MGM's iconic roaring movie lion replaced by an all-CG logo

King of the uncanny valley.

Sean Buckley Social Media Producer
2 min read
MGM GIF by Sean Buckley/CNET

It's one of the most iconic images in cinema: a lion, framed by a golden circle of film stock, triumphantly roaring just before the opening credits roll. Now, after almost 100 years and more than half a dozen real live, roaring lions, MGM is replacing its iconic mascot for a near-identical computer-generated duplicate. Leo the lion is dead, long live Leo the CG lion.

This change has been in the works for a while. MGM originally planned to debut its new CG mascot in the latest James Bond film, but when No Time to Die was delayed from 2019 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, so was Leo's first roar from the uncanny valley. Instead, MGM revealed the logo on YouTube Monday and in a sizzle reel shared with Adweek, which said MGM worked with Culver City, Calif.-based Baked Studios on the new look. 

At a glance, the revamped logo is almost identical to the version MGM has been using for the past 64 years. Leo the lion's CG replacement has the same roar, and looks almost identical to his predecessor. The circle that frames him is still made up of a golden ribbon of film, twisted into an elegant wreath and underlined by a drama mask. In fact, the largest change is the trademark's intro animation, which displays the original logo's slogan in English before slowly zooming out and reverting to the original Latin: art for art's sake.

It's hardly the first time MGM has revamped its logo. There have been eight different lions since 1924, and each one was used in multiple iterations of the logo. The first lion didn't even roar. Sometimes, lions would be replaced after the first roar by a Marx brother or Tom, from Tom and Jerry. For a brief moment in the 1960s, MGM got rid of the roaring lion altogether, replacing him with a stylized lion graphic.

In the end, however, MGM always returned to the classic logo, and that design language persists in the latest redesign. Everything looks a bit more shiny, crisp and probably better suited to 4K and 8K TVs than the old 1957 logo, but it's still a classic.

I'm not 100% sold on how that CG lion looks quite yet, though.