A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : TOO HIP, GOTTA CHANGE : What We Have Here Is a Woman Ready For the '90s

The Columbia Lady is changing--again.

She's still carrying that famous torch, much like the venerable Statue of Liberty. But the Lady's new design, recently unveiled by Columbia Pictures, differs greatly from several previous generations in the studio's 60-year history.

She's less "showgirl" than she was in the '30s. She's less "American" than she was during World War II when the Stars and Stripes on her shawl became more pronounced.

In the '50s, she took on a slinky look, with a plunging neckline and a daringly exposed slipper-clad foot. She kept the American flag, but in the '60s, when wearing the flag became less appealing, her shawl became a plain wrap.

In the late '70s, when corporate America began a trend to simplify logos, Columbia followed suit. The lady fled the scene and in her place was a simple sunburst, representing the beams from her torch.

One form of the Columbia lady returned to the logo just before the Coca-Cola Co. sold Columbia Pictures in 1989. This time she was a drawing with no details, and her shape, according to some pundits, resembled a Coke bottle.

Now, under the new owner, Japanese electronics giant Sony Inc., the Columbia Lady has returned. It is an effort, the studio says, to preserve tradition--the very name "Columbia," in fact, is a word that means the United States personified as a woman, according to Webster's New World Dictionary.

"We wanted the classic look, with full color again, and a face with more humanity than the faceless look that preceded this one," said Paula Silver, Columbia Pictures' marketing president. "She has an ethereal quality . . . a more contemporary woman." But the new tradition does not include the American flag. "Fashion dictated the changes," said Silver.

The new logo's designer, Scott Mednick of the Mednick Group, said her face is a composite. "Some of the fun was that we started with several different models, and everyone had their opinions." He said particular features, like the jawline, chin, shadows, etc., were adjusted by computer technology to fit the requirements of Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Peter Guber and Columbia executives.

"The technology available through the computer meant we were able to respond to their suggestions. What we came up with is an idealized woman who has a fairly heroic expression. But she is a continuation of the Columbia Lady."

But wait. The Lady may have finished changing, but the makeover continues.

In the future, Mednick said, Guber has plans to unite Sony's other entertainment companies via their logos. That means the Pegasus image that is used by TriStar Pictures will have billowy clouds, just like those behind the Lady.

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