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MGM's Roaring Lion is Lip Syncing a Tiger

Megan Healey Megan Healey
27th May 2021
MGM's Roaring Lion is Lip Syncing a Tiger
There have been five different MGM lions since the 1920s (Getty Images).

The Claim

The lion's roar featured in MGM's film introduction actually comes from a tiger.

Emerging story

This week, Amazon bought MGM studios for a whopping $8.45 billion - about 40% more than other potential buyers thought they were worth. One tangential story that arose out of the circulating news was that MGM’s famous roaring lion, which appears at the introduction of every film, is actually lip-syncing the roar of a tiger.

A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body

Misbar’s Analysis

The MGM lion has been dubbed with the sound of a tiger since the 1980s. 

In 1924 when the studio was founded, the head of MGM’s marketing was a Columbia University alumnus, and he adapted Columbia’s lion mascot for his new gig. Back then, movies didn’t yet have sound, so the first MGM lion was just shown looking around, which was still pretty thrilling for audiences at the time. The sound of a lion’s roar was added in 1928, with another update in the 1950s of a roar captured on a gramophone. 

In 1982, sound designer Mike Mangini picked a new roar from a collection of cat sounds he’d collected for monsters in the movie Poltergeist. The one they ended up using came from a tiger. “I felt it was treason not to use lion sounds but they just didn't sound all that terrifying,” Mangini wrote on his website. “So I substituted tiger roars. They just sounded bigger and more majestic.” He calls his recordings his “audio palette” which he uses to design sounds for imaginary movie creatures.

Since the 1920s, the faces of five different lions have been featured. The final lion, named Leo, was filmed in 1957, and is the same one we see before today’s films. The sound was last restored in 2008.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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