Logo descriptions by Nicholas Aczel, Sean Beard, Logophile, OZ_Paramount87 and indycar
Logo captures by Eric S., indycar and others
Video captures courtesy of LogicSmash, DudeThatLogo, Peakpasha, thesafekind, simblos, JeiceTheWarrior, MyNewBrycelsIsHere2012, Austin Alexander, mcydodge919 and Peakpasha
RKO Radio Pictures
Background: RKO Radio Pictures was originally founded by RCA to promote their RCA Photophone sound system. The initials in the company name stand for "Radio Keith Orpheum", reflecting the joint venture of RCA, the Keith Orpheum theater circuit, and Joseph P. Kennedy's Film Booking Office. Howard Hughes would purchase the studio in 1948 and sell off the studio to the General Tire and Rubber Company in 1955. The rights to the majority of the in-house RKO Radio Pictures films are owned by the current RKO Pictures with distribution rights owned and/or licensed to Warner Bros. Pictures via Turner Entertainment Co. While Walt Disney Pictures owns the rights to their own productions and films produced by Selznick International Pictures (the latter via ABC Motion Pictures), the Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. family trust owns the rights to Samuel Goldwyn Productions films with domestic distribution rights licensed to Warner Bros. Pictures and international rights to Miramax Films, Paramount Pictures owns It's a Wonderful Life via Republic Pictures and Universal Studios owns films produced by Hughes.
1st Logo (Opening Logo)
Nicknames: "The Transmitter", "The Globe and Tower" (according to the RKO Pictures, LLC website http://www.rko.com)
Logo: On a cloudy background we see a radio tower situated on top of a rotating Earth globe. The radio tower is sending out signals illustrated by lightning bolts and sound waves coming from its transmitter. The text "A Radio Picture" (1929 to 1936) or "An RKO Radio Picture" (1936 to 1956) writes itself on the logo in a "thunderbolt" font.
- The Morse code heard on the logo transmitted this message: VVVV AN RKO RADIO PICTURE VVVV.
- This logo was featured as a background of a stage during a scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- On early color films and colorized films the logo was tinted blue, a true living color version of the logo was introduced around 1944.
- Early Radio Pictures films had the globe less detailed and no clouds in front of the globe.
- When the studio produced CINEMASCOPE and Superscope films, their logo was cropped to fit the screen, making it widescreen and reanimated the lightning bolts to be more realistic.
FX/SFX/Cheesy Factor: The rotating Earth globe, the lightning bolts and the sound waves are all primitive 1920s visual effects. There were advanced in their time.
Music/Sounds: A series of "morse code" beeps. In some cases, the morse code is replaced by the movie's opening music.
Availability: Very common. It's still seen on many films. This logo was often not shown at all on a few films, such as It's a Wonderful Life and films produced by Walt Disney Productions (which usually used the next logo or no logo at all). The Radio Pictures logo is rare today and it's used on King Kong, Top Hat and other films from the studio until 1936.
Scare Factor: Medium. It's one of the best-known logos, but the creepy Morse code transmission sound effects may cause some scares.
2nd Logo (Closing Logo)
Nickname: "The Thunderbolt"
Logo: In the end titles of a film, we see an equilateral triangle pointing down with a "thunderbolt" drawn 3/4 through it. Above the logo is the text "Radio Pictures" (1929 to 1936) or "RKO Radio" with a line drawn over the triangle edge with the text "PICTURES" (1936 to 1956). The text "REG. US. PAT. OFF." is shown below.
- The "Radio Pictures" variant had "THE END" displayed, which was wiped away to allow the Radio Pictures logo to be wiped in, which had a much scragglier thunderbolt design and a different font compared to the "RKO Radio" variant that followed.
- A "Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures" variant in color in various backgrounds and a byline that says"AN RKO RADIO PICTURES, INC. RELEASE" appeared some pre-1954 Walt Disney Productions films that RKO Radio Pictures distributed (the byline was eliminated between 1940 and 1946), generally in the same style as the main titles instead of being at the end.The variant also appeared on Joan of Arc (1948).
- Like the above-mentioned Walt Disney Productions films, films produced by Samuel Goldwyn Productions had this logo at the beginning of a film in the style of the opening credits.
- On Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the logo appears at the end of the film and is put on a jewel background, with the words "A WALT DISNEY FEATURE Production" overlapping it, and "IN TECHNICOLOR" below it.
FX/SFX: The fade in and fade out.
Cheesy Factor: The thunderbolt on the Radio Pictures version looks sloppy.
Music/Sounds: The closing theme of a film.
Availability: Common. It's still saved on films produced by the company. Most Walt Disney Productions films had this logo plastered by the 1954 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution or the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo until the late 1990s, when it began to be restored (although some films, such as Bambi, usually have the logo removed). The variant seen on Samuel Goldwyn Productions films is often removed, although it may have been on 1980s and 1990s home media releases by Samuel Goldwyn Home Entertainment that were distributed by various companies.
Scare Factor: Medium. The scary thunderbolt drawing may turn off a few, but it's mostly harmless.
RKO Teleradio Pictures
Baxkground: In 1955, Hughes sold RKO Radio Pictures to General Teleradio, the media unit of the General Tire and Rubber Company. The studio was renamed to RKO Teleradio Pictures. The company would shut down in January 1957 and the television rights to the entire RKO Radio Pictures library was sold to C&C Television Corporation (although RKO does maintain the copyrights).
Nickname: "The Wave"
Logo: On a pale green background, the some wavelengths are seen are seen and they react to noise each time a word appears (RKO appears as three letters, the rest as one word).
FX/SFX: The wavelengths moving.
Cheesy Factor: The animation and the appearing of the words is choppy.
Music/Sounds: The Morse code noise each time the wavelength moves.
Availability: Near extinction. Can be seen on The Yankee Story. This logo may have been seen on other promotional films for the General Tire and Rubber Company.
Scare Factor: Low to medium. The eeriness of the beeps is evident in this logo. _______________________________________________________________
RKO General Productions
Background: After RKO Teleradio Pictures was shut down in January 1957, RKO Teleradio was renamed as RKO General under the General Tire and Rubber Company. This incarnation of RKO Pictures did not produce films, instead they handled the distribution of RKO Radio Pictures films to RKO General television stations (as mentioned above, C&C Television Corporation purchased the television distribution rights, but only for markets that had no RKO General station).
Nickname: "Transmitter on Tube"
Logo: It is the radio tower from the opening 1929 RKO Radio Radio Pictures inside a of circle that looks like a television tube from a 1950s television. "RKO GENERAL" appears in the tube, "AN" appears above it and "PRESENTATION" under it.
FX/SFX: Was likely a still logo.
Music/Sounds: Was presumably silent or had the opening theme to the film.
Availability: Extinct. May have been seen on early 1960s television prints of RKO Radio Pictures films.
Scare Factor: It depends on what you think of the logo's design.
Logo: On a white background we see a square outlined by the letters "RKO", each with different shades of blue. Underneath is the phase "GENERAL PRODUCTIONS" and under that in white is "IN ASSOCIATION WITH."
- A superimposed variant was used on television series produced for RKO General television stations.
- Depending on the film quality, the background may appears as pink.
Availability: Near extinction. Was seen on Target For Killing and Password: Kill Agent Gordon. Most current prints of the films will likely remove the logo. The superimposed variant was seen on RKO General television series.
Scare Factor: None. _______________________________________________________________
Background: In 1981, RKO General, under the General Tire and Rubber Company, began to reenter film production by co-producing several films with various studios (such as Avco Embassy Pictures Corporation, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation and Paramount Pictures). Around 1985, General Tire's media holdings were reorganized to form GenCorp, with RKO General remaining as a subsidiary. A hostile takeover was attempted in 1987 on GenCorp and RKO Pictures was spun off and sold to Wesray Capital Corporation, who then spun off RKO Pictures in 1989. The studio was then purchased by actress Dina Merrill and her husband and film producer Ted Hartley to form RKO Pictures, LLC, who remains as the current owner of the studio.
Nicknames: "1980s Thunderbolt", "Cheesy Thunderbolt", "Thunderbolt Triangle"
Logo: On a plain black background, a segmented white-lined rectangle with a cut on the left side and the text "RKO PICTURES" below emerges from the top of the screen, and moves down and curves up as if a roller coaster, zooming up to the center of the screen. We also see a red variant of the thunderbolt from the closing 1929 RKO Radio Pictures logo flipping up and growing in size as it lands below the cut on the rectangle in between "RKO" and "PICTURES." The text "DISTRIBUTED BY" appears above the logo.
FX/SFX: The logo zooming and flipping effects.
Cheesy Factor: The logo uses chyron and 1980s-standard zooming and flipping animations that seem to use rougher animation newer CGI logos.
Music/Sounds: A synthesized tune with rising air and a boom noise as the logo parts come together, followed by a gradual synthesized fade out.
Availability: Rare. This logo was only used as a distribution logo on television and did not appear on any of the studio's film output. Appears on What Price Hollywood, None But the Lonely Heart and Nocturne when aired on TCM. Home media releases from RKO Home Video and The Nostalgia Merchant may include this logo at the end of such films like Isle of the Dead. It is unknown if this logo would appear at the end of any home media releases from Turner Home Entertainment (who actually reprinted some older RKO Home Video releases) or Warner Home Video.
Scare Factor: Medium to high. The synth music and the animation effects may scare some people.
Nickname: "'80s Transmitter"
- Opening: The logo begins the same as in the first one. After a couple seconds, a segmented white-lined rectangle with a cut on the left side and the text "RKO PICTURES" appearing on opposite sides of the red thunderbolt triangle design emerges from the transmitter tip, and moves downward, zooming towards the lower third of the screen, then the background fades to black.
- Closing: The closing logo of these movies is a still picture of the opening logo, with "An RKO Picture" in a "thunderbolt" font.
FX/SFX/Cheesy Factor: The rotating Earth globe, the lightning bolts, the sound waves; plus the zooming thunderbolt triangle.
Music/Sounds: A series of "Morse code" beeps. The closing variant is silent.
Availability: Uncommon. It appeared on a few Paramount releases from that era, including Campus Man, Hamburger Hill, and Hot Pursuit.
Scare Factor: Medium. The creepy "Morse code" transmission sound FX may cause some scares. Low for the closing variant.
(October 23, 1992)
Logo: On a black background, the words "RELEASED THROUGH" appear on the top. Below is "RKO PICTURES DISTRIBUTION". The words are in blue.
Availability: Extremely rare. The only known movie to use this logo is Frozen Assets.
Scare Factor: None.
Logo: On a black background is a box with a white border with the thunderbolt triangle at the bottom. Inside the box is the famous radio tower on earth. On top the antenna "R", "K" and "O" appear one by one, in red and in its company font. Then "PICTURES" flies in and rests at the bottom of "RKO". Then "DISTRIBUTION" appears at the bottom at the top of the thunderbolt triangle.
FX/SFX: The earth, the company name appearing.
Music/Sounds: Along with the morse code beeps, a drumbeat is heard when each letter of "RKO" appears.
Availability: Extremely rare. Only known to appear on the American release of The Elegant Criminal.
Scare Factor: Medium, due to the morse code beeps.
Nicknames: "'90s Transmitter", "CGI Transmitter"
Logo: In this version, the sky background and Earth globe look more realistic. A bright light is seen on the transmitter tip of the radio tower situated on top of the rotating globe as the picture zooms outward. The radio tower then sends out signals illustrated by sound waves coming from its transmitter. The text "RKO PICTURES" fades in on top of the transmitter. "RKO" appears in a red "thunderbolt" font while "PICTURES" sports a more '30s-ish typeface below that.
FX/SFX/Cheesy Factor: The bright light, the sound waves; big improvement after their previous rendition. This was done by Studio Productions (now known as "Flip Your Lid Animation").
Music/Sounds: A triumphant fanfare with Morse code beeps at the end. Sometimes, the opening theme is heard.
Availability: Uncommon. It can be found on films such as Mighty Joe Young, The Magnificent Ambersons, Gin Game, Are We Done Yet?, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009) and A Late Quartet.
Scare Factor: Minimal. Although a well-liked logo, the creepy "Morse code" transmission sound FX may still get to some people.
Nickname: "CGI Transmitter II"
Logo: We see the previous logo animating in reverse in black & white. As it zooms to the bright light, there is a thunderbolt that appears out of the light and it displays the letters "RKO" in silver lettering with a shine effect. The clouds later fade into a black background.
FX/SFX: The logo zooming into the light, "RKO" appearing.
Music/Sounds: Same as the last logo.
Availability: Can be seen on RKO's official website.
Scare Factor: Same as the 1997 logo.