by David Christopher Bell
We are guaranteed to see them before every film, most of them we can recall beat by beat with perfect memory. They were made by artists whose names we don’t know, and feature mystery figures and unknown places we’ll never see in real life.
But they were real at some point, and in some cases still are.
Here are the people and places behind the studio logos you see every day.
7. Leo, The MGM Lion
Leo was one of many lions used for the MGM logo, starting with “Slats” the lion in 1916. Four more would follow before the one we now see, apparently once updated every few years. If I had to guess, I’d say it was a good way to punish directors who made a flop. Why else would you keep making people purposefully piss off a lion at close range like that?
There are some pretty hilarious rumors about this lion. One is that he was roaring at burglars for some reason, another being that he mauled his trainer to death not long after this shoot. Truth is that both are false; it’s just another boring-ass lion.
6. Point Arena, The Castle Rock Entertainment Lighthouse
There’s not a lot of confirmation on this one, but looking at the pictures of this place it’s not hard to see the comparison in the least.
But truth be told – this felt wrong to me. Castle Rock is supposed to be a fictional Maine town, not in California like Point Arena. I decided to look through Maine lighthouses as well just in case. The closest comparison I found was Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, right below Stephen King’s home town of Portland.
While I have no idea if King had anything to do with the logo, I now know something much more important: all lighthouses look the same. So whatever.
5. Carl Dane, Billy Wells, Phil Nieman, & Ken Richmond – Gongmen
The Rank Organization made a ton of films before curling up and dying in the 90s. The weird part was always the logo, which was some greasy naked guy whacking on a gong before he was no doubt asked to leave the Thai restaurant he was in. Either that or Indiana Jones had to use it as a bullet shield.
Anyway, over the years the greasy guy changed. First it was strongman Carl Dane until 1948, followed by Bombardier Billy Wells, then a short time with Phil Nieman and finally Ken Richmond. Good for them.
Just last year they ran a Vegas contest to find new gong-hitters and give them some kind of stupid prize. You can watch the making of the promo where they use (no kidding) greenscreen and what appears to be an entire day to simulate someone hitting a gong.
4. William Hunt, The Boy On The DreamWorks Moon
Fishing on the moon is a stupid thing to do. You’re way up there when you can just go down to the dock. Fishing line is like ten bucks for 300 yards, and the moon is 420,464,000 (let’s call it 420,500,000) yards from Earth. That’s like 1.4 million spools at ten bucks a pop. You can do the rest of the math.
Anyway – of course Steven Spielberg came up with this logo. He doesn’t care what he spends on fishing line. They gave it over then to Robert Hunt – who designed it using his own son as the model.
3. The Pixar Lamp Is Actually John Lasseter’s Desk Lamp
This… this counts as a place, right? It was on a desk, which had to exist somewhere at some point.
Anyway, John Lasseter – a genius – is also a very lazy man. Pixar’s first ever animation-turned-logo was called Luxo Jr. and based on a Luxo brand lamp on the future Toy Story director’s desk. Clearly he was just sitting around one day playing with the thing and said, “Screw it – I’ll make a story about this stupid lamp.’” Or, you know, inspiration can come from anywhere. Either way.
And from that cheap lamp we got the iconic “I” crusher we have today.
2. Mt. Artesonraju – Paramount’s Peak
It’s not completely set in stone, but take a look for yourself:
Notice the three very distinct peaks. Here’s a larger view:
That definitely looks like the original matte painting design – and so most people have agreed that it is in fact the inspiration for the new logo. The older logo, however, was most likely Ben Lomond Peak in Utah, where Paramount founder William Hodkinson grew up.
Then, like everything else, they went ahead and exported that shit out of the country. If you feel like it, you can climb Artesonraju in Ancash, Peru – but I have no idea why’d you feel like doing that unless you hate your legs.
1. Jenny Joseph – Homemaker, Mother, Icon
In the early 90s, Jenny Joseph was asked to stand in a bed sheet and hold a light up with her hand – the cord dangling down in what looks like the most ghetto studio ever.
She never modeled before, or after, but she was selected by artist Michael Deas to model for his painting – which was of course the new Columbia logo that would premiere in 1992.
She then left, and went on with her life as a homemaker and a newspaper designer. She now works as a muralist and says her kids get a kick out seeing her every time they go to the movies. How awesome is that?