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Origins of Famous Movie Studio Logos

Buzzle Staff
Ever wondered how the different movie studios came up with the logos they splash across the screen just as a movie is about to start? This story reveals the story behind them. Take a look!
Everyone who has ever watched a movie knows what a movie studio logo is. By the time moviegoers reach a certain age, we're so accustomed to seeing those ubiquitous graphic displays that they are instantly recognizable.
And over the years, these logos have entered popular culture, wherein other films or filmmakers have incorporated these logos, either paying tribute or poking fun at them. One thing is for certain though, movie logos are integral to movies.
But those logos aren't just trivial marketing material thrown together by an art department; some of them have long and colorful histories behind them. Let's take a look at their histories in the section here.

History of Movie Studio Logos

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

MGM's "Leo the Lion" was designed in 1924 by Howard Deitz, an MGM studio publicist. At that time, the studio was Goldwyn Picture Corporation, owned by Samuel Goldwyn. Dietz based his design on the athletic mascot of his Columbia University, his alma mater.
Later, when Goldwyn Pictures merged with Louis B. Mayer Pictures and Metro Pictures Corporation, the new company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, retained the Leo the Lion logo.
Since the merge, seven lions have been used to portray Leo. The first lion, named Slats, was a stalwart of the silent films from MGM between 1924 and 1928. The second lion, named Jackie, was responsible for the first roar from an MGM lion ever heard by an audience.
Although the movies were still silent, Jackie's roar was played on a phonograph in the theater while the logo was displayed on the screen. Later, Jackie was the first lion to be shown in Technicolor in 1932. Then came Telly and Coffee between 1927-1934, who were used for the two two-strip technicolor variations of the MGM logo.
The next lions were Tanner, who was used from 1934-1956, and George, who had a thick and luxurious mane was used from 1956-1958. The last lion was Leo, and MGM has used him as their mascot since 1957. The motto beneath Leo's picture is "Ars Grata Artis", menaing Art for Art's Sake.

Columbia Pictures

In 1919, brothers Harry and Jack Cohn teamed up with Joe Brandt to found Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales. Because many of their early films were low-budget movies, the company was given the nickname "Corned Beef and Cabbage" films.
The Cohn brothers bought Brandt's portion of the studio in 1924, and renamed it Columbia Pictures Corporation, hoping to improve the image of the company and erase the silly nickname from their public image.
The logo that the Cohn brothers chose to use for their new studio was Columbia, the woman holding a torch who was representative of America personified. Although more than a dozen women have claimed through the years to have been the model for the "Torch Lady," no one has ever conclusively revealed who the actual model was.
Bette Davis claimed in her 1962 autobiography that the model was Claudia Dell; People Magazine said in 1987 that a small-time actress named Amelia Batchler was the girl; the Chicago-Sun-Times claimed in 2001 that a local woman, Jane Bartholomew, who worked at Columbia was the model who posed for the logo.
The Torch Lady currently in use by Columbia was designed by Michael Deas in 1993. Sony Pictures commissioned Deas to redesign the logo to return the "classic" look of the original. At that time, many people thought that actress Annette Bening had been used as the model for the logo. But it was actually Jenny Joseph, an actress and muralist from Louisiana.
Instead of using just her face, however, Deas created a composite from by adding computer-generated features to Joseph's face.

20th Century Fox

In 1933, the famous landscape artist Emil Kosa, Jr., designed the famous searchlight logo for Twentieth Century Pictures film studio. The company merged with Fox Film Company in 1935. At that time, Fox was primarily a company that owned theater chains, not a movie studio.
After the two companies merged, Kosa retained the same logo, but merely changed the name from Twentieth Century Pictures, Inc., to Twentieth Century Fox.
The music for the logo, which is just as easily recognized as the logo itself, is the "20th Century Fanfare," which was composed by the musical director of United Artists, Alred Newman. Years later, Kosa became famous for creating the matte painting of the ruined Statue of Liberty seen at the end of the movie Planet of the Apes in 1968.

DreamWorks SKG

In 1993, three of the biggest powerhouses in the movie industry ― Steven Spielberg, Disney studio chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and record producer, David Geffen, got together to create a new movie studio named DreamWorks. Yes, you guessed that right! SKG in the logo written below stands for the surnames of these three people.
Spielberg had the idea of making a logo that would be reminiscent of the golden age of Hollywood. The original logo was supposed to be a computer-generated picture of a man standing on the moon, fishing.
However, during discussions, Dennis Muren, the Visual Effects Supervisor of Industrial Light and Magic, suggested to Spielberg that a hand-painted image might look nicer and have a more nostalgic feel. Spielberg, who had worked with Muren on many films, liked the idea. Muren had the painting done by Robert Hunt, an artist friend of his.
When he delivered the completed logo, Hunt included an alternate version that showed a young boy sitting on a crescent moon, holding a fishing pole with its line in the water. Spielberg immediately liked that version, so that was the final version chosen. The model for the boy was Hunt's young son, William.


Paramount's "Majestic Mountain" logo started out as a doodle on a napkin, drawn by W. W. Hodkinson while he was meeting with Adolph Zukor, one of the founders of Famous Players Film Company, which later became Paramount in 1912. Hodkinson drew the mountain from a childhood memory of the Ben Lomond Mountain in Utah.
A later version of the mountain, which is live action and not a still image, is probably based on Peru's Artesonraju. The original Paramount logo contains 24 stars, symbolizing the 24 movie stars that were contracted to the studio at that time. The stars now number 22, although no one really knows why the number was reduced.
The matte painting that was the basis for the original logo has been replaced with a computer-generated landscape and stars. Paramount's "Majestic Mountain" is the oldest surviving film logo in Hollywood today.

Warner Bros.

The Warner Bros. logo, the shield, has undergone a series of changes. Since 1923, it has changed about 13 times. The original and first version had a shield, with the picture of the exterior of their studio on the upper half and the WB initials in the bottom half, although it is unclear why they chose a shield.
From 1929-1936, the picture of the studio disappeared and the WB initials occupied the whole shield and shared the logo with Vitaphone to show that their movies had sound. The next version of the logo showed the shield being zoomed in out of the clouds. After that, came a logo with more depth, having a banner of 'Warner Bros.
Pictures Inc.' over the shield between 1938-1948, followed by a colored version of the logo. In 1967, Jack Warner sold off their control to Seven Arts, Inc., and the studio was renamed to Warner Bros. - Seven Arts. The logo was changed to 'W7' in shield for a brief period of time.
Between 1972 and 1984, the shield was dropped altogether and a stylized logo was used, which is currently the logo for Warner Music Group. In 1984, the older logo returned, with not many changes in it. However, the corporate names below the shield have changed over the years, with the shield remaining the same.


The Universal Pictures' has seen a number of changes throughout its history, but with the globe always being the centerpiece. In 1914, came the first logo featuring Saturn-like rings that surrounded the globe.
In 1920s, the logo underwent a major change with an airplane flying around the spinning globe, leaving behind a trail by smoke that formed into the studio's name.
In the 1930s and 1940s, sparkling stars were added around the spinning globe. In 60s, a colored version of the logo was introduced that added translucent rings, which was used till 1990. In 1997, the logo showed a spinning globe at sunrise.
In 2012, a brand new logo was made to celebrate 100th anniversary of the studio, which shows the globe spinning at sunset.

Walt Disney Pictures

You'll be surprised to know that Walt Disney Pictures did not use any logo until 1985. Various styles of the words 'Walt Disney Presents..' were created and used. In 1985, the 'Magic Castle' logo revealing itself on a blue background was introduced. In 2006, more detailed and artistic versions of the castle and background were introduced.
So, this was the history of the logos of some of your favorite movies' production houses. For all those who have been watching these logos over the years, feels nostalgic, doesn't it?