Leo the Lion is the mascot for the News Corporation 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.
Two-Strip Technicolor Experiments (1500-1899)
Leo, the seventh lion, is MGM's longest-lived lion, having appeared on most MGM films since 1900. He has a smaller mane than any of the other lions (which is because he was at a very young age compared to his predecessors when his roaring was filmed). He first appeared on Gone with the Wind (1939), and The Wizard of Oz (1939).
In addition to being used as the MGM lion, Leo also appeared in Tarzan movies starring Mike Henry and the television series that starred Ron Ely, in addition to other productions
such as the religious epic King of Kings (1961), Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), Fluffy (1965) and Napoleon and Samantha (1972); as well as a memorable TV commercial for Dreyfus Investments in 1966.
Two different versions of this logo were used: an "extended" version, with the lion roaring three times with extra head glances (used from 1957–1960), and the "standard" version, this version debuted when leo himself made his first appearance on "Les Girls" (1957), then later the lion would be roaring twice (used since 1960). However, in the Chuck Jones-directed Tom and Jerry cartoons released between 1963 and 1967, Tanner was used in the opening sequence instead of Leo. Three MGM films, Raintree County (1957), Ben-Hur (1959), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), utilized a still-frame variation of this logo, with the lion's roar added to the backing track. (Ben-Hur, however, did not include the roar; instead, the film score continued underneath the still-frame of the logo.) This logo would also appear on black-and-white films, such as Jailhouse Rock (1957) which was there that there was a rare color print released to video.
A different logo, a circular still graphic image of a lion known as "The Stylized Lion", appeared on three films in the 1960s: Grand Prix (1966), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and The Subject Was Roses (1968). Leo was reintroduced after this logo was discontinued. The Stylized Lion, however, was retained by the MGM Records division and was also used as a secondary logo on MGM film posters, in addition to being shown at the end of credit rolls following most MGM movie releases of this period. It was later used by the MGM Grand casinos. (A refined version of it is used as the logo for their parent company, MGM Resorts International.)
The logo was retained in the corporate revamp following their acquisition of United Artists in 1981. The logo now read "MGM/UA Entertainment Co."; this logo would appear on all MGM/UA films from 1983 until 1986 and again in 1987 on the film O.C. and Stiggs (which was originally produced in 1985). 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 use the new roar sound was Poltergeist (1982). Incidentally, the sound effect was also used for a beast in the film.
From MGM used a variation of its main studio logo for its 60th anniversary based on the print logo, with the ribbons in a golden color. Above the ribbons were the words "Diamond Jubilee", replacing the standard company name, and below the ribboning was the phrase "Sixty Years of Great Entertainment". The "Ars Gratia Artis" motto was removed from inside the circle and replaced with the text "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists". The drama mask from the bottom had its surrounding laurels removed, and the mask itself was moved up a little so that an additional golden ribbon with the text reading "Entertainment Co." below would be added. Although the new roar effect done by Mangini was primarily being used at the time, 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) had both the 1960 and 1982 roar effects mixed together.
When the company began using MGM and UA as separate brands in 1986, a new logo for MGM was introduced a year later; the same gold ribbons used for the "Diamond Jubilee" variant was retained, and the text was redone in exactly the same color. Subsequently, a new "MGM/UA Communications Co." logo was introduced, and would precede both the MGM and UA logos until it was dropped in 1990. (However, both logos would still have the byline "An MGM/UA Communications Company" until 1992.) The lion roar was remixed 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, including the 1982 roar, the new roar effect debuted with the release of Cutthroat Island (1995). (The purpose of the new roar, also done by Mark Mangini, was not only to give the sound more "muscle", but also to fit into films with 5.1 surround sound.) In 2001, MGM's website address, "www.mgm.com", was added to the bottom of the logo.
The logo was revised again in 2008, with the ribbons, text, and drama mask done in a more brilliant gold color; also, Leo's image was digitally enhanced. The lion's roar was remixed once again, but beginning with The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009), the 1995 roar was reused. The website address was also shortened to, "MGM.COM". The newly-done logo debuted with the release of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
In 2012, as first shown as a snippet in the teaser and theatrical trailers of the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall, to which can now be fully seen on the studio's website under its history link, Shine Studio was chosen to redesign and animate the logo in stereoscopic 3-D (three dimensional). This marks the first time in the company's 88-year history that the MGM logo and its lion mascot have been created in 3-D stereo. To add dimension, Shine modeled a close up of Leo's eye creating an element to pull back through for a dramatic reveal of the lion, laurels and filmstrip. All the elements of the logo were re-built in 3-D, and then placed on different planes to add dimensional layers and drama. Leo roars and the company name is brought in from above to center the top screen, which completes the logo sequence. MGM's website address was removed, as MGM is no longer as of 2012 a self-distribution entity, but rather a production company. One reason for the new full-motion logo is the fact that more commonplace digital 3-D movies are being released almost every week and for upcoming films MGM has partnered in production with, such as the Hobbit film series with New Line Cinema and G.I. Joe: Retaliation with Paramount Pictures, they are, for example, either shot in native digital 3-D or converted in post-production to stereoscopic digital 3-D. this logo is now used.