard by audiences of the silent film era, via a gramophone record. Jackie growled softly; this was followed by a louder growl, a brief pause, and then a final growl, before looking off to one side. In the early years that this logo was used (1928-c. 1932), there was a slightly extended Jackie logo wherein, after growling, the lion looked off to one side and returned its gaze to the front seconds later. Jackie appeared on all black and white MGM films (1928–1956) and MGM's Happy Harmonies cartoons (1934–1938), as well as the sepia-tinted opening credits of The Wizard of Oz (1939). Despite Jackie's "official" introduction in 1928, the lion had been used on three earlier films: Greed (1924), Ben-Hur (1925), and Flesh and the Devil (1926). The Color variant is ultra rare and can be found on: March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934).

Coffee is one of the two lions used for Technicolor test logos on early MGM color productions, 1932-1934.

MGM began experiments with two-color short subjects and Happy Harmonies cartoons in 1928, shortly after Jackie was introduced. Two two-strip Technicolor variations of the MGM logo were created for the first MGM color films, with two different lions being used. This is depicted in the still on the right featuring the second lion from the 1932 feature Roast Beef and Movies. This logo lasted until 1934, when a colorized (two-strip) version of the black and white Jackie logo was introduced. This was short-lived, as production was switched to full three-strip Technicolor filming shortly afterwards.

There has also been an extended version of this logo, seen at the beginning of the 1932 short Wild People. It features the lion growling as it did in Roast Beef and Movies, but lasts a few seconds longer to feature an additional roar by the lion. Then it looked off to one side and returned its gaze to the front a second later.

[edit] Logo 3: 1934-1956

Tanner in the MGM logo, 1934-1956

MGM began producing full three-strip Technicolor films in 1934, and the logo was slightly modified for color. Tanner[1] was used on all Technicolor MGM films (1934—1956) and cartoons (1938—1958, 1963—1967). Tanner, whose first appearance was before a Happy Harmonies short (his first feature film appearance was before Sweethearts four years later, in 1938), was in use as Leo the Lion for 22 years, second only to the current lion (who has been retained for 51 years). It is the Tanner version of the logo that was the most frequently used version throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood as color became the norm. The MGM full three-strip Technicolor short Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934) features an Extended longer version of Tanner roaring a whopping four times.

Tanner and Jackie were kept in the change from Academy ratio films to widescreen CinemaScope movies, with Tanner for color movies — as depicted on the right from Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) – and Jackie for black and white films. The logo was modified; the marquee was removed and the company name was placed on top of the ribboning.

[edit] Logo 4: 1956-1958

Bob in the MGM logo, mid-1956 to 1958

The fourth lion was introduced in mid-1956 known as "Bob" or "Jackie 2", and was 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 once toward the right of the screen & then roaring at the camera, another version had the lion roaring just twice toward the right of the screen. This logo would have either a black or blue background.This logo is also in black & white. Two of this lion's appearances include The Opposite Sex (1956) and The Wings of Eagles (1957). From 1957 to 1958, the fourth lion is used in tandem with the current lion.

[edit] Logo 5: 1957-present

Leo the Lion (1957-present) in the current rendition of the MGM logo.

Leo, the fifth lion, was purchased from a famous animal dealer named Henry Trefflich. He had a smaller mane than any of the previous lions. This lion was used on all MGM films from circa 1957 to 1983 and Tom and Jerry cartoons directed by Gene Deitch, 1961. It was during the period 1957-1960 that MGM used two variants of the logo featuring Leo the lion: the standard version is still used to this day, and features the lion roaring twice; the extended version features the lion roaring three times. Although the logo was in use for MGM films during 1963 and 1967, the opening sequence for the third series of Tom and Jerry (made during the aforementioned years) featured Tanner. MGM's three Camera 65/Ultra Panavision films, Raintree County (1957), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and Ben-Hur (1959) utilized a resized still-frame of the logo, with the lion roar track added to the backing track. However, Ben-Hur did not include the roar; instead, the film score continued underneath the still-frame of the logo. A special black and white version was created for Jailhouse Rock (1957), and was utilized again in 1982 for the Columbia Pictures film Annie during an excerpt from MGM's 1936 film, Camille, replacing the 1928-1938 logo featuring Jackie (which had originally appeared on Camille).

MGM was revamped in 1968 with a new logo, dubbed "the stylized lion". This particular logo was very short-lived, and somewhat unpopular; the still-frame image (with no roar) was seen on only three MGM films, Grand Prix (1966), The Subject Was Roses (1968), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) before the company reverted to the original logo. However, the "stylized lion" logo was retained by the MGM Records division and was also used as a secondary logo on MGM movie posters. It was later used by the MGM Grand casinos. (A refined version of it is currently used in the present logo of their parent company, MGM Mirage.)

Leo the lion was reintroduced shortly after the stylized lion was discontinued.

Leo the lion was retained in the corporate revamp from Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer to MGM/UA Entertainment Co., following MGM's acquisition of the then-falling United Artists. The studio logo (as depicted in a capture on the right) was used on all MGM films between 1982 and 1987. 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 feature the new roar effect was Poltergeist. Incidentally, the sound effect was also used for a beast in the film, as well as Poltergeist: The Legacy. The lion roar was remixed once again in 1995 because an MGM executive found the then-current roar to be "lacking muscle"[citation needed]. Using digital audio technology to blend many roars together[citation needed], this roar debuted with the release of Cutthroat Island (1995, Thru Carloco and Live Entertainment), and has been used to the present.

Even though the MGM/UA name was still being used, the company now used MGM and UA as separate brands, starting in 1987. That year, Leo was used for the new MGM logo, with gold ribboning and the gold "Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer" name. Subsequently, a new "MGM/UA Communications Co." logo was made, and would precede the MGM lion or the "UA Swoosh" logo. Between 1990 and 1993, the MGM/UA logo would no longer precede the MGM or UA logos, but both logos would have the byline "An MGM/UA Communications Company" at the bottom of each logo. In 2001, MGM's website was added to the bottom of their studio logo.

The logo was revised once again in 2008, with the gold ribbon and drama mask below Leo remade in a more brilliant gold color. MGM had been using a similar logo in print for several years beforehand. The first film to use the new revised logo is the 22nd James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

For television productions owned by MGM (including films from the MGM library), the logo appears after the credits, in which the lion roars once in front, with the byline "MGM Worldwide Television Distribution" or "MGM International Television Distribution" (outside the United States) appearing at the bottom of the logo.

[edit] Secondary MGM logo

Mention should also be made of a secondary MGM logo, seen in the opening or closing credits of several MGM movies. This logo features a reclining lion (from a side view) on a pedestal with "A Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer Picture" inscribed on it. Behind the lion is a semi-circular film ribbon with the "Ars Gratia Artis" motto. On either side of the pedestal are torches. The secondary logo was used in the credits of most MGM films from the late 1920s until the mid 1950s. In addition, many MGM films made in the 1930s and '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 A Christmas Carol, based on the Charles Dickens novel, and the 1939 adaptation of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

[edit] Popular culture references, spoofs, and other variations

  • Zuba's roar near the beginning of Madagascar Escape 2 Africa is the MGM lion Roar.
  • On two 1950's color shorts featuring the MGM Orchestra, the redesigned logo was used (featuring Tanner), with the company's byline and copyright information printed (in a somewhat awkward placement) above the words "TRADE" and "MARK".
  • In the cartoon She was an Acrobat's Daughter, a title card in the movie appearing at the theater shows Leo the Lion who crows like a rooster.
  • The 1942 cartoon "Blitz Wolf" shows an edited MGM logo that makes him appear to be roaring to the tune of the song "Tiger Rag". (The gag would be repeated several times before most Tex Avery-produced MGM cartoon for the next two years.)
  • In the Bob Clampett cartoon Bacall to Arms, a newsreel segment intended to parody Hearst Metrotone News opens with an anxiously roaring lion. The theater screen is then rotated to show the cause behind it; a baby lion is biting the lion's tail and giving the lion a hotfoot.
  • In the trailer for the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera, the brothers took the place of the lion in the logo, each miming in turn to the roars on the soundtrack. (Harpo, the mute one, received no soundtrack roar, to his bewilderment; he mimed to the sound of his ever-present taxi-horn instead.)
  • During the 1944 film Up in Arms, Danny Kaye imitates a roaring lion (while a real lion roar is heard in the soundtrack) as he predicts the plot of a movie his friends want to see, beginning with the opening credits and continuing until he's ejected from the theater lobby.
  • In the 1960 Tom and Jerry short "Switchin' Kitten" (Gene Deitch), Jerry emerges from a mousehole that looks like MGM's signature "film ribbon" logo, and roars much like Tanner.
  • Tom and Jerry cartoons directed by Chuck Jones from 1963 to 1967 include Tanner roaring in the MGM logo, to be replaced by Tom meowing in the style of the lion. Gene Deitch shorts contain the current lion, with a strange roar (Example: Carmen Get It!). Early Gene Deitch shorts use Tanner's roar, and one - "Tall in the Trap" - used neither a roaring lion or the familiar logo, but a grinning cartoon lion on a "Wanted" poster (with a scroll below the lion's picture emblazoned with the motto "Ars Gratia Artis").
  • In the US Version of The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), following a fast-paced, animated recounting of the Dracula legend, Leo in his logo zooms in (a la the Warner Bros. Shield before Merrie Melodies cartoons), which startle the other characters in the scene into running off hastily; his fangs then shoot out to sabre-tooth length, and a drop of animated blood drips out of his mouth and trickles down the opening credits as they scroll up. (In the European version, titled Dance of the Vampires, Leo is transformed via animation into a green-skinned vampire, from whose fangs the down-trickling blood drips.)
  • In Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), Tarzan's yell is in place of the MGM lion's roar.
  • In Strange Brew (1983), the lion, which is clearly not the standard fifth lion, emits belches instead of roars. The camera pans behind the logo façade to show the movie's two main characters, Bob and Doug MacKenzie, attempting to "sober up" the lion. (One suggests to the other to "crank its tail".) Only after they move to the set of their show The Great White North and begin their segment does Leo roar, with Bob quipping "Gee, now that hoser's growling!".
  • In O.C. & Stiggs (1985), the lion speaks the names of the title characters, in a "surfer-dude" voice.
  • In the American version of Josie and the Pussycats (2001), the lion's roar turns into a scream of a fan. (The European version has the Universal globe becoming a tongue-stud in the mouth of a screaming fan; "Josie" was a co-production of MGM and Universal.)
  • In The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (2002), a mechanized, rubber-skinned crocodile takes the place of the lion in the logo. The trailer for the film features Steve Irwin standing in front of a Leo, where he briefly addresses the audience, then unveils the "croc" logo used in the film.
  • In The Pink Panther (2006), the standard studio logo was again modified; after the lion roaring, an animated version of the character Inspector Clouseau appears. An animated panther also appears. Following this the lion reappears against the screen, bewildered.
  • In The Brothers Grimm (2006), the lion roars, as he roars again a wolf howling sound is heard with the roar.
  • The 1939 color Captain and the Kids cartoon "Petunia Natural Park" has an animated MGM logo of Jackie (via rotoscope), the only known cartoon with that logo.
  • The film The Great Muppet Caper opens with a spoof of the MGM logo featuring the character Animal. He roars, then begins to eat the rest of the logo, revealing the opening scene behind him.
  • In the film Silent Movie (1976), Sid Caesar appears in a spoof of the MGM logo at the start of the movie within the movie, roaring like a sealion.
Statue of Leo the Lion in Culver City.
  • Outside the Culver Hotel (in Culver City, California, where MGM's original studios were based), there is a statue of Leo the Lion in a fountain at the exterior of the hotel.
  • Mary Tyler Moore's film company, MTM, utilized a similar logo with a meowing kitten (Mimsie the Cat). Variations of this logo were used for different shows produced by MTM on many occasions. Also owned by Fox.
  • Leo the Lion was the basis for his own animated series (produced by MGM), The Lionhearts. The series focused on Leo (as Leo Lionheart) working as the studio's mascot as well as Leo's family life. Also parodies MGM logo.
  • In the 1932 Laurel & Hardy short "The Chimp" which involves several escaped circus animals, Stan has a run-in with a lion which he explains to Ollie as "I just saw MGM."
  • The 1972 Monty Python film And Now for Something Completely Different opens with an animated logo for its production company (Playboy Productions) featuring a drunken rabbit who roars a la Leo.
  • In the Samurai Pizza Cats episode "Candid Kitties", the bad guys are in a movie theater, reviewing previous battles. The movie they watch starts with Bad Bird in a production logo, cawing. To this, Big Cheese states "Couldn't you get a lion to do that?"
  • The start of the Maze OVAs has Mill in the centre of a MGM-like logo, shouting "Uchyu" in the manner of Leo's roar.
  • An episode of the PBS series Arthur spoofs the MGM logo with the slogan, "Rat is art, backwards...Almost."
  • The Chaser's War On Everything has the lion replaced with a hippo and the MGM replaced with "Taylor-Hansen-Morrow".
  • In the Together in Electric Dreams music video, the end of the video shows a 1980s TV set lying on the sand showing a spoof of Leo the Lion roaring, though in this case he made over 10 roars.
  • Richard Williams' Animation Studio used a logo that spoofed MGM's, with the Pink Panther (a character Williams had animated in the credit sequences of two 1970s feature films) roaring in Leo's place, using a slowed-down version of Leo's roar.
  • In the Japan-only arcade game Wonder Momo, when the game is first started, players are treated to a parody of the MGM logo featuring the main character, Momo, making a roar sound.
  • The title screen of James Pond features an MGM-style logo, with Pond imitating the lion roar and a slogan that reads "Vita canis est".

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d "TV ACRES: Advertising Mascots - Animals - Leo the MGM Lion (MGM Studios)". TV Acres. http://www.tvacres.com/adanimals_leolion.htm. 
  2. ^ "Dublin Zoo - Come into the Zoo - African Plains - Lion". http://www.dublinzoo.ie/come_plains_lion.htm. 
  3. ^ "Leo, the MGM Lion". RoadsideAmerica.com. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/pet/leo.html. 

Leo, the MGM lion retired to the Philadelphia Zoo in March 1931, after a 15-year movie career.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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