Studio logos are an iconography all their own, but nothing puts a grin on my face like a spiffy send-up of a traditional company emblem tailored made to gel with the film I’m about to watch. Don’t get me wrong — nothing’s going to top classics like Alfred Newman’s Fox fanfare, Jerry Goldsmith’s Universal tune or the countless other openings ingrained in our cinematic memories. But when someone takes the recognizable logo and makes it their own…well, that’s when I get giddy.
For decades, movie studios have been allowing filmmakers to tinker slightly with the prestigious logos that preface every film they release. Nothing too crazy — maybe a color shift or a throwback to a retired bumper — but nothing that would tarnish their reputations. These days, most movies are free to run wild. Many stick to the time-honored traditions of their studios, but the ones that don’t feel that much more special.
Regardless of a film’s quality, a great logo is like the cherry on top for most movie buffs. Here are fourteen modern variants that bring a little extra magic to the pictures they kick off:
The Flintstones – Universal
After introducing us to the live-action Flintstones with a recreation of the cartoon’s opening, the Universal logo flies in with the first of many terribly hilarious, Stone Age puns: Univershell.
Edward Scissorhands – Fox
There’s a sad innocence to Edward Scissorhands, and Tim Burton captures that from the get-go with the inclement weather of his 20th Century Fox variant. The combination of a gentle snow and Danny Elfman’s soft, soprano score is enough to get the tears flowing — and the movie hasn’t even started yet.
Superbad – Columbia
Greg Motolla took the 1976 Columbia “sunburst” logo and, through the power of funk, made it even more old school. A studio has no right looking “cool,” but then again, neither does a guy calling himself McLovin.
Constantine – Warner Bros.
Director Francis Lawrence wants to assure the audience of Constantine that they don’t have to worry about life after death. Even in Hell, they’ll still be able to enjoy feature films from Warner Bros.
Bedtime Stories – Disney
Disney starts Bedtime Stories off on a high note, turning Cinderella’s castle into part of a pop-up book. The concept plays to a fantastical, whimsical feeling that the movie wishes (upon a star) to evoke.
The Ring – Dreamworks
Unknowing fans didn’t realize the implications of sitting through the first few seconds of the Dreamworks logo that played before The Ring. A quick flash and — BAM — they only had seven days left to live.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Warner Bros./Paramount
Benjamin Button might compete with Forrest Gump for the title of “Most Expensive Drama Ever Made,” so it rightfully made use of every moment to show off David Fincher’s special effect wizardry, including the opening logo. More like Benjamin That’s-A-Lotta Buttons — har har!
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Universal
Scott Pilgrim solidified itself as a cut above all previous video games movies by embracing the nostalgia of retro gaming. 8-Bit music covers sprout up all the time over the Internet, but this may have been the first instance in a movie.
What Planet Are You From? – Columbia
There have been multiple models used for the Columbia “torch woman” logo over the years, but if you’ve heard the lady is actually actress Annette Bening, then you’ve fallen victim to one of the great urban legends of modern Hollywood. That is, until Mike Nichols put her face over the logo in What Planet Are You From?. That’s actually her.
Ocean’s 13 – Warner Bros.
Composer Neil Richardson specialized in “library music,” essentially canned scores for use in TV and movies. His track “The Riviera Affair,” was most famously used during the ’70s and ’80s as the theme for a local New York City TV station WOR-TV’s film program, The 4 O’Clock Movie. Perhaps that’s why the tune buried itself in the mind of director Steven Soderbergh — he used the jazzy tune with a mix of colorful animation for the WB logo in Ocean’s 13.
The Cat and the Hat – Universal/Dreamworks/Imagine
Mike Myers’s oddball Cat in the Hat movie didn’t really nail the wonder and simplicity of a Dr. Seuss book. Surprisingly, the closest was during the studio logos, an animated sequence that mimicked the author/illustrator’s bubbly artistic style. One studio, two studio, red studio, blue studio — it had it all!
Tron Legacy – Disney
Tron Legacy was more about looking cool than putting any sort of coherent narrative up on screen and Disney embraced that fact. The world of Tron was like nothing we’d ever seen before — which meant the castle and Disney logo needed an overhaul. Welcome to the wonderful world of The Grid.
Osmosis Jones – Warner Bros.
Making a movie about germs is risky enough, but turning your own company’s placard into a microbe, flowing flagella and all, is down right impressive. And gross. Mostly gross.
The Last Airbender – Paramount
Little did Airbender fans realize how emotionally devastated they would be at the conclusion of M. Night Shyamalan’s disgraceful adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated series, especially after a kick-ass logo variant like the one that opens The Last Airbender. Swirling globules of water swoop in and freeze to form “Paramount” and the stars — the only cool moment from 90-minutes of torture. Can you tell I’m still bitter?
What’s your favorite variant logo?