logo design evolution
If you watch a lot of (older) movies you’ll notice that studio logos are generally quite consistent. The spinning globe of Universal, the Paramount mountain, the Warner Bros. shield, they’re all refined over time, but the basic premise has remained the same for decades.
All studios have their main logo that appears at the beginning of a film, but some occasionally use custom logos that reflect the theme of the movie. When I noticed that Warner Bros. does this a lot I wanted to find out how often this happened and what these logos looked like.
I couldn’t find a good overview with all logos gathered in one place, so I started to collect them myself, in 2009. Now, five years later, I think I have enough to paint a picture of Warner Bros logo design evolution.
During 90 years the Warner Bros. shield has undergone a series of refinements. Three variations reflect transitions in ownership (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967, Kinney in 1969 and Warner Communications Inc. in 1972). In 1984 Warner Bros. returned to the shield set over a background of clouds. The corporate names below the shield have changed over the years, but the logo has been a shield ever since.
Below the 13 main logos and 200+ (slightly) different variations. This page is about the evolution of the Warner Bros. logo. It’s about the big picture. I might add more detailed descriptions of some of the most remarkable logos (or series of logos) later.
WARNER BROS. LOGO #1(1923-1929)
“a WARNER BROTHERS CLASSIC of the SCREEN” “a WARNER BROTHERS PRODUCTION” Clash of the Wolves (1925) + Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925) + Don Juan (1926) + When a Man Loves (1927) + Old San Francisco (1927) + The First Auto (1927) + The Jazz Singer (1927)
The logo also appeared on intertitles and The End cards (both examples from The Jazz singer (1927)).
WARNER BROS. LOGO #4(1937-1948)
“WARNER BROS. PICTURES INC. Presents” “JACK L. WARNER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER”Angels with dirty faces (1938) + Captain Blood (1935) + The Petrified Forest (1936) + Bullets or ballots (1936)
Steven Soderbergh shot The Good German (2006) as if it had been made in 1945. That’s probably the reason why the movie starts with a logo similar to this one.
WARNER BROS. LOGO #5(1948-1967)
“WARNER BROS. PICTURES Presents”The logo first appeared on Key Largo (1948). During the early years the background consisted of painted clouds, later the logo was superimposed (without clouds). Three different cloud backgrounds have been used: two painted versions, one ‘live action’ version featuring real clouds. The “Presents” lettering below the shield is identical to the lettering of the previous logo.
WARNER BROS. LOGO #6(1953-1956)
“WARNER BROS. PICTURES Presents”House of Wax (1953) + Three Sailors and a Girl (1953) + The Eddie Cantor Story (1953) + Crime Wave (1954) + The Command (1954) + The Boy from Oklahoma (1954) + Riding Shotgun (1954) + The High and the Mighty (1954) + Dial M for Murder (1954) + Them! (1954) + King Richard and the Crusaders (1954) + Dragnet (1954) + A Star Is Born (1954) + Track of the Cat (1954) + Battle Cry (1955) + East of Eden (1955) + The Sea Chase (1955) + Tall Man Riding (1955) + Mister Roberts (1955) + The McConnell Story (1955) + Rebel Without a Cause (1955) + Blood Alley (1955) + Illegal (1955) + Helen of Troy (1956) + The Animal World (1956)
This logo was also used on Ghost Ship (2002)
WARNER BROS. LOGO #7(1967-1970)
“WARNER BROS. – SEVEN ARTS Presents” In November 1966, Jack Warner sold control of the studio and its music business to Seven Arts, Inc. The company, including the studio, was renamed Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. A new logo appeared on-screen: a simple animated W7. It first appeared during the title sequence of “Reflections In A Golden Eye.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear on the DVD of the movie. The earliest version I’ve been able to find is Chubasco (1967).
WARNER BROS. LOGO #8(1970-1972)
“A KINNEY NATIONAL COMPANY,” “A KINNEY LEISURE SERVICE,” “A KINNEY COMPANY” In 1970 Kinney Services bought the company and changed its corporate name to Warner Communications. The new logo, a stylized shield containing a beveled W and B, first appeared during the opening credits of “Dirty Harry” (1971). This version of the WB logo is quite hard to find. It’s either cut from DVD/BluRay releases or ‘plastered’ with a more recent version (like is the case with the ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) BluRay).
Chisum (1970) + There Was a Crooked Man… (1970) + Flap (1970) + THX 1138 (1971) + Billy Jack (1971) + The Omega Man (1971) + Dirty Harry (1971) + The Cowboys (1972)
WARNER BROS. LOGO #11(1984-1997)
“A WARNER COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY,” “A TIME WARNER COMPANY”Very similar to the 1948 logo, featuring the same shield and clouds.
Pictured above: Gremlins (1984).
WARNER BROS. LOGO #12(1998- )
“75 YEARS Entertaining The World,” “A TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY”, “An AOL Time Warner Company,” “A Time Warner Company,” “A TimeWarner Company”A more ‘digital’ looking revitalization of the previous logo, featuring a new font. The “75 YEARS Entertaining The World” byline only appeared in 1998. The surface and color of the shield and clouds have slightly changed over the years.
Pictured above: Lethal Weapon 4 (1998).
Other custom 75th anniversary logos: Jack Frost + Quest for Camelot
WARNER BROS. LOGO #13(2011- )
“A TimeWarner Company”This version only appears on New Line Cinema releases.
It’s the same design as the previous version, only this one breaks into pieces. While the camera pans to the right, some elements transform into the New Line Cinema logo.
The Rite (2011) + Horrible Bosses (2011) + New Year’s Eve (2011) + Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
A Christmas/winter themed version appeared at the beginning of A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011).