Howard Dietz, an ad executive and designer, was first to create the classic lion trademark and the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation was the first company for which the trademark was crafted. Howard Dietz selected the lion as a mascot for giving tribute to his alma mater, Columbia University along with its athletic teams, the Lions.
The first lion that made it to the original Goldwyn Pictures design as well as for the first MGM version was called SLATS (1917–1928). He didn’t actually roar. Volney Phifer, a Hollywood’s premier animal trainer trained him, and the pair toured the country for the promotion of MGM’s launch.
JACKIE (1928-1956) was the first MGM lion to make his voice heard, thanks to the gramophone. He introduced MGM’s first sound production, White Shadows in the South Seas, with a roar. Jackie’s roar was recorded for use at the beginning of MGM talking movies. A sound stage was built around his cage to make the recording.
Jackie’s resume went beyond roaring for a studio logo—he also made appearance in 100+ movies (all black and white, from 1928-1956, as well as the Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller).
Another claim to fame for Jackie was his survival in a boat sinking, an earthquake, an explosion at the studio, two train wrecks, and a plane crash. After all that, Jackie earned the pet name “Leo the Lucky.”
Coffee was one of lions that were appeared for two-strip Technicolor test logos at early MGM color productions.
Tanner reigned through the “Golden Age Of Hollywood”, and was used for full three-strip Technicolor films by MGM from 1934-1956. He was described as MGM’s “angriest” lion by Koontz because he snarled all the time.
George (introduced in 1956) apparently didn’t make much of an impression on anyone—one of the only things you can find about him in the history books is that he had a bigger mane than the other lions.
Leo, the seventh lion, is MGM’s longest-lived, having appeared on most MGM films since 1957. He was also the youngest of all the lions at the time MGM filmed his roar (hence the smaller mane).