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Leo the Lion is the mascot for the Hollywoodmarker 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.

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, 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 (Leo 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 Leo, which had already been adapted onto the studio logo and the 1961-63 Gene Deitch cartoon logos.


Logo 1: 1924-1928

The original Goldwyn Pictures lion logo, which was later utilized for MGM.
Slats was the first lion used for the newly-formed studio. He was born at Dublin Zoomarker, 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 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 , and his skin is currently on display at the McPherson Museum in McPherson, KS .

Logo 2: 1928-1956

Jackie in the black and white version of the MGM logo, 1928-1956
Jackie was the second lion, depicted on the left 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), as well as the sepia-tinted opening credits of The Wizard of Oz (1939). Jackie 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. 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 the colorized version of March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934).

Coffee, 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 in 1927 and animated cartoons in 1930. 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 for live action films and late 1935 for the Happy Harmonies cartoons, when production was switched to full three-strip Technicolor filming.

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.

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. Trained by Mel Koontz (who also trained Jackie), Tanner was used on all Technicolor MGM films (1934—1956) and cartoons (late 1935—1958, 1963—1967), except for The Wizard of Oz, which had the opening and closing credits and the Kansas scenes in sepia-toned black-and-white. 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 in use as Leo the Lion for 22 years, second only to the current lion (who has been retained for 52 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 Coconut 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 in 1953, 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.

Logo 4: 1956-1958

George in the MGM logo, mid-1956 to 1958
The fourth lion, George , was introduced in mid-1956, 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 was used in tandem with the current lion.

Logo 5: 1957-present

Leo (1957-present) in the current rendition of the MGM logo.
Leo, the fifth lion, was purchased from a famous animal dealer named Henry Trefflich and trained by Ralph Helfer. He had a smaller mane than any of the previous lions. Leo 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 standard version is still used to this day, and features Leo 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 following MGM's acquisition of the then-falling United Artists (UA) in 1981. The "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" lettering on the studio logo now read "MGM/UA Entertainment Co."; this variation was used on all MGM and UA films between 1983 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" . Using digital audio technology to blend many roars together , 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.

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 mid 1920s until the mid 1980's. For example the logo is found on "A Christmas Story" in 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 A Christmas Carol, based on the Charles Dickens novel, and the 1939 adaptation of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


The Mary Tyler Moore show, which premiered in 1970, as well as other MTM shows, parodied the Leo the Lion opening with its colophon, at the very end of the program. In place of Leo was a kitten named Mimsie, who meowed (St. Elsewhere showed Mimsie wearing a surgical mask). The ribbon over the kitten's head read "MTM" instead of "Ars Gratia Artis."Monty Python's movie And Now For Something Completely Different (1971) parodied MGM's logo with a roaring rabbit, as a trademark of Playboy Productions. In the Tom and Jerry cartoon, Swichin' Kitten, Jerry roars like Leo as his mouse hole transforms into the ribbon in the 5 MGM logo.


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