Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s lion logo is one the most famous studio logos in Hollywood, so famous that it has spawned countless parodies and spoofs throughout the years. Although the finished product that we see today looks incredibly effortless, the whole process took about 40 years and 7 lions were used throughout those years to make the classic logo that we now see on the big screen.
The first lion to appear on the original Goldwyn Pictures design (from 1917-1924) was Slats. Because Slats made his first appearance during the pre-sound era, he did not do the trademark roar but only looked around, making him the only MGM lion not to roar.
The second lion that appeared on the logo was Jackie (from 1928-1956). Jackie replaced Slats on all black-and-white films and was also the first lion to give an audible roar. Because it was still during the silent film era, Jackie’s roar was heard via a phonograph recording during the debut of the movie “White Shadows in the South Seas” (he is pictured above with the crew recording his roar for use in MGM talkies).
Next came Telly (1928-1932) and Coffee (1932-1935). During the time MGM was experimenting with two-strip color technology, these two lions were the first to be featured. Coffee and Telly also had extended versions of their logo appearing in “Wild People” in 1932 and “The Viking” in 1928, respectively.
The studio’s fifth lion was Tanner (from 1934-1956). He was the first MGM lion to appear in full three-strip technicolor. For a total of 22 years, Tanner was MGM’s third longest-lived lion to be used. He was also said to be the angriest lion and had the most frightening roar.
The sixth lion was George (from 1956-1957). George was featured in two different versions: one with the lion roaring toward the right of the screen and then towards the camera, and another with him roaring toward the upright corner of the screen. George is one of the lesser known lions because of his brief time as the MGM mascot.
Finally, there is Leo (1957-present). Appearing in MGM films beginning in 1957 and still going strong, Leo is MGM’s longest serving lion. This makes Leo the face for the iconic MGM logo that we see today. For marketing purposes, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer also refers to all the lions used in their trademark as “Leo the Lion.”
Check out the video below to see the history of MGM’s logos featuring the famous lions.