Of lamps, lions and logos

There is infinitely more to a movie production house than the basic function of pumping in & out the cash. And in a line of business, where the immediate sensory perceptions decide upfront the success rate of any venture, even the source of the moolah must look good. While most production houses are introduced on screen with interesting graphics and accompanying sound effects, these three below personify the very gist of their respective houses…

Pixar Animation Studios

Logos_Pixar

This one wins hands down. The two minute audio-visual treat encapsulates all that Pixar stands for: fun, simplicity and an immense respect for details, which captivates both kids and adults alike. Pixar’s logo is a home-drawn inspiration. Employee John Lasseter had been watching as his colleague Tom Porter brought his infant son Spencer to work. As Lasseter played with the baby, he was intrigued by the difference in proportions, despite the apparent similarities between the adult’s and the child’s frame. The most obvious dissimilarity was the size of the head: unlike for adults, a baby’s head is bigger than the rest of its body. Lasseter started fiddling with this idea, which started growing even more interesting as he began juxtaposing his observations on his Luxo lamps. And hence were born Luxo Sr. and Luxo Jr., the latter with a slightly disproportionately larger head/shade.

This lovely short film which brought Luxo Jr. to life is a must watch for any Pixar lover!

Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Logos_MGM

This one is an oldie and a goodie. True to its vintage, Metro Goldwyn Mayer has been successful in infusing a bit of that reverence-for-all-things-old with the various growl-roar-growl sequences by its many lions. And one must admit, it is a sight and sound that never fails to strike a chill. Well, show business is after all about looking and sounding good. Ask the seven lions who have featured in the logo.

Slats (nee Cairbre): He was the first and the only lion not to have used his voice for the studio. He just sat and glanced around benevolently, looking majestic and all that. He modelled for close to a decade and permanently retired in 1936.

Jackie: This one was more of a veteran. He wasn’t only a show-off, but had put in serious work in over hundred movies, including Tarzan (naturally), and also did a photo shoot with the Greta Garbo as a part of the latter’s contract with MGM. It is only expected that a lion of Jackie’s calibre would thus be happier with lines than without, and a happy lion on the set must be a safe way to work after all. So Jackie gets to be the first badass lion of Metro Goldwyn Mayer: he looks stricter and growls and roars enough to make the blood run cold. He had also earned the moniker ‘Lucky’ for he had apparently survived two train wrecks, an earthquake, a capsized boat, an explosion at the studio and a plane crash in Arizona. Jackie called it a day in 1952.

Telly and Coffee: They were colleagues of Jackie’s actually, and were on shorter contracts, featuring only when two- or three-strip Technicolour films were made.

Tanner: He was junior to Jackie but equalled his superior in the number of years of service. The two lions worked pretty much together: Jackie for the black-and-white numbers and Tanner for the coloured dos. Also, Tanner roars four times, and in full colour, towards the latter half of his career. He was also deemed the angriest looking among his predecessors and peers. Tanner bears the flag of MGM in the Golden Age of Hollywood and must have been widely respected (though no sources bearing testimony to this has been located).

George: This one was known mostly for his luxuriant mane. That aside, the job description did not vary much.

Leo: Commonly known as Leo the Lion, he began more as a child artist, hence sporting lesser mane in the initial years. But he is the current face of MGM, and has posed for both real as well as for 3D manipulations (he seems very much a lion of technology).

DreamWorks (also DreamWorks Animation)

Logos_Dreamworks Animation

This is no unheard news about how the greatest and the best of Hollywood, viz. Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Lincoln……..), Jeffrey Katzenberg (an ex-chairman of Walt Disney Studio from 1984 to 1994) and business magnate David Geffen teamed up to build DreamWorks in 1994. The artistically immaculate Spielberg wanted an old-Hollywood logo, reminiscent of the Golden Age gone by and hence suggested a man sitting on the moon, angling. Presumably for want of a fitting locale, he wanted the whole thing done out in CGI. But Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Murray, who had worked with Spielberg on numerous of his projects (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, Empire of the Sun) suggested a hand-painted logo. Artist Robert Hunt hence stepped in and tweaked the original idea, which was charming in itself, into something even more adorable, by getting a young boy to replace the proposed adult. His own son, William Hunt posed as the young angler. The underlying SKG of course, refers to the initials of the creators.

It is an amazing thought how these logos, which flash and disappear in no more than five seconds, are basically the personification of an entire organisation. While modifications are often made in the colour templates and accompanying sound-effects, but those adjustments too are mere modifications to the underlying mood of the movie that follows; just like we have good days and bad ones and react differently to each. Moreover, every single venture of these houses are hardly ever runaway hits, but somehow, when the lights dim and the screen goes dark and a fishing line plops into a dreamy lake, somewhere deep down I feel reassured.

Disclaimer: Designated logos are the properties of their respective owners.


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