The Stories Behind Hollywood Studio Logos

You see these opening logos every time you go to the movies, but have you ever wondered who is the boy on the moon in the DreamWorks logo? Or which mountain inspired the Paramount logo? Or who was the Columbia Torch Lady? Let's find out:

1. DreamWorks SKG: Boy on the Moon

In 1994, director Steven Spielberg, Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, and record producer David Geffen (yes, they make the initial SKG on the bottom of the logo) got together to found a new studio called DreamWorks.

Spielberg wanted the logo for DreamWorks to be reminiscent of Hollywood's golden age. The logo was to be a computer generated image of a man on the moon, fishing, but Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren of Industrial Light and Magic, who has worked on many of Spielberg's films, suggested that a hand-painted logo might look better. Muren asked his friend, artist Robert Hunt to paint it.

Hunt also sent along an alternative version of the logo, which included a young boy on a crescent moon, fishing. Spielberg liked this version better, and the rest is history. Oh, and that boy? It was Hunt's son, William.

The DreamWorks logo that you see 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.

Photo courtesy of Robert Hunt - Thanks for the neat story, Robert!

2. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM): Leo The Lion

In 1924, studio publicist Howard Dietz designed the "Leo The Lion" logo for Samuel Goldwyn's Goldwyn Picture Corporation. He based it on the athletic team of his alma mater Columbia University, the Lions. When Goldwyn Pictures merged with Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, the newly formed MGM retained the logo.

Since then, there have been five lions playing the role of "Leo The Lion". The first was Slats, who graced the openings of MGM's silent films from 1924 to 1928. The next lion, Jackie, was the first MGM lion whose roar was heard by the audience. Though the movies were silent, Jackie's famous growl-roar-growl sequence was played over the phonograph as the logo appeared on screen. He was also the first lion to appear in Technicolor in 1932.

The third lion and probably most famous was Tanner (though at the time Jackie was still used concurrently for MGM's black and white films). After a brief use of an unnamed (and very mane-y) fourth lion, MGM settled on Leo, which the studio has used since 1957.

The company motto "Ars Gratia Artis" means "Art for Art's Sake."

Sources: MGM Media Center | Wikipedia entry on "Leo The Lion"

3. 20th Century Fox: The Searchlight Logo

In 1935, Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Company (back then mainly a theater-chain company) merged to create Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (they later dropped the hyphen).

The original Twentieth Century Pictures logo was created in 1933 by famed landscape artist Emil Kosa, Jr. After the merger, Kosa simply replaced "Pictures, Inc." with "Fox" to make the current logo. Besides this logo, Kosa was also famous for his matte painting of the Statue of Liberty ruin at the end of the Planet of the Apes (1968) movie, and others.

Perhaps just as famous as the logo is the "20th Century Fanfare", composed by Alfred Newman, then musical director for United Artists.

4. Paramount: The Majestic Mountain

Paramount Pictures Corporation was founded in 1912 as Famous Players Film Company by Adolph Zukor, and the theater moguls the Frohman brothers, Daniel and Charles.

The Paramount "Majestic Mountain" logo was first drawn as a doodle by W.W. Hodkinson during a meeting with Zukor, based on the Ben Lomond Mountain from his childhood in Utah (the live action logo made later is probably Peru's Artesonraju). It is the oldest surviving Hollywood film logo.

The original logo has 24 stars, which symbolized Paramount's then 24 contracted movie stars (it's now 22 stars, though no one could tell me why they reduced the number of stars). The original matte painting has also been replaced with a computer generated mountain and stars.

Paramount logo history, for more details, see: CLG Wiki

5. Warner Bros.: The WB Shield

Warner Bros. (yes, that's legally "Bros." not "Brothers") was founded by four Jewish brothers who emigrated from Poland: Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner. Actually, those aren't the names that they were born with. 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." (Sources: Doug Sinclair | Tody Nudo's Hollywood Legends)

In the beginning, Warner Bros. had trouble attracting top talents. In 1925, at the urging of Sam, Warner Bros. made the first feature-length "talking pictures" (When he heard of Sam's idea, Harry famously said "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"). That got the ball rolling for the studio and made Warner Bros. famous.

The Warner Bros. logo, the WB Shield, has actually gone many revisions. Jason Jones and Matt Williams of CLG Wiki have the details:

Warner Bros. Logo History - see the full details at CLG Wiki

If you're interested in WB cartoons, you can't go wrong with Dave Mackey's Field guide: Link

6. Columbia Pictures: The Torch Lady

Columbia Pictures was founded in 1919 by the brothers Harry and Jack Cohn, and Joe Brandt as Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales. Many of the studio's early productions were low-budget affairs, so it got nicknamed "Corned Beef and Cabbage." In 1924, the brothers Cohn bought out Brandt and renamed their studio Columbia Pictures Corporation in effort to improve its image.

Vintage Columbia Pictures Logo (Source: Reel Classics)

The studio's logo is Columbia, the female personification of America. It was designed in 1924 and the identity of the "Torch Lady" model was never conclusively determined (though more than a dozen women had claimed to be "it.")

In her 1962 autobiography, Bette Davis claimed 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 a local woman who worked as an extra at Columbia named Jane Bartholomew as the model. Given how the logo has changed over the years, it may just be that all three were right! (Source)

The current Torch Lady logo was designed in 1993 by Michael J. Deas, who was commissioned by Sony Pictures Entertainment to return the lady to her "classic" look.

Though people thought that actress Annette Bening was the model, it was actually a Louisiana homemaker and muralist named Jenny Joseph that modeled the Torch Lady for Deas. Rather than use her face, however, Deas drew a composite face made from several computer-generated features (Source: Roger Ebert, Photo: Kathy Anderson)


Obviously, we're missing the stories of the logos of many other film studios. We'd love to hear from you if you know any! Please tell us in the comment section.

If you like this article, please check out Neatorama's articles on logos:

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Quick update on a few things... The 22 stars in the Paramount logo represent satillite offices from which the prints of the movies were distributed to the theater chains via bicycle. A guy named Rocky who worked for years at Pacific Title was the artist who painted the original version on glass. fyi, I was the producer of the Gulf and Western version done in the early nineties for the Studio in honor of their 75th Anniversary while at graphics animation company Studio Productions. My partner Jay Jacoby was the Director and we had a great team of professionals working with us. CGI was in its infancy and we had a heck of a time doing the film recording using a B&W military film scanner and color lenses to record the CGI stars. John Dykstras company Apogee built the model using 20,000 hand made trees and shot the motion control. The film was composited in VistaVision which just so happened was an old film format that Paramount had introduced many years earlier. I had the pleasure of working with Frank Mancuso who was chairman of Paramount Pictures at the time and a wonderful guy!

A version of the 20th C. Fox logo was originally produced in 1991 by ILM and failed to be released because it was deemed a failure. Gotta run but I will share that story another time.
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It disgusts me to no end that people find an article about companies who wish to control your freedom of speech and fracture the very medium on which you present this information to be amusing. Turn off your damn tv's people. Logo's are not interesting. This amounts to nothing more than a free advertisement.
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From one brilliant source of information to another, I am ever so pleased to find this nice historical account of production logos OUTSIDE the CLG bringing people together to share our thoughts, fascinations, and memories with one another.

By the way, Paramount dropped two of their 24 stars for GULF and WESTERN, when they acquired them in 1967 and the byline was made official in 1968.

Always Watching,
The DLC Organization,
parent of CLG Wiki
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