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The Stories Behind 8 Movie Studio Logos

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These logos play before your favorite films. Here's where they came from.

1. MGM

Movie studio publicist Howard Dietz designed the lion logo for Goldwyn Picture Corporation in 1917; he based it on the mascot of his alma mater, Columbia University. When Goldwyn Pictures merged with Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures in 1924, the movie studio kept the logo under its new name: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, or simply MGM.

Seven lions have been used for MGM's logo: Slats the Lion was used during Hollywood's silent era, while Jackie the Lion's mighty roar was the first to be heard during the sound era in MGM's first talkie White Shadows on the South Seas in 1928. Telly and Coffee were briefly used for the movie studio's Technicolor films. Tanner was used during Hollywood's Golden Age, appearing in front of movies like The Philadelphia Story, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind. George the Lion was used from 1956 to 1958; a lion named Leo appears in the logo that's used today.

Above the lion's head is the motto "Ars Gratia Artis," which is Latin for "Art for Art's Sake."

2. Universal Pictures

Though Universal Pictures' studio logo has changed throughout its history, it has always featured a globe as its centerpiece. The first version of the logo played in front of the silent film By the Sun's Rays and featured Saturn-like rings surrounding the globe with the title "Universal Films—The Trans-Atlantic Film Co." in 1914.

The logo received a major overhaul in the '20s and '30s: An airplane, flying around the spinning globe, left behind a smoke trail that transformed into the movie studio's name. In the late-'30s/early '40s, the spinning globe added sparkling stars, while in the '60s, a colored version of the logo added translucent rings.

In 1997, composer Jerry Goldsmith created fanfare for the Universal Pictures logo. The new score first appeared in front of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, along with a modern logo that featured the spinning globe at sunrise. The movie studio updated the modern logo with a new arrangement of the Universal fanfare music from composer Brian Tyler for its 100th anniversary in 2012. Currently, the Universal Logo features a spinning globe at sunset instead of sunrise.

3. DreamWorks

Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen founded DreamWorks Studios in 1994. Spielberg wanted a logo that was reminiscent of Hollywood's Golden Age, and he envisioned a man fishing from Moon. He brought the idea to artist Robert Hunt, who suggested that the man should be a boy instead; Spielberg agreed, and Hunt used his son William as the model. Kaleidoscope Films and Industrial Light & Magic created the logo and added the initials SKG, which stands for Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen. Composer John Williams created the DreamWorks fanfare.

4. Warner Bros.

Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated was founded by Polish immigrant brothers Albert, Harry, Sam, and Jack Warner (born Wonskolaser) in 1923, five years after the release of their first film, My Four Years in Germany. The studio's very first logo was roughly the same shield we know today: On top was an image of the actual studio building in Burbank, California; on the bottom were the WB initials.

In 1929, to show that their movies had sound, Warner Bros. shared its logo with Vitaphone, and in 1934, a shield logo floating in a cloud-filled sky with the WB taking up the entire shield debuted. Jack Warner sold off control of Warner Bros to Seven Arts, Inc., and the studio was renamed to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967. The logo changed for a brief time with a W7 within the shield.

Between 1972 and 1984, the studio used a stylized logo, featuring a red or white W in a black circle, that was created by Legendary graphic designer Saul Bass. (It's currently the logo for Warner Music Group.) Today, Warner Bros. uses an image of their studios in Burbank dissolving into the shield logo to the melody of "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca, a Warner Bros. film. 

5. Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures' logo has gone through a number of changes since the studio was established in 1924. The original iteration of the logo featured a female Roman soldier holding a shield in her left hand and a sheaf of wheat in her right. In 1928, Roman soldier was replaced by a woman, draped in the American Flag, holding up a torch. It's believed it was modeled after Evelyn Venable, the actress who would later voice the Blue Fairy in Walt Disney's Pinocchio. In the late '30s, the woman was placed on a pedestal and the American Flag was replaced with a simple blue drape, and in the '80s, the Torch Lady's body was tweaked to resemble the curves of a Coca-Cola bottle after the soft drink company purchased the movie studio in 1982.

In 1992, Columbia Pictures commissioned New Orleans artist Michael J. Deas to re-design its logo. He hired newspaper graphics artist Jenny Joseph to model as the Torch Lady and created an oil painting during her lunch break. “We just scooted over there come lunchtime and they wrapped a sheet around me and I held a regular little desk lamp, a side lamp and I just held that up and we did that with a light bulb," Joseph said.

Deas' original design was enhanced and tweaked over the years, but remains very similar to the Columbia Pictures logo we know today. "I never thought it would make it to the silver screen and I never thought it would still be up 20 years later," Deas told New Orleans' WWL-TV. "I certainly never thought it would be in a museum, so it’s kind of gratifying.”

6. Twentieth Century Fox

Special effects animator and matte painting artist Emil Kosa, Jr. designed the Art Deco logo for 20th Century Fox after Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures merged in 1935. Alfred Newman, the musical director for United Artists at the time, composed the iconic fanfare music in 1933, two years before the merger; Newman later became head of Twentieth Century-Fox's music department.

Fun fact: Emil Kosa, Jr. painted the Statue of Liberty ruin at the end of the original Planet of the Apes in 1968.

7. Walt Disney Pictures

Believe it or not, Walt Disney Pictures didn't use a traditional logo until 1985. Instead, various stylized versions of the words "Walt Disney Presents" were used at the beginning of all animated and live-action movies. (The studio used a "Neon Mickey" logo in front of their home video releases during the late '70s and early '80s.)

The "Magic Castle" logo—a white castle revealing itself on a blue backdrop while a variation of the tune "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio played—was introduced in 1985. In 2006, a very detailed version of the castle and its background were introduced at the beginning of all Disney movies. The updated logo also featured "When You Wish Upon a Star," but added a traveling train, waving flags, exploding fireworks, and Tinkerbell creating a banner around Cinderella's Castle.

8. Paramount Pictures

Adolph Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky, and W. W. Hodkinson founded Paramount Pictures (originally called Famous Players Film Company) in 1912. Its logo, which is known as the "Majestic Mountain," is the oldest surviving movie studio logo in Hollywood. Legend has it that the mountain was conceived when Hodkinson drew a doodle of the Ben Lomond Mountain range in his native Utah during a meeting with Zukor. The original logo featured the mountain with 24 stars surrounding it. The stars represented the 24 movie stars under contract with Paramount Pictures at the time. Today, there are only 22 stars in the logo; Michael Giacchino composed Paramount's fanfare for the studio's 100th anniversary in 2012.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
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Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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