Let’s set the scene: You’ve just queued up for your ticket. You’ve got your popcorn, a cold drink, good company (optional) and you’re ready to settle down and lose yourself in that film you’ve read all those rave reviews about. You sit through trailer after trailer wishing your seat would recline just a little further and hoping the person behind will have figured out how to eat their crisps silently by the time the trailers are done.
Then finally you hear a roar, that 5 second clip of Leo’s roar, heralding the commencement of the film, and you realise its time to abandon all distractions.
Everybody knows Leo. He’s been the face – or mane – of Hollywood’s Metro Goldwyn-Mayer film studio for the last 57 years, a global mascot that has enamored many over the years to become a household icon, a remarkable feat given his humble origin.
In 1916 an ailurophile, Howard Dietz, designed the “Leo the Lion” logo for Samuel Goldwyn’s Goldwyn Picture Corporation (which later merged with Metro pictures corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures to become Metro Goldwyn-Mayer). The logo was inspired by one of the athletic teams at Columbia University, The Lions. In 1924 Metro Goldwyn-Mayer decided to explore what would happen if they brought this animated logo to life and the result was a roaring lion mascot (originally silent) that has become one of the most recognisable brands of today.
There have been around five different lions used for the iconic logo since:
The logo has certainly evolved over the years with different lions, typefaces and colours being used but despite this, the integrity of the logo has remained the same throughout.
“Ars gratis artis”, meaning “Art for art’s sake” in Latin, is inscribed in a ring of film that sits almost like a halo throughout each design. It’s the company motto and serves to remind us what MGM has been about since the beginning.
And when it comes to beginnings, I’m sure it can be agreed that few lions do it better.