Universal Pictures

Compiled by Jason Jones and Matt Williams

1st Logo
(Mid 1920s-Mid 1930s)

Nickname: "Airplane Passing Globe"

Logo: On a cloud-like background, an earth globe rotates. No clouds are visible on the globe. As the globe rotates, a biplane flies around it, with "A UNIVERSAL PICTURE" being wiped in as the biplane passes the globe.

SFX: The biplane, wiping on of letters, and the globe

Cheesy Factor: This logo just SCREAMS 1920s, as everything is a cheesy model. Still, you have to give them the effort of trying : )

Music: None.

Availability: This is the rarest Universal logo. Can be seen on some early films still, though.

Scare Factor: None.

2nd Logo
(Late 1930s-1946)

Nickname: "The Art-Deco Globe"

Logo: A stylized glass globe is seen, tilted at an angle. Around the globe, the words "A UNIVERSAL PICTURE" rotate, in a stylized 1930s font. Stylized five-point stars (ala the stars on the Paramount logo) surround the globe.

SFX: The stars, globe, and rotating letters.

Cheesy Factor: This has to be cheesier than the first one : ) the stars honestly look like they're hung from a mobile or something. And the glass globe and letters look like crap. They did get better later on though.

Music: Usually the beginning of the movie's opening theme.

Availability: Can be seen on Universal releases of the era, and makes surprise appearances on "The Sting", "The Brink's Job", and "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid".

Scare Factor: None.

3rd Logo

Logo: On a space background, a model globe (harkening back to logo 1, still no clouds though), rotates. Superimposed onto the globe are the words "Universal International", symbolizing Universal's merger with International Pictures.

Byline: Later on, the credit "EDWARD MUHL, IN CHARGE OF PRODUCTION" would appear in the lower-left corner.

SFX: The rotating globe.

Cheesy Factor: Well, they got sane with this one. Relatively minimal on the cheesy scale, though you can tell it's a model globe.

Music: The opening of the movie's theme.

Availability: Again, seen on Universal International releases of the period.

Scare Factor: None.

4th Logo

Nickname: "Zooming Globe"

Logo: We zoom through space, and several rings start to form. The rotating earth globe appears in the distance, and as we get closer to it, the word "UNIVERSAL" in a bold, planetary font fades in close-up to us and zooms out to a comfortable distance. When the word and the globe are in position, "AN MCA COMPANY" fades in below it, in a bold yellow font. Two rings surround the globe.

Variations: Several renditions of this logo have been discovered. This is going to get complicated, so let's explain this simply:
There are two main variations of this logo:
Widescreen: Always shown in a letterboxed ratio, the globe appears to zoom in rather slowly, and the "UNIVERSAL" text is blurred when it fades in, becoming clearer as it zooms out. The logo is much wider than usual, to accommodate the extra space.
TV Screen: Always formatted to fit the television screen, the logo appears to move somewhat faster than the widescreen version. The "UNIVERSAL" logo is not blurred, and simply fades in. The logo most people are familiar with.

Now, there are several byline variations. There are, again, two main ones, used with both logos:

  • "A UNIVERSAL PICTURE", with the "UNIVERSAL" logo text sandwiched between "A" and "PICTURE". (1963-1972)
  • "AN MCA COMPANY", in a yellow blocky font, appearing below the Universal logo text. (1973-1990)

And several miscellaneous additions:

  • A credit for Edward Muhl, then-head of Universal, can be seen on the lower-left of the first movies to feature this logo
  • The widescreen version of "Jaws 3" has the MCA Company text in a more extended font.
  • For their Pay Television division, the Pan and Scan variation was used, with the MCA byline moved down a bit, and "PAY TELEVISION" below the Universal logo.

SFX: The rotating globe zooming in, and "Universal" zooming out.

Cheesy Factor: This was very advanced for its time, and its longevity is amazing, especially during the 80s, when computerized logos were making their debut.

Music: Usually did not have music, but did occasionally, composed with horns. The Pay Television version of this logo used the same; and was very cheesy using a low-budget orchestra.

Availability: It's common as this was never plastered over, and was used for a total of 27 years, the longest-used logo since the classic era of movies.

Scare Factor: None.

5th Logo

Nickname: "CGI Globe"

Logo: A large "spark" appears as we view the extreme side of the Universal globe, still cloudless and in CGI. We move down the globe and see, in golden letters, the word "UNIVERSAL", in a brand new font, circle the globe. We zoom out and the globe moves to center, as the word "UNIVERSAL" straightens itself out and takes its place across the globe. "AN MCA COMPANY", in white, appears below the logo.

In 1990: Universal was celebrating its 75th Anniversary, and the initial version of this logo was different from the one used afterwards. It began with clips of logos 1, 2, and 4, and then segued into the current logo, as if it were a grand unveiling, or a passing of the torch. The end logo also had "75th Anniversary" on top of the logo, with "75" in the middle of "ANNIVERSARY" and written out in script. A few movies that have this logo include "Darkman", "Back to the Future Part III", and "Problem Child"

SFX: The rotating globe and letters.

Music: A majestic orchestral fanfare (a French horn fanfare was played during the clips of the old logos during the 75th Anniversary logo)

Availability: It's easy to see, as this was on many recent movies.

Scare Factor: None.

6th Logo

Nickname: "CGI Globe #2", "The Glittering Globe"

Logo: On a black background, an arc slowly appears and brightens. Lights begin appearing below the arc and we see that this is another globe, looking over Europe. We move down as the lights appear all over Europe, and then Africa. As we begin to zoom out, the letters "UNIVERSAL", in a similar font as the last logo but handsomely redone, rotate to the front of the globe. By this time, the globe is shining from the back. A small copyright appears at the bottom-right.

Variations: A treasure trove. There are a few variations:

  • There is a shorter version of this logo, beginning as the "UNIVERSAL" text slides in over the logo, with a shortened version of the fanfare. This is usually found at the end of documentaries produced for DVD by Universal Home Entertainment, with a web address for Universal Home's website.
  • Starting in 1999, the "universalstudios.com" web address fades in at the end. By now the copyright is gone, moved to the end credits of the movie.
  • The biggest variation came in November 2001, when the studio celebrated the 20th Anniversary of E.T. The logo animates as normal until the very end, when the "UNIVERSAL" text fades out and the silhouette of E.T. and Elliott, on their bike, fly across the shining globe. Text appears on the bottom, "UNIVERSAL STUDIOS CELEBRATES E.T. THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY". This was used from November 2001 to April 2002-- as of "The Scorpion King", the normal logo has been reinstated. Sort of (see below).

SFX: The lighting of the globe and the rotation of the letters.

Music: Begins with a powerful, majestic horn fanfare, followed by two orchestra hits. Then, another horn fanfare, followed by two more hits. Then, a very majestic fanfare as the logo is completed. Composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the music for the Carolco logo.

Music Variations: From November 2001 to April 2002, the music was changed to go with the customized E.T. logo-- there is only one horn fanfare/hits sequence, followed by the end fanfare. This then segues into the theme from E.T. as he and Elliot fly across the globe. When the E.T. logo was dropped in April 2002, the music did not change back to the 1997 version: instead, it's a reorchestration of the 1997 fanfare. Same melody, but like the E.T. logo, it is in a different key and sounds more "powerful".

Availability: It's Universal's current logo. This logo precedes classic releases on video and occasionally on cable channels (don't worry, the original logos still remain)

Scare Factor: None.