Follow the giraffe to Echo Park’s new animation studio

On trips to downtown, Chris Finnegan and Mark Caballero would always notice what they called the “Giraffe Building,”  a two-story brick structure with a giraffe-shaped sign outlined in neon that hangs over the sidewalk at  Temple Street  and Belmont Avenue. The pair joked how the building on the southern edge of Echo Park  would serve as a “cool spot” for their animation business, Screen Novelties.  Then one day a “for lease” sign popped up on the Giraffe Building. Caballero called, a deal was struck and last month Screen Novelties, which had been located on Melrose Avenue,  began moving its studio and offices into its new Temple Street home.  Finnegan explains via email what attracted him, Caballero and fellow business partner Seamus Walsh to the building:

We were already looking around for a bigger space …  This little pocket of Temple is nice because there are some bars and cafes, but it’s a little removed from the hectic scene up on Sunset.  We like older buildings and it had an appealing industrial look— brick walls, exposed beams, etc.  And the neon giraffe, of course.

The 6,700-square-foot building  is where the Screen Novelties staff, which ranges in size from 5 to 20 workers depending on the production, will construct the miniature sets and puppets that are then photographed frame-by-frame for stop-animation features.  In addition to an animation studio, Finnegan said the firm plans to use  its new Echo Park home as a storefront gallery and retail space –  displaying Screen Novelties merchandise and artwork – and perhaps host a few performances.  Last month, for example, Screen Novelties hosted a “diorama performance” organized by Automata Arts, an experimental puppet theater group.

Now, what about the neon giraffe sign, which has been dark for quite some time? Finnegan is not making any promises but said there is a chance it will once again shine over Temple street. “The building owner has expressed interest in restoring the neon sign at some point, which would be awesome.”

No comments

  1. now THAT is a sign worth restoring!

  2. little jealous always wanted to have a cafe/deli there …

  3. To Chris and Mark,
    I commend you for seeing the needle in a haystack. Nice to see someone finally making use of some of the great older buildings on Temple. There’s quite a few with some great bones on Temple St. that stretch all the way to Silverlake Blvd or Hoover. Here’s a few cheers and well wishes on your move!

  4. Perfect! Have always loved that sign and building.

  5. Good luck! Don’t work too late, because the area is not that safe at night. There was a drive by accross the street to the west, where someone died. Then accross the street to the north, LAPD shot someone with a gun, and he died as well, it happened last year.

  6. @E,

    1642 has been open for some time on that block and I haven’t heard of a single incident of violence or otherwise involving that space or its patrons, so that ought to be a good sign that the area is no more dangerous than any other in Echo Park.

  7. I’ve loved that sign forever and always admired it – then moved into the neighborhood behind it 6 years ago. So glad that the building will finally have tenants, though if they could sell pizza from the retail/ gallery space it would be a dream come true.

  8. I work down the street and have never been threatened (or even nervous).

  9. I’m so glad someone is going to restore that sign– it’s fantastic! In fact, there’s quite a few great buildings on that block, I’d love to see them fixed up as well. Maybe this is the start of some great improvements for the area.

  10. What with that double murder down the street from me last year and that road-rage killing up Silver Lake Boulevard north of me last month, good luck in getting E to drop the panic button, unbolt the door and go outside to come to any of my parties in Silver Lake.

  11. So glad to see others with the same sentiment. I’m above Sunset but I’ve always felt south of the 101 has always gotten a bad rap since there are some truly great enclaves between Beverly and Temple (esp. west of Glendale and even better west of Alvarado). True a few streets are questionable but not any different than other areas of EP. …..always thought Temple can be charming as it’s more quaint, has great street scale, and it’s not as hectic as Sunset. Let’s hope small buildings such as this one continue to get rehabbed as I would love another alternative to Sunset. There’s already been some great things sprouting in this section and nearby: pehrspace, 1642, D Dolls, Village Kitchen, Ti Georges, Tribal Cafe to name a few….and I love Tribal Cafe.

    @ Julie….a cafe/deli would have been awesome too:)

  12. @ ryan:
    The area of Belmont/Union & Temple/Union has potential, but let’s not dismiss E’s comments. The statements are neither exaggeration, or delusional. A search on the archives of this very site will provide details of various occurrences in that area. All of those things (and more) actually took place there, and the incidents continue. 1642 has been there, what, a year?
    I am in that area day and night, ON FOOT. Perhaps you don’t have as intimate a feel for that area at night because you get out of your car and walk into 1642, walk out and get back in your car and drive home? Anyway, I don’t think E. mentioned anything about the patrons of that bar, or that bar specifically, but rather other areas to the west of it.
    Anyway, I do think the area has its plus sides, and hopefully, those will continue to evolve and flourish!

  13. Great to know a business is moving in. I always thought it would be a great building for an independent Gym like Body Builders in Silverlake.

  14. Isn’t this sign what remains of Big Top Liquor, the local gang’s original namesake?

  15. Yes it was Big Top Liquor

    What gang are you talking about ?

    The gangs that were prevelant in that area were Rockwood Street Locos
    Or RSL , Santanas which was a Filipino gang , and further up the hill East on Temple was Diamond Street .

    I like the guessing game when you move here from somewhere else and try and figure out what it was like .

  16. I think a couple of those gangs are still around. Kevin is referring to Big Top Locos.

  17. @ Will. Just stating the facts, and I’m not pushing any panic buttons. I’m out all of the time, just not in SL. Thanks for the invite, but no thanks. I might get my car towed away in front of your house. Hehehe! I hope that this business does well, and I wish them the best of luck. I was just warning them to be safe. I know this area, and I’m not sure that you do, since your from SL.

    @ Ana. Thanks. Someone that know this area!

    @ Kip. You forgot Temple St. gang.

  18. E: At least you did so good-naturedly, but you missed what I thought was an obvious point: No area of the city is immune to violent crime. Certainly it’s good to be aware of what’s happened in specific area, but citing a couple of tragedies over the last year or so in the coincidental vicinity of this company’s new address as reasons “not to work too late” carries the implication that evil lurks around every corner of Temple Street. Evil can happen anywhere.

    To your uncertainty whether or not I know the area (seasoned with your odd assertion that I might not be aware of any adjacent neighborhoods, as if Silver Lake is an island unto itself), it and I go back to 1980. And in the last seven years that I’ve lived in my Particularly bloody section of Silver Lake I’ve biked/walked/bused/driven the vast majority of streets extending in a four-mile radius from my house, experiencing them at all hours of the day or night. So I come at it from a different perspective, one more open than yours. I don’t jump to the assumption that because bad things have happened that bad things will happen.

  19. That building couldn’t have gone to a better gaggle of chaps…or company! NOW GO MAKE MORE FILMS!!!!!

  20. Thanks Will, but there is nothing wrong with warning someone to be vigilant. I’m not pushing any panic buttons, but if people watch their back, and end up being safe, then I’m fine with that. I re-read the stories about the shootings, and both happened in the daytime, so be safe during the day as well.

    I was just kidding about the just knowing SL part, because you have been around long enough for me to know, that you are all over the place, with camera in hand. Just don’t let your open perspective bite you in the ass. Been here since 1963, and I know bad things have happend & bad things will happen. In the four mile radius of my house there have been more than the three tragedies, that you listed in your Particularly bloody section of Silver Lake. I would list them, but I don’t want you to think that I’m pushing the panic button. I’ll keep my guard up, because thats how I was raised. Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes. Be safe!

  21. @Anna:

    I live across the freeway above the lake and use the pedestrian bridge adjacent to the hospital to walk to 1642. for all the gang graffiti you see along the way I’ve never once seen or heard anything threatening or violent from gangster/miscreant types during day or night…

    all I pointed out was that though the area may be less populous at night, it’s really no more dangerous than anywhere else in echo park.


    thanks for dropping knowledge about Big Top Liquor! I’ve always wondered how BTL got its name.

  22. Will I have to admit that the unbolt the door and come outside was kind of funny. Dumb funny! People probably think that I’m hiding in my house with the doors locked. I leave early & come home late, barely enough time to get my beauty sleep. You’ll probably see me walking into my house with my No Fear shirt on.

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