Looking to channel its animation and feature properties into unconventional, high-tech theme park film rides, animation house Will Vinton Studios has expanded, creating Los Angeles-based Will Vinton Entertainment.

WVE has also allied itself with simulator/virtual reality outfit New Entertainment Guild and hired indie animation giant Terry Thoren, founder of Animation Magazine and engineer of the Intl. Tournee of Animation, as WVE prexy.

Though company toppers declined to be specific, they did say WVE is negotiating with several top theme park companies and hotels worldwide to put their film-driven 3-D Virtual Theaters in as many venues as possible.

“This is the year Hollywood discovers theme parks,” said Thorne, who will preem three new WVE properties at the Nov. 17-19 Int’l Assn. of Amusement Park & Attractions confab.

Amusement rides are “no longer relegated to Six Flags or Knott’s Berry Farm,” Thorne continued. “Soon, you’ll have rides in shopping malls all across America and hotels will bring in simulated rides.”

And it doesn’t stop there, according to WVE toppers.

“The major studios like WB, Paramount, Disney and MCA are all heavily into the park biz and control most of the characters that are known to the children of the world,” said Peter Beale, co-founder of New Entertainment Guild. “But other (entities) have been looking for characters around which to build theming concepts.”

Beale said that some of these mushrooming parks are in Europe, including the Walton Towers in England, Futuroscope in France and Gardaland in Italy.

In Japan, projections have predicted the construction of 300 new interactive theme parks in the next ten years, Beale said.

“This is the perfect way to launch a new wave of animated stars,” said Vinton in a statement. “WVE (will) develop what we call ‘full family entertainment’ stories, characters and experiences that appeal to the fantasy-loving, irreverent side (of audiences).”

Portland-based Vinton Studios has created such primetime commercial characters as the California Raisins, Domino’s Pizza Noid and dino critics Herb and Rex.

Currently, Vinton is perfecting Dimensional Cartoons, an art form combining stop-motion, computer imagery, animatronics and their trademarked Claymation (clay animation) technique, which will be used in the new WVE venture.

WVE toppers added that in America, the themed expansion into smaller venues so far is driven by Blockbuster Entertainment, which is targeting malls, and the Hughes Corp., which just erected the Suma entertainment center in Las Vegas.