TriStar Pictures Imageworks Inc. (TPI) is a visual effects and character animation company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Culver City, California, United States.[1] SPI is a unit of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group.[2][3]

The company has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars for their work on Spider-Man 2 and the computer-animated short film The ChubbChubbs!, and received many other nominations for their work.

SPI has provided visual effects for many films, most recent include Suicide Squad, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. They also provided services for several of director Robert Zemeckis' films, including Contact, Cast Away, The Polar Express, Monster House and Beowulf.

Since foundation of its sister company Sony Pictures Animation in 2002, SPI has animated nearly all of SPA's films, including Open Season, Surf's Up, the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films, The Smurfs films, the Hotel Transylvania films and The Emoji Movie, and has also helped animate other animated films such as Arthur Christmas for Aardman Animations (co-produced by SPA), Storks and Smallfoot for Warner Animation Group, The Angry Birds Movie and Birdeo & Juilet for Paramount Animation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Rovio Animation, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for Studio 8, Alibaba Pictures and Marvel Studios (co-produced by SPA), Valerian: Far from Alpha for Global Road Entertainment, Global Road Animation, Gozie Agbo, Macro Media, Armory Films, Big Beach, Elevated, Palmstar Entertainment, Fundamental Films, Europacorp, Baozou Studios, Foxtail Entertainment and Original Force.


Sony Pictures Imageworks was formed in 1992 with five employees to use computers to help plan complicated scenes for live-action films.[4] Located in the former TriStar building, their first work was a previsualization for the 1993 film Striking Distance.[5]

To fill the gaps between VFX jobs, SPI decided to partake in a more profitable animation business.[6] Its first independent animated effort was the 5-minute short The ChubbChubbs! directed by Eric Armstrong. In 2002, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Early Bloomer, released in 2003, was the division's second short film and originally made as a storyboarding exercise.[7] SPI completed its first feature animation project in 2006 with the release of Open Season.

In 2007, SPI acquired Indian visual effects studio FrameFlow to take advantage of lower labor costs.[6][8] Renamed to Imageworks India, a modern facility was opened in Chennai a year later.[9] To leverage New Mexico's tax rebates and talent base,[10] a satellite production facility was opened in 2007 in Albuquerque,[11] becoming the largest post-production operation in the state.[12] In 2010, SPI opened a production studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, in order to take advantage of the local talent pool and government film production incentives.[13] Two years later, the studio doubled its Vancouver facilities.[14] At the same time, the Albuquerque studio was closed down due to declining New Mexico's subsidies and difficulty with attracting artist to move there.[10]

In the beginning of 2014, as part of Sony's cost-cutting move, SPI transferred a portion of its technology team from its headquarters in Culver City to Vancouver.[6] By May 2014, entire headquarters and production had been moved to Vancouver, with only a small office remaining in Los Angeles.[15] At the same time, SPI closed down its Indian studio, laying off around 100 employees.[16] A year later, over 700 artists moved into a new 74,000-square feet headquarters in Vancouver.[17][18]


During 2009-2010, SPI made transition from traditional biased, multi-pass rendering system to a largely singlepass, global illumination system incorporating modern ray-tracing and physically based shading techniques. They have achieved that with Arnold Renderer, an unbiased stochastic ray tracer. Arnold, started in 1997 by Marcos Fajardo, was co-developed between 2004 and 2009 with SPI, where Marcos was employed, and a commercial branch is being developed by Marcos' Madrid based company Solid Angle SL. Arnold was used on projects such as Monster House, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 2012, Alice in Wonderland, The Smurfs, Arthur Christmas and is being used on all upcoming SPI's films.[19]


TrIStar Pictures Imageworks has provided visual effects and digital animation for the following films:[20]

Year Films
1993 Last Action Hero
In the Line of Fire
Striking Distance (previsualization only)

The 2ND Man in the Space (Space effects)

1994 Speed
1995 Tall Tale
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Money Train (miniatures only)
1996 James and the Giant Peach
The Ghost and the Darkness
1997 Anaconda
Starship Troopers
1998 City of Angels
Patch Adams
1999 Big Daddy
Stuart Little
Snow Falling on Cedars
2000 What Lies Beneath
Hollow Man
Charlie's Angels
Cast Away
2001 America's Sweethearts
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
2002 Spider-Man
Men in Black II
The ChubbChubbs!
Stuart Little 2
I Spy'The 2nd Man in the Moon
2003 Anger Management
Early Bloomer
The Matrix Reloaded
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Bad Boys II
The Matrix Revolutions
The Haunted Mansion
Big Fish
2004 50 First Dates
Spider-Man 2
The Polar Express
Christmas with the Kranks
The Aviator
2005 Zathura
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2006 Click
Superman Returns
Monster House
Open Season
2007 Ghost Rider
Spider-Man 3
Surf's Up
The ChubbChubbs Save Xmas
I Am Legend
2008 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
2009 Watchmen
G-Force'The 2ND Man in the Moon: Go Space
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
2010 Alice in Wonderland
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
2011 Green Lantern
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Smurfs
Arthur Christmas
2012 Men in Black 3
The Amazing Spider-Man
Hotel Transylvania
2013 Oz: The Great and Powerful
The Smurfs 2
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Edge of Tomorrow
22 Jump Street
Guardians of the Galaxy
American Sniper
The Interview
2015 Pixels
Hotel Transylvania 2
2016 The Angry Birds Movie
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Suicide Squad
2017 Smurfs: The Lost Village
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Emoji Movie
Kingsman: The Golden Circle


Year Films
2018 Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
The Meg
Once Upon a Sausage Party
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse[21]
Valerian: Far from Alpha
EdTV 2: TV Jerks It
2019 The Em2ji Movie
The Angry Birds Movie 2: Birdeo & Juliet
The 2ND Man In The Moon Reborn


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  8. FrameFlow via The Economic Times (February 20, 2007). "Sony Pictures picks up 51% in FrameFlow". Press release. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
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  11. Albuquerque Studios via PRWeb (May 20, 2007). "Albuquerque Studios Sees Special Effects of SONY Imageworks Deal in New Mexico". Press release. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
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