mgm lion logo

Claim:  MGM strapped Leo the Lion to a table in order to film the mascot for their iconic logo.

Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2015]

Was the Lion really strapped down to film this famous trademark clip?

Origins:  The leonine logo of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studio, originally designed for Goldwyn Pictures Corporation in 1916, is one of the Hollywood movie industry’s most recognizable images.

That iconic branding is familiar not only as a static logo, but also as the moving image of a roaring lion that precedes the presentation of MGM pictures. Those familiar with the training and handling of exotic animals know well how difficult it can be to get a creature such a lion to roar on command, though, so one might perhaps wonder what efforts went on behind the scenes to capture a suitable take of MGM’s Leo the Lion mascot in full roar.

One suggested answer has been provided by a photograph purportedly showing Leo strapped to a table while filming his iconic roar, a picture which has been circulating online since at least January 2015:

MGM lion fake

However, the above-displayed image does not capture either MGM’s Leo or the filming of a company logo. This is a manipulated version of a photograph that was originally taken in 2005, when a two-year-old Barbary lion named Samson underwent a CAT (Computer Aided Tomography) scan after falling ill at an Israeli zoo:

lion cat scan

A young lion called Samson has become the star attraction at an Israeli zoo after his life was saved by a vet in a pioneering nine-hour brain operation.

To the horror of zoo staff and visitors, the lion began staggering around his pen at the Hai-Kef zoo in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv, his legs buckling beneath his weight as if he were a calf struck down by mad cow disease.

Merav Shamir, a veterinary neurological specialist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, diagnosed that Samson was suffering from damage to the posterior portion of his skull — a condition caused by vitamin A deficiency that has killed every other lion known to have suffered from it.

After a Computer Aided Tomography (Cat) scan on Samson’s skull confirmed her suspicions, Dr Shamir sent an urgent message to veterinary experts around the world asking if any had performed corrective surgery.

“No one had tried anything like this,” she said. “But we decided to give it a go. After all, we had nothing to lose.”

MGM did not need to strap Leo the Lion to a table in order to get him to roar for their famous logo. In fact, what the company actually did was far more interesting (and dangerous):

mgm lions

 
The images displayed directly above may be partially responsible for fostering the later rumor that one of MGM’s first Leos killed its trainer and his assistants while they attempted to film him.

Last updated: 15 October 2015

Originally published: 15 October 2015