Exec was president of vfx studio

Tim Sarnoff, the longtime topper of Sony Pictures Imageworks, has ankled the vfx and animation shop.

Sarnoff joined SPI in 1997 and has been president since 1997. He led the company as it became one of the major CGI shops in the industry, doing both high-end visual effects and feature animation.

A Sony spokesperson said Sarnoff will not be replaced. Debbie Denise, exec VP for production, will continue to manage production teams, while veteran vfx supervisor Ken Ralston will continue to lead the creative side. A new exec will come in to take over operations.

All will report to Sony Pictures Digital Prods. president Bob Osher, who also serves as chief operating officer of Columbia Pictures Motion Picture Group.

Sarnoff becomes the second top exec to exit Sony’s digital production units in less than a year. Yair Landau, who had been prexy of Sony Pictures Digital, left in April to pursue independent animation ventures.

Sarnoff announced his departure to employees at SPI’s Culver City HQ on Wednesday afternoon.

In 2008 SPI did vfx work on Sony’s own “Hancock” as well as “Eagle Eye” and “Valkyrie.” Its slate for 2009 includes “Watchmen,” “2012,” “G-Force” and animated feature “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

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