ByAllanah Faherty, writer at Creators.co
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

They're the last thing we see before a film begins, but how much do we really know about those unforgettable studio logos? Why does Pixar use a cute lamp, who is the little boy fishing from DreamWorks' crescent moon and did MGM really use a live lion? Take a look below and learn a little about some of the most famous Hollywood studio logos, so next time you're at the cinema you can impress (or annoy) your seat mate:

Columbia Pictures

[Credit: Columbia]
[Credit: Columbia]

As we all know, the Columbia Pictures logo features a woman, wearing a blue drape carrying a bright torch, who represents Columbia, the personification of the United States. The first iteration of the logo was seen in 1924 though it showed a female Roman soldier. In 1928 Columbia was given a torch and the illustration used for the logo was apparently based on actress Evelyn Venable, who voiced the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio.

There was another change to Columbia's look in 1936, when Jane Chester Bartholomew became the model for the illustration, a version which went through many costume changes, including the changing of her drape from the American flag, to the blue we know it as today.

Jenny Joseph modeling as Columbia [Credit: Columbia Pictures/Michael Deas]
Jenny Joseph modeling as Columbia [Credit: Columbia Pictures/Michael Deas]

Finally in the early 90s, artist Michael Deas painted 28-year-old Jenny Joseph, whose painting was later digitized and remains the Columbia Pictures logo to this day. Deas was asked to base the image on one of the very early color images of Columbia. The creation of the logo took around two months, with Deas using Joseph as the basis for Columbia but creating a composite face from computer-generated features.

Despite Joseph's picture having been seen by millions worldwide, the logo remains her one and only modeling credit, a job she completed on her lunch break while working as a graphic artist for The Times-Pacayune newspaper. The biggest irony of them all? Despite representing the personification of the United States, Joseph is actually British.

Pixar

[Credit: Pixar Animation Studios]
[Credit: Pixar Animation Studios]

The lovable Pixar logo actually has very sweet origins, with the lamp originating from the first film that Pixar made after becoming its own corporation, the Academy Award nominated short movie, Luxo Jr.

At just two minutes in length Luxo Jr. told the story of an adult lamp, Luxo Sr and child lamp, Luxo Jr. In the film, Luxo Jr. tries to get his father to play with his ball (the yellow ball with a blue stripe and red star that frequently shows up in Pixar films), however after jumping on his ball, he accidentally deflates it. Saddened that his favorite toy is ruined, Luxo Jr jumps off screen and soon returns nudging a much larger beach ball. The film ends with Luxo Sr shaking his head at the camera.

For the logo version, Luxo Jr is cordless and leaps in from the right side of frame, stomping down on the 'i' much like he did with the ball in the original short.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

[Credit: MGM]
[Credit: MGM]

Perhaps the riskiest logo to create out of any of the major movie studios, MGM have been using lions as their mascot since even before the studio was created ("Leo the Lion" was originally used in Goldwyn Pictures from 1917, and was then adopted as the MGM logo after the studio was founded in 1924). Over the years the studio has used seven lions in the logo, all referred to by MGM as "Leo the Lion," despite the fact that only the most recent lion is actually named Leo.

The original "Leo" was named Slats, and was used for the logo by both Goldwyn Pictures and then MGM before being replace by Jackie, who was in turn replaced by Telly, then Coffee and then George before Leo finally took over the helm in 1957. The current Leo was much younger than the original lions used, which is why his mane is shorter than previous lions, particularly George. In 1982 Leo's roar was actually digitally replace by a roaring tiger sound, before being remixed in 1995 with the roar being made of a blend of a number of different roars, including the 1982 tiger roar, this is 1995 remix is still used today.

Paramount Pictures

[Credit: Paramount Pictures]
[Credit: Paramount Pictures]

The Paramount Pictures logo has been a familiar sight to film goers for over 100 years and in fact it's the oldest surviving Hollywood film logo. It's thought that the original idea for a mountain to be the centerpiece of the logo was first conceived on a napkin by Paramount President W.W. Hodkinson during a meeting. Apparently Hodkinson drew an idealized version of Utah mountain Ben Lomond, an area he visited as a child. Originally there was also 24 stars surrounding the mountain, which corresponded to each of the 24 actors contracted to the studio at that time, however these days that's been reduced to 22 stars.

While the mountain in Hodkinson's original drawing was based on Ben Lomond, these days it clearly looks very different from Ben Lomond, and there are a number of mountains believed to be the basis for the Paramount logo. Peru's Artesonraju is thought to be what the live-action logo is modeled after, though the Italian side of Monviso and Utah's Pfeifferhorn have also laid claim.

DreamWorks Animation

[Credit: DreamWorks Animation]
[Credit: DreamWorks Animation]

Much like the Pixar logo, if you have kids, or have been a kid in the last couple of decades, you'll be more than familiar with DreamWorks Animation's little boy fishing from the moon.

Founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen in 1994, DreamWorks Animation logo came about in 1995 thanks to Spielberg, who wanted something that would remind audiences of Hollywood's Golden Age, and envisioned a computer generated image of man fishing from the moon. Ultimately though the logo was drawn by artist Robert Hunt, who pitched alternate versions of the logo, including one where the man was replaced by a boy, modeled by Hunt's own son, William.

Robert & William Hunt with the DreamWorks logo [Credit: Neatorama/Robert Hunt]
Robert & William Hunt with the DreamWorks logo [Credit: Neatorama/Robert Hunt]

Hunt's illustration was then turned into a motion graphic by a team at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), with the music accompanying the image having been specifically written by Spielberg's frequent collaborator, composer John Williams.

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Image credit: Neatorama via Robert Hunt

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