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Imageworks shuffles exex

Sarnoff upped to promo prexy, Ralston's contract extended

Sony juggled roles for its top two execs at Sony Pictures Imageworks, rewarding longtime exec VP and general manager Tim Sarnoff with a promotion to prexy, while freeing five-time Oscar winner Ken Ralston to focus on creative concerns under a two-year contract extension.

“Really, Ken and Ron are responsible for turning the whole place around,” said their boss, Yair Landau, prexy of Sony Pictures Digital entertainment. “Frankly, this frees Ken up to work full time on Bob Z’s next picture.”

Ralston, the unit’s senior visual effects supervisor, collected two of his Oscars for work on helmer Robert Zemeckis’ “Who Killed Roger Rabbit?” and “Forrest Gump.” He has been involved lately in ramping up for Zemeckis’ latest f/x-heavy extravaganza, “Polar Express,” based on Chris von Allsburg’s children’s book. His contract was about to expire.

Sarnoff has been Imageworks’ exec VP and general manager for five years, overseeing an expanding operation that has most recently been responsible for visual effects in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Spider-Man” and “Stuart Little 2,” all of which received substantial kudos for their f/x. Promotion recognizes his de facto role as the person running the unit on a day-to-day basis, Landau said.

“Under his leadership, Imageworks has evolved to become a world leader in visual effects and digital character animation,” Landau said. “Tim is a unique combination: a great guy, an effective manager and a strong advocate for our amazing talent pool.”

Promotion comes after Imageworks’ most successful year ever, with “Charlie’s Angels 2,” “I Spy,” “The Tuxedo” and “Anger Management” currently in production and “Spider-Man 2” in pre-production with “Polar Express.” Unit also created an animated short, “The ChubbChubbs,” which has been running before “Men in Black II,” and has a vidgame-development deal with Pandemic Studios. Imageworks now has roughly 300 employees and has been nominated for three Oscars.

Ralston has been the company’s lead creative exec since 1995, after he ankled at Industrial Light & Magic. His Oscar-winning work also includes “Death Becomes Her,” “Cocoon” and “Return of the Jedi.”

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