November '09

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Greg, 1983.

Animator Greg Manwaring spent his formative years on a U.S. Army base in Wuerzburg, Germany. He shares his memories of growing up in this unique environment.

I grew up, until age ten, in Gary, Indiana.  I had a fun childhood there, riding bikes, building forts, climbing to the top of trees and swaying in the wind.  I remember riding my bike into a parked car while not paying attention, and to having a Black Cat blow up in my hand as I went to throw it. I remember being scared to death of "Dobie", the Doberman pinscher that lived on our block.  It was rumored that he had killed someone.  I can remember loaning my bike to Lance Torrance, who at the age of nine was already smoking and died of cancer a year later, and of watching the ambulance bring out the body of my art teacher's father who had just blown his brains out.  I remember our house being egged all of the time because my Dad was a high school teacher, and of the neighborhood basketball games on our garage hoop.  

I always loved making art.  I fantasized about drawing "Lucky" in Boy's Life magazine and sending it in.  I loved cartoons and watched them religiously on WGN and WFLD 32 out of Chicago.  I was on "Bozo's Circus" in 1967 and my cousin was lucky enough to play the 'Grand Prize Game'.  I loved watching the "B.J. and Dirty Dragon Show", and was thrilled to find out many years later that B.J. was Bill Jackson, head of Cal Arts' School of Film and Video.  I remember running into his office and yelling to him "You're B.J.!!!" and his joy at being recognized in that regard.

Childhood took a major twist in 1971, when my Father told us we would be moving to an Army base in Wuerzburg, West Germany.  We were not a military family per se - my Dad was a high school teacher on the base. This sounded okay to me and I looked forward to it, especially since Dad said it would only be for a year - I guess it was best that I didn't know how long we were actually going.

After my 4th grade summer vacation we packed up and moved to Leighton Barracks.  I attended elementary and Junior/Senior school there.   The base itself was a mini-America, with it's own schools, gyms, shopping centers, fast food, and movie theaters.  I made my first German friend, Andreas, when I was 10 years old.  I "re-discovered" German kids when I started skateboarding downtown at a little skate area, and soon started joining my new friends at Disco's every Friday and Saturday nights!  One of those friends is a partner in a German corporation called Fun Toons.

 [On a side note, other well-known Wuerzburg folk are:  Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Coach Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Shaquille O'Neal (from a satellite base overseen by Wuerzburg), boxers "Bonecrusher" Smith - Smitty, as I knew him - and Ray Mercer, actresses Lori Mahaffey and Lori Myers, and actor Henry "Rick" Marzan.]

Entertainment always excited me, and whenever a Hollywood star came over with the USO or a singer or group, I was always trying to meet them or get involved.  I worked the spotlight for a Jerry Reed concert, and a BT Express concert.  There was Peaches and Herb, the S.O.S. Band, and The Manhattans.  I saw Norman Fell, skipped basketball practice to meet Donna Summer, and in the Summer of 1979 met the entire cast of Happy Days, when they came to play softball against our military team.   I can tell you first hand, that military personnel - active duty or civilian - really appreciate the visits of the entertainment community.

As a teenager I made friends with some G.I.'s, mostly from playing basketball at the base gym and from playing pool at the recreation center. I've had a few military buddies who really meant a lot to me. Tony Still was the local Kung Fu expert and boxing champ.  It was nice of him to befriend a 14 year-old kid, sharing in his passion for martial arts and all things Bruce Lee.                                                                                                        
One of those defining moments of my future is down to a G.I..  One day in art cllass, my teacher invited a serviceman to show us his artwork.  His name was David Glover, and he was GREAT.   I had never met anyone with his skills and wanted to know how he got to be so good.  He explained that he had gone to a school called the California Institute of the Arts and told me a little about the school.  He mentioned the animation program there and proceeded to show me a method for drawing 'Disney' style eyes.   These talks with David planted the seed of my destiny, though all these years later, I have never seen mention of his name in Cal Arts records, which seems odd to me.  

To this date, I am ashamed to say, I speak German very poorly.   I CAN speak it, but most Germans end up speaking to me in English.  Back in 1989, Don Judge came to work on a film, and I told him that he needed to learn German, and that I would teach him to count to ten.   He eagerly practiced what I taught him, getting the words memorized perfectly.  I had him count for a German co-worker, who burst out laughing.  Don was confused, until I revealed that I had taught him made up words and sounds!

I can't believe it's been almost ten years since I left Los Angeles.  I have always felt at home here in Germany. I realize that I AM American, and as such, always have my country as I place I can return to.  Of course, I miss my family and friends.  I also miss being able to go shopping on Sunday. Sometimes I miss that I didn't work on a great film that my friends have helped make.
  
I enjoy allowing my daughters the opportunity to grow up in another culture, so that they have seen the world with their own eyes.  That's certainly one thing I am grateful to my Dad having done for me.  I was very fortunate to have been brought up on an Army base, where there were no race barriers and where you were taught respect.  To this day I am a "Yes Sir" "No Ma'am" type of guy!   I also came up believing in teamwork, maybe more so than others, because of the military influence.   Mostly, I have come to believe that life is about family and friends, and am truly grateful for the relationships that I have.


Leighton Base, Wuerzburg, Germany.

FLIP survey

Ever Walk Out
On a Movie?


James Baker
"Comin' at Ya", a 3D movie from the mini 3D revival days of the early 1980s. All I am left with is the memory of the cumulative irritation of shot after shot of stuff being waggled in my face.

Allen Battino
Ken Russell's "Gothic", Peter Greenaway's "Prospero's Books", Gary Marshall's "Exit to Eden".  With these films, the overwhelming feeling of totally missing their potential and the directors being grossly indulgent in what they think makes them great is what threw me. I have never asked for a refund. The price I pay for my choices, I suppose. I have walked out on more films because the audience or the theater was bad!

Shelley Buck
I walked out on "Joy Luck Club", but I'm not sure it qualifies as "so bad"... it was so painful ( I had baby boys at the time) and I was sobbing so loud, I'm sure the entire theater was disturbed. Perhaps that makes it "so good", or "so effective".... kind of like standing straight up in my seat at "Aliens".
 
P.S.: My kids won't see movies with me... too embarrassing.

Ralph Eggleston
"Back to the Future 2"  The incessant product placement getting in the way of any connection to the characters.  I know it was attempting to make a statement about this sort of thing.   Maybe it worked TOO well. I fled.

"The Thief, the Cook, His Wife, and Her Lover" - bored silly.  Beautiful looking film, but who cares about that when the film fails to engage you on an emotional level.  Print some stills and hang it on a wall.

John Kleber
"Looking for Mr. Goodbar" It was a good film with a very violent scene that creeped me out. I couldn't watch it. I wanted to walk out on " The English Patient" but I was with Carol (John's wife) and she was enjoying it.

Steve Moore
"The Man Who Wasn't There" in 3D.  This came out in 1983, during a short lived renaissance of 3D movies.  Steve Guttenberg takes a potion that makes him Invisible - in 3D. You can't see him, in 3D.  

Alex Williams
"Kill Bill" It's funny because there is a lot that is really good about that film. Very stylish, great soundtrack. But I got sick of watching people have their heads taken off. I just couldn't stand it any longer.

Kirk Wise
"Opportunity Knocks" Dana Carvey drives around in a car doing "funny" voices.  Kill me now.

"Maid to Order" Ally Sheedy becomes a maid.  Wacky shenanigans ensue.  Zzzzzz...

"Eddie" Whoopi Goldberg is the kooky manager of a basketball team.  Why, God? Why?







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