Five-time Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston ("Forrest Gump") is leaving Industrial Light & Magic after 18 years to become president of Sony Pictures Imageworks.
Sony, which is expected to make a formal announcement of the deal today--is looking to Ralston to enhance its 3-year-old in-house digital production unit and make it more competitive with the industry's more prominent effects houses such as ILM.
Ralston will spearhead the division's work in digital imaging and visual effects for all visual entertainment media. In addition to continuing to provide effects for in-house movies from Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures, Imageworks hopes to attract more projects from outside the Sony Pictures family.
Expected to assume his new Sony post at the end of this year, Ralston is currently finishing effects for TriStar's upcoming holiday movie "Jumanji," starring Robin Williams.
A source familiar with the hiring said Ralston was given a five-year contract with a guarantee that he can, in a couple of years, direct movies for the company--a longtime desire of his. The first project targeted for Ralston to direct is an effects-laden, live-action movie version of the popular children's book "Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time," written and illustrated by James Gurney. Lynda Guber, wife of former Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Peter Guber, will produce.
Ralston joined ILM, George Lucas' successful San Raphael-based special effects company, in 1977 as a cameraman on "Star Wars." Ralston, one of the most revered effects artists in the field, has worked on nearly two dozen films, winning Oscars for "Forrest Gump," "Death Becomes Her," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "Cocoon" and "Return of the Jedi."