manipulated studio logos

Studio logos serve a general purpose for any movie. They can suggest a type of film – people have a basic idea of what a Disney movie entails – or simply a sense of pomp and circumstance. While there’s no shortage of studio or production company logos, there aren’t as many cases of filmmakers playing around with those logos in front of their movies. This list highlights 25 such unique cases over 80 years, from the goofy to the ominous.

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Leo the Lion of the MGM logo has been a genuine piece of cinematic iconography for decades. He was iconic enough back in 1935 for the Marx Brothers to mock him during the studio logo for A Night at the Opera, their first Metro-Goldwyn Mayer film. Groucho, Chico, and Harpo get in on the fun, the latter “speaking” even though he’s traditionally silent. Though A Night at the Opera isn’t the brothers’ best, the opening’s appropriately subversive.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t play with the studio logo (MGM again) as much as adopt a rare revision. In fact, 2001 is just one of three movies (the others are The Subject Was Roses and Grand Prix) to feature this stylized logo, an attempt on the studio’s part to update its image. Though 2001 remains a widely beloved film (and the stylized version is present on home-media editions), this logo didn’t survive past 1968. It’s almost fitting– the image can remain unique to this incredible opus.

Silent Movie (1976)

Compared to Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie is one of Mel Brooks’ more underrated films. As the title suggests, there’s no dialogue in the film, save one word spoken by famed mime Marcel Marceau. The 20th Century Fox logo doesn’t appear in its usual form or fanfare, but on a billboard the leads of the film drive by to incite the opening credits. It’s not the gaudiest use of the Fox logo, but the Silent Movie take is fittingly old-school.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Something ineffable was lost when The Force Awakens opened without the 20th Century Fox theme. Similarly, it’ll be odd for Disney to release an Indiana Jones movie, from the outset. Starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark, each Indiana Jones movie has incorporated the Paramount mountain into its first image (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is cheekier, dissolving from a mountain to a molehill). Raiders remains the hallmark with its Paramount logo transitioning to the opening, suggesting a sense of adventure the film easily achieves.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

It’s rare for a studio logo to not transform and change over time. Even those that remain the same, like the MGM logo, are renovated with time. Few commemorate their past the way Universal Pictures did with a handful of films in 1990, including Back to the Future, Part III. As that was Universal’s 75th anniversary, it makes sense to honor their past by showing audiences how far the studio had come. It’s only a shame that they didn’t do something similar in 2015 to commemorate a century of cinema.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

Gremlins is a wonderful film; however, Gremlins 2: The New Batch not only has Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, but it starts with them. This opening, plus a brief gag at the end, was written and animated by the legendary Chuck Jones, and is as delightfully meta as the ensuing live-action film. Gremlins 2, in general, is excellent, and the opening twist on the Warner Bros. logo delivers on the madcap promise. No wonder Joe Dante got to direct the Looney Tunes characters in Back in Action.

The Rocketeer (1991)

In the 1980s, Walt Disney Pictures released darker live-action films, eventually creating Touchstone Pictures to make harder PG/PG-13 rated films. But some of their films in the 1980s and early 1990s, including the delightful The Rocketeer, utilized a spartan, text-on-black-background logo that could suggest something exciting, ominous, or both. The theme playing under the version in The Rocketeer is its main titles; some films had no music over the logo. Few films now need this austere logo, but we can always dream for its return.

Toy Story (1995)

It was logical that the Walt Disney Pictures logo was overhauled in their first computer-animated feature, Pixar’s Toy Story. The bouncy theme is part of Randy Newman’s score, but was utilized in other Pixar films for the next decade. Sadly, the Pixar-ized logo has gone away: when Disney changed its castle-set opening logo in 2007, the change stuck for Pixar films. Even worse: the new logo is on home-media versions of Toy Story, thus screwing with Newman’s soundtrack.

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