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.”