Academy Award-winner Ken Ralston was a leading pioneer in the specialized field of visual effects, creating some of cinema's most breathtaking moments for acclaimed filmmakers like George Lucas and Ro...
|When Star Wars Ruled the World (2003-2004)||Actor||Interviewee||2003||1|
|A Night of Movie Magic (1993-1994)||Actor||n/a||1993||1|
|The Secrets of the Back to The Future Trilogy||Actor||n/a||1|
|The Inside Reel: Digital Filmmaking (2000-2001)||Actor||n/a||2000||1|
|The Rocketeer||Director||2nd unit director||2|
|Death Becomes Her||Director||2nd unit director||2|
|The Empire Strikes Back||Photography||optical effects photography||6000017|
|The Mask||Consultant||visual effects consultant||12000005|
|The Golden Child||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Star Trek IV||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|You, Murderer (1993-1994)||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||1993||23000005|
|Cast Away||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Back to the Future III||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Star Trek III||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Forrest Gump||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Men in Black 3||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Death Becomes Her||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Phenomenon||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Contact||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|The Rocketeer||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Cocoon||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Akira Kurosawa's Dreams||Visual Effects Supervisor||(ILM)||23000005|
|The Polar Express||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Alice in Wonderland||Visual Effects Supervisor||Senior Visual Effects Supervisor(Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc)||23000005|
|Back to the Future II||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Who Framed Roger Rabbit||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Michael||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000005|
|Jumanji||Visual Effects Supervisor||n/a||23000006|
|Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan||Visual Effects Supervisor||special visual effects supervisor||23000006|
|The American President||Visual Effects||visual effects supersivor(Industrial Light & Magic)||23000007|
|Return of the Jedi||Visual Effects||n/a||23000010|
|Men in Black II||Visual Effects Supervisor||(Sony Pictures Imageworks)||23000012|
|America's Sweethearts||Visual Effects||Visual Effects Consultant||23000016|
|Beowulf||Visual Effects Designer||Visual Effects Design Consultant||23000023|
|Patch Adams||Special Thanks||n/a||26000020|
|First credit as special visual effects supervisor, on "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"|
|Joined Industrial Light & Magic as camera assistant on "Star Wars"|
|Hired by Cascade Productions; worked under Phil Kellison building props and as stop-motion photographer for commercials|
|Left Industrial Light and Magic to assume presidency of Sony Pictures Imageworks|
|Made 8mm forty minute audition film|
|Signed to make feature directorial debut with "Jumanji 2"; left project in February 2000 over "creative differences"|
|First film credit, as optical effects photographer on "The Empire Strikes Back"|
Born in 1954, Kenneth Ralston was a special effects movie fan from childhood. Having already experimented with 8mm film and camera techniques as a teenager, he put together a 40-minute audition film which landed him a position at Cascade Productions in Hollywood. During his tenure at the influential commercial animation and effects company throughout the early 1970s, Ralston worked as a set-builder, model-sculptor, puppet animator and stop-motion photographer, animating such whimsical spokes-characters as Poppin' Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Jolly Green Giant. Fate intervened when a friend, Dennis Muren, coaxed Ralston to lend a hand with the special effects on a small sci-fi movie being made by a young filmmaker named George Lucas. As an assistant cameraman for the Miniature and Optical Effects Unit, he contributed to the groundbreaking spaceship effects for Lucas' game-changing blockbuster "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (1977). Along with Muren, Phil Tippett, Joe Johnston and a handful of artists and engineers, Ralston helped create Lucas' in-house visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, where he would remain for the next two decades.
A few years later, Ralston returned for similar duties on the "Star Wars" sequel "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), a movie every bit as impressive both narratively and visually as its predecessor. As the man in charge of the incredible dragon effects for the medieval fantasy "Dragonslayer" (1981), Ralston garnered his fist Academy Award nomination for Visual Effects. He moved up in rank to Visual Effects Supervisor on "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), another superior sequel for which Ralston designed the cringe-inducing Ceti Eel that was seen burrowing into the ear canal of an unfortunate Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig). It was as part of the ILM team that Ralston shared a Special Achievement Oscar for their work on "Return of the Jedi" (1983), the feel-good conclusion to Lucas' first "Star Wars" trilogy. Now one of the leading practitioners in his highly-specialized field, he was brought back for "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984), before his visual wizardry on director Ron Howard's fountain of youth sci-fi fantasy "Cocoon" (1985) won Ralston and the ILM team the first of many Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects.
Ralston returned to the Starship Enterprise for more effects work on "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986) and then teamed with innovative director Robert Zemeckis to devise a believable world in which live action actors and surreal cartoon characters could coexist for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988). This wildly kinetic mish-mash of cartoon, comedy and mystery not only became a box-office smash, but earned Ralston yet another Oscar. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Zemeckis hired Ralston and his ILM crew back for "Back to the Future II" (1989) and "Back to the Future III" (1990). In addition to his usual duties as Visual Effects Supervisor, Ralston served as second unit director for the first time on the nostalgic action adventure "The Rocketeer" (1991), directed by fellow ILM cofounder Joe Johnston. His third Academy Award came Ralston's way for his work on Zemeckis' "Death Becomes Her" (1992) and his high-tech wizardry in the director's beloved Oscar-winning Best Picture "Forrest Gump" (1994) garnered him a fourth statuette. Ralston helped give an already cartoonish Jim Carrey an alarming amount of added elasticity in the off-the-wall comedy "The Mask" (1994) and provided the computer-generated animals in director and fellow ILM peer Joe Johnston's jungle fantasy "Jumanji" (1995).
Immediately following the completion of "Jumanji" and after nearly 20 years with ILM, Ralston joined Sony Pictures Imageworks as Visual Effect Supervisor and Creative Head. In his new position he soon jumped into high-profile projects like the John Travolta vehicles "Phenomenon" (1996) and "Michael" (1996), as well as more traditional sci-fi movies like "Contact" (1997), based on the novel by Carl Sagan and directed by Zemeckis. Ralston paired with Zemeckis once again for another epic starring Tom Hanks, "Cast Away" (2000), prior to suiting up for the sci-fi comedy sequel "Men in Black II" (2002). When he turned to computer-generated imagery to tell his stories, it came as no surprise when Zemeckis again enlisted Ralston's help for the Christmas fantasy "The Polar Express" (2004) and once more for his adaptation of the Old English epic poem "Beowulf" (2007). Working for Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, he provided a wide array of effects for the quirky director's interpretation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" (2010) and helped zap Will Smith back to the 1960s for "Men in Black III" (2012).
By Bryce Coleman
From classic movie palaces to the state-of-the-art IMAX screens.