Every time Bugs Bunny came on, did you ever wonder why the Warner Bros. logo is WB is a shield? Or did the roaring lion of MGM Studios ever make sense to you? These logos represent the biggest studios in Hollywood.
Since every brand has a unique history, these logos have each have their own interesting story of how they came to be.
Read on to discover how and why the logos of the biggest studios in Hollywood came into being.
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#Dream Works SKG: Boy on the Moon
Three big shots of Hollywood: Director Steven Spielberg, Disney Studio Chairman Jeffery Katzenberg and Record Producer David Geffen got together in 1994 to found a new studio called “DreamWorks”. Yes, you guessed it! The initials SKG at the bottom of the logo represents these three people.
Spielberg wanted a logo for DreamWorks to portray Hollywood’s golden age. Initially, the logo was to be created using a computer-generated image of a man fishing on the moon; however, the Visual Effects Supervisor, Dennis Muren from Industrial Light and Magic convinced Spielberg otherwise. Murren worked with the director on many of his films and said that a hand painted logo will be more eye-catching. He asked his artist friend Robert Hunt to paint it.
Hunt painted the logo according to Spielberg’s request. He also sent an alternative where a young boy was fishing on a crescent moon instead of a man. Guess what! Spielberg liked Hunt’s version better. Well, the rest you know as the logo, which has gone on to become one of the most famous logos in the history of Hollywood.
And the boy in the painting? It was Hunt’s son, William.
The final render of the logo—the one that’s embedded in the movies—was made at ILM from paintings by Robert Hunt, in collaboration with Kaleidoscope Films (designers of the original storyboards), Dave Carson (director), and Clint Goldman (producer) at ILM.
# Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM): Lion Roaring
The roaring “Leo The Lion” logo was designed by studio publicist Howard Dietz in 1924 for Samuel Goldwyn’s Goldwyn Picture Corporation. His inspiration for the logo came from his Alma Mater Columbia University, the Lions. Later, when Goldwyn Pictures merged with Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, the newly formed MGM retained the logo.
A total of 5 lions played the role of “Leo The Lion” for MGM. On MGM’s silent films from 1924 – 1928, a lion named Slats graced the screens. Jackie, the next lion, stunned the audience with his growl-roar-growl sequence even though the movies were silent. The sequence was played over the phonograph as the logo appeared on the screen. (By the way, he was also the first lion to appear in Technicolor in 1932.)
The most famous of all the MGM lions was Tanner. Although Jackie still appeared in the black and white films, MGM experimented with an unnamed and very mane-y fourth lion which appeared on screen for a short period of time. Finally, MGM settled on Leo and he has been the face of the studio since 1957.
The company motto “Ars Gratia Artis” means “Art for Art’s Sake.”
# 20th Century Fox: The Searchlight Logo
Fox Films Company was mainly a theatre-chain company, but in 1935 they merged with Twentieth Century Pictures and became Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.
The original logo for Twentieth Century Pictures was created in 1933 by famed landscape artist Emil Kosa, Jr. After the two company merged, Kosa replaced “Pictures, Inc.” with “Fox” to make the current logo. Emil Kosa is also famous for his matte painting of the Statue of Liberty ruin at the end of the Planet of the Apes (1968).
The main attraction of the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (they later dropped the hyphen) is the fanfare soundtrack composed by Alfred Newman, then musical director for United Artists.
#Paramount: The Majestic Mountain
Theatre moguls the Frohman brothers, Daniel and Charles founded Paramount Pictures Corporation along with Adolph Zukor in 1912. It was founded as a Famous Players Film Company.
The “Majestic Mountain” logo of the company was first drawn as a doodle by W.W. Hodkinson during a meeting with Zukor. The mountain was based on the Ben Lomond Mountain in Utah where he spent his childhood. It’s by far the oldest Hollywood film history to survive.
Initially, the logo had 24 stars and they symbolized Paramount’s 24 contracted movie stars. For reasons unknown, it now shows 22 stars and the matte painting of the logo is been replaced with a computer-generated mountain (probably Peru’s Artesonraju) and stars.
# Warner Bros.: The WB Shield
Warner Bros. (not Warner Brothers, it’s legally “bros.”) was founded by Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner who immigrated from Poland. The actual names of the four brothers are very different in Jewish. Harry was born “Hirsz,” Albert was “Aaron,” Sam was “Szmul,” and Jack was “Itzhak.” Their original surname is also unknown – some people said that it is “Wonsal,” “Wonskolaser” or even “Eichelbaum” before it was changed to “Warner.”
The company faced trouble attracting talent in the early stages, but in 1925, at the urging of Sam Warner, they made their first feature-length “talking picture”. It’s reported that when Harry heard his brothers idea, he said: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”. That now-famous statement apparently gained the push WB needed to rise and become famous.
Their logo—the WB shield—went through many revisions over time. Jason Jones and Matt Williams of CLG Wiki shared the changes.
# Columbia Pictures: The Torch Lady
Founded in 1919, Columbia Pictures was initially named Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales. It was by founding brothers Harry Cohn, Jack Cohn, and Joe Brandt. The company’s early productions were mostly low-budget affairs. The company was aptly nicknamed “Corned Beef and Cabbage.” Later in 1924, the Cohn brothers bought out Brandt and renamed the studio to Columbia Pictures Corporation in its efforts to improve the image.
The company logo features a woman wearing a blue drape and carrying a bright torch. She is the personification of United States. The logo was first designed in 1924 and the identity of the “torch lady” model was never confirmed; however, many women have claimed to be “it”.
In 1962, Betty Davis claimed in her autobiography that Claudia Dell was the model, whereas in 1987, People magazine named model and Columbia bit-actress Amelia Batchler as the girl. In 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times named Jane Bartholomew, a local woman working/modeling as an extra at Columbia. It seems all three of them were right! As the logo evolved, minor changes were made throughout the years as did the lady.
The logo you see now was designed by y Michael J. Deas in 1993, who was commissioned by Sony Pictures Entertainment to return the lady to her “classic” look. Many mistook it for actress Annette Bening but in reality, it was a Louisiana homemaker and muralist named Jenny Joseph who modeled the Torch Lady for Deas. Joseph just modeled for the body of the lady. The face was drawn as a composite by Deas using several computer-generated features.