The MGM lions

The classic lion trademark was created in 1916 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation by ad executive Howard Dietz.

MGM lion
Slats, appearing from 1917-1924, born in Dublin Zoo

Dietz said he decided to use a lion as the company’s mascot as a tribute to his alma mater, Columbia University, whose athletic team nickname is The Lions.

In 1924, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was founded when American business magnate Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures.

The first lion, called Slats, was used for the original Goldwyn Pictures design and for the first MGM version. He didn’t actually roar, preferring to people watch.

The lion gave an audible roar on July 31, 1928 for the debut of the movie White Shadows in the South Seas. The roar was heard via a gramophone record because the movie was silent.

MGM lion
Jackie, 1928-1956, the second lion to be used in the logo

Jackie’s roar was recorded for use at the beginning of MGM talking movies. A sound stage was built around his cage to make the recording.

MGM lion

In addition to appearing in the MGM logo, Jackie appeared in more than one hundred films (all black and white films from 1928-1956, including the Tarzan movies that starred Johnny Weissmuller).

Coffee was one of two lions that were used for two-strip Technicolor test logos on early MGM colour productions.

MGM lion
Coffee, 1932-1935 two-strip Technicolor

MGM began producing full three-strip Technicolor films in 1934, and used Tanner for all Technicolor films from 1934-1956.

MGM lion
Tanner, 1934-1956 full three-strip Technicolor films

The sixth lion, officially named George, was introduced in 1956.

MGM lion
George, 1956-1957

Leo, the seventh lion, is MGM’s longest-lived, having appeared on most MGM films since 1957. He was also the youngest of all the lions at the time MGM filmed his roar (hence the smaller mane).

MGM lion
Leo, 1957-present

MGM lion
Hitchcock “directing” Leo in 1958, photo by Clarence Sinclair Bull

In 1965, in attempt to update its image, MGM recruited Lippincott to create a more contemporary logo. The result was known as “The Stylized Lion,” and it appeared at the front of three films in the 1960s: Grand Prix (1966), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and The Subject Was Roses (1968).

MGM lion
The stylized lion, 1966-1968

Leo was reinstated afterwards, but a refined version of Lippincott’s mark is in use today for MGM Resorts International.

Read more detail about each lion here.



Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition