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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 Things You Might Not Know About One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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Warner Bros.

Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which premiered on this day in 1975, won critical acclaim, box office success, and a shelf full of Oscars. But even if you love the complex exploration of life inside a 1960s psychiatric hospital, there are a few things you may not know about its behind-the-scenes story. 

1. CUSTOMS NEARLY DOOMED THE PROJECT. 

Despite the middling success of the 1963 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel starring Kirk Douglas, Hollywood legend Douglas was dead set on adapting the story for the screen. Douglas contacted Czech director Miloš Forman about the project, promising to send Forman a copy of the book for his perusal. 

Douglas mailed Forman the novel, but the package was confiscated by Czechoslovakian customs and never reached the director. Unaware of the parcel’s fate, the filmmaker resented Douglas’ broken promise, and Douglas thought Forman rude for never bothering to confirm receipt of the novel. It took a decade to sort the mess out, and things only cleared up when Kirk’s son Michael Douglas took another crack at production and contacted Forman once more. 

2. ONE STUDIO WANTED TO CHANGE THE ENDING.

When producers were shopping the picture to studios, 20th Century Fox was interested, but with a catch. Fox would distribute the film, but only if the filmmakers would agree to rewrite the ending; the studio wanted McMurphy to live. Producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas wisely considered this a deal breaker, and United Artists eventually distributed the film.

3. JACK NICHOLSON AND LOUISE FLETCHER WERE NOT THE FIRST CHOICES FOR THEIR CHARACTERS. 


Warner Bros.

When Kirk Douglas spearheaded the first attempt to bring One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to life on the big screen in the 1960s, he had intended to play the Randle Patrick McMurphy role himself, just as he had on stage. When production began in earnest 10 years later, Douglas was too old for the part, leaving director Forman to consider and contact the likes of Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and (his personal favorite) Burt Reynolds before finally settling on Jack Nicholson.

A number of different actresses were considered for the role of Nurse Ratched, the film’s central antagonist, as well: Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, and Angela Lansbury were all in the running, before Louise Fletcher ultimately got the part. 

4. LOUISE FLETCHER CHANGED FORMAN’S VIEW ON THE CHARACTER. 

Forman’s original view of Nurse Ratched was as “the personification of evil,” a characterization that made Louise Fletcher a bad fit for the part in the filmmaker’s mind. As Fletcher pressed for the role, Forman’s perspective of Ratched evolved: “I slowly started to realize that it would be much more powerful if it’s not this visible evil,” he said. “That she’s only an instrument of evil. She doesn’t know that she’s evil. She, as a matter of fact, believes that she’s helping people.” This new take on the character paved the way for the official casting of Fletcher. 

5. SEVERAL OF THE FILM’S STARS WERE NOT ACTORS. 

Following the production team’s decision to use Oregon State Hospital as its shooting location, the producers hit on the idea of casting facility superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks as Dr. John Spivey, the doctor charged with assessing R. P. McMurphy’s psychological health. Brooks agreed to play what turned out to be a sizable role, though it would be the only acting job he would ever take. He also helped secure employment for many of his hospital’s patients as extras and crew members during production. 

Mel Lambert, another non-actor, was wrangled to play the harbormaster who protested McMurphy’s ad hoc fishing trip. What’s more, Lambert—a respected area businessman who had a strong relationship with the local Native American community—introduced the production team to Will Sampson, the 6-foot-5-inch-tall Muscogee painter who would make his acting debut as the major character Chief Bromden. 

6. THE STARS LIVED ON THE WARD DURING PRODUCTION. 


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All of the actors who played patients actually lived on the Oregon State Hospital psychiatric ward throughout production. The men personalized their sleeping quarters, spent their days on campus “get[ting] a sense of what it was to be hospitalized” (as actor Vincent Schiavelli put it), and interacting with real psychiatric patients. 

7. MANY SCENES WERE SHOT WITHOUT THE ACTORS’ KNOWLEDGE. 

To complete this realistic immersion, Forman led his performers in unscripted group therapy sessions in which he directed the actors to develop their characters’ psychological maladies organically. He would often capture footage of the actors, both in and out of character, without explicitly mentioning that the cameras were rolling. The film’s final cut includes a shot of a visibly irritated Fletcher reacting to a piece of direction fed to her by Forman. 

8. FORMAN AND NICHOLSON HAD A TREMENDOUS SPAT OVER THE FILM’S PLOT. 

While the intensity of the turmoil varies from rumor to rumor, reports from the set were consistent on one fact: The star refused to speak with Forman for a large chunk of the production process. Nicholson took issue with Forman’s suggestion that the hospital inmates would be an unruly bunch upon the initial arrival of McMurphy. Instead, the actor insisted that such disavowal of the medical staff’s authority should only begin after the introduction of McMurphy into their lives and routines. 

Although the version of the story that we see in the film today is more closely associated with Nicholson’s alleged reading, suggesting that Forman ultimately took his advice, Nicholson refused to interact with his director from that point forward. When the star and Forman needed to communicate with one another, they used cinematographer Bill Butler as a middleman. 

9. DANNY DEVITO CREATED AN IMAGINARY FRIEND DURING PRODUCTION. 


Warner Bros.

Emotionally strained by a demanding shooting schedule that kept him 3000 miles from his future wife, Rhea Perlman, DeVito developed the coping mechanism of an imaginary friend with whom he would have nightly chats. Concerned that his own sanity might be slipping away, DeVito sought the advice of Dr. Brooks, who assured him that there was no reason to worry as long as DeVito could still identify the character as fictional. 

10. THE CREW WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE SANITY OF ONE CAST MEMBER.

While Dr. Brooks had no concerns about DeVito, he echoed the rest of the cast and crew’s apprehensions about the psychological state of Sydney Lassick, who played Charlie Cheswick. Lassick exhibited increasingly unpredictable and emotionally erratic behavior during his time in character, a pattern that culminated in a tearful outburst during his observation of the final scene between Nicholson and Sampson. Lassick became so overwhelmed during the scene that he had to be removed from set. 

11. FLETCHER TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES IN ORDER TO GET FRIENDLIER WITH HER CO-STARS.

Envious of the camaraderie her male costars had forged, and hoping to dispel any associations with her tyrannical character, Fletcher surprised the cast one evening by ripping off her dress on the crowded ward. Years later, the actress laughed about the display, saying, “‘I’ll show them I’m a real woman under here, you know.’ I think that must have been what I was thinking.” 

12. THE FISHING TRIP SCENE BARELY MADE IT INTO THE FILM. 

Initially, Forman was vocally opposed to including a scene that took place beyond the grounds of the hospital out of concerns that a temporary liberation would undercut the dramatic force of the film’s ending. In the end, Zaentz convinced Forman to shoot the fishing trip sequence. It was the final scene filmed and the only piece shot out of chronological order. 

One thing to look for in the fishing scene: A very subtle Anjelica Huston cameo. Huston, who was dating Nicholson during production, has a nonspeaking role as one of the spectators on the dock as McMurphy and his fellow patients steer the stolen boat back to shore. 


Warner Bros.

13. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST WAS THE FIRST FILM TO WIN ALL “BIG FIVE” ACADEMY AWARDS IN 41 YEARS.

Not since 1934's It Happened One Night swept the Oscars had a film walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took home the lot, with Nicholson and Fletcher winning the top acting awards. The feat would not be matched again for another 16 years, with Silence of the Lambs becoming the next (and last to date) movie to earn the distinction. 

14. THE FILM ENJOYED ONE OF THE LONGEST THEATRICAL RUNS IN MOVIE HISTORY. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was revered worldwide, but Swedish viewers developed an especially soft spot for the film. Cuckoo’s Nest remained a regular option for Swedish moviegoers through 1987—11 years after its initial release. 

15. KESEY REFUSED TO SEE THE FILM (BUT MAY HAVE BY ACCIDENT). 

The poster child for the “the book was better” movement, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Kesey disapproved of a big screen adaptation of his novel as soon as he found out that the filmmakers had abandoned the use of Chief Bromden as the story’s narrator. Kesey never intended to see the movie, but one story says he inadvertently caught a few moments during a bout of channel surfing one evening. Once Kesey realized what he was watching, he promptly changed stations.

According to fellow novelist Chuck Palahniuk (who has famously praised director David Fincher’s adaptation of his novel Fight Club, plot changes and all), Kesey once stated privately that he did not care for the material.

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Samsung’s Star Wars Vacuums Offer Everything You Want in a Droid
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Hate housecleaning but love Star Wars? Samsung’s got the solution. In anticipation of December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the newest film in the Star Wars saga, Samsung has transformed a limited number of its VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaners into two familiar faces from George Lucas’s legendary space opera: a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader (which comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and a remote control).

In order to create a unique device that would truly thrill Star Wars aficionados, Samsung consulted with fans of the film throughout each stage of the process. The result is a pair of custom-crafted robo-vacuums that fill your home with the sounds of a galaxy far, far away as they clean (when you turn Darth Vader on, for example, you'll hear his iconic breathing).

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” B.S. Suh, Samsung’s executive vice president, said in a press statement. “From its industry-leading suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Be warned that this kind of power suction doesn’t come cheap: while the Stormtrooper POWERbot will set you back $696, the Darth Vader vacuum retails for $798. Who knew the Dark Side was so sparkling clean?


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