DreamWorks exec named president of production

Michelle Raimo-Kouyate is moving across town from her former post at DreamWorks Animation to head up Sony Pictures Animation.

Sony confirmed on Thursday that Raimo-Kouyate will take over as Sony Animation’s president of production, a post left vacant after former Sony toon head Hannah Minghella moved to Columbia Pictures.

Raimo-Kouyate was most recently at DreamWorks Animation, where she served as exec producer on “Puss in Boots,” a spinoff of DWA’s “Shrek” franchise.

In differentiating between the two companies, Sony prexy of digital productions Bob Osher said Sony Animation more-than-dabbles in live-action/animation hybrids, which makes Raimo-Kouyate an ideal candidate for the job. She previously worked with Osher at Miramax as senior VP of development and production.

“Our needs are little different,” Osher told Daily Variety. “It was really important to have someone with their heart in animation, but having that live-action experience is really nice, because of when we do these hybrids.”

Both execs admitted, however, that animation is central at the division. “When I made the move to animation, it didn’t matter whether we were speaking about a character in an animated movie or a real person,” Raimo-Kouyate added. “It’s still a character with the same emotions.”

It’s that mindset that made Raimo-Kouyate a frontrunner, Osher said. For Raimo-Kouyate, Sony Animations’ attention to collaboration drew her to Culver City, particularly with Osher. “It’s all about entering into creative partnerships with your filmmakers,” she said.

Helping her transition into the new post, Raimo-Kouyate will work closely with Minghella, another Miramax alum.

Raimo-Kouyate will shepherd Sony’s upcoming CG-animated, live-action hybrid “The Smurfs,” set for release Aug. 3. Sony Animation’s other upcoming pics include “Hotel Transylvania,” “Open Season 3″ and two Aardman Animations co-productions, “Arthur Christmas” and “The Pirates!”

According to Osher, Sony Animation plans to develop branded and nonbranded toons, including a potential sequel to “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” which became a hit for the division last year.

In terms of furthering the Sony Animation brand, both agreed that story comes first.”We don’t want every film to look like it came from a common place,” Osher said. “For us, it’s more about character and story.”

Raimo-Kouyate echoed those sentiments, saying, “The projects I’ve always been drawn to is the relatability of that central character.”

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