[TIMELINE] Wah Ming Chang (Designer)
- DESIGNER: Wah Ming Chang
An artist from an early age, Wah Ming Chang was born in Hawai`i in
1917 but came to San Francisco at the age of 2. His parents opened
the HoHo Tea Room on Sutter Street and his mother's artistic nature
made the tea room a haven for the art community. Wah would sit in
the tearoom and sketch, encouraged by local artists. Artist Blanding
Sloan took an interest in Chang and took him on as a student,
teaching him how to do copper etchings and make puppets. Chang was
the subject of much media attention and even had his own one-man
show at a gallery in San Francisco at the age of 9. Sadly, Chang's
mother died just two years later and Chang was taken in by his
mentor Sloan and moved to Hollywood.
After finishing school, Chang went to work for Disney, helping in
making models for the animators to draw for the movie Pinocchio at
21, Chang was the youngest member of Disney's Effects and Models
Department. A few years later he married his wife Glen, whom he met
while working on a job in Texas, and they started their own studio,
which produced educational films.
In 1956, Chang and some colleagues began a new company called
Project Unlimited, which turned out some of the work Chang is most
famous for. Their first project were the effects for the 1958 Tom
Thumb. Chang's colleagues went on to win an Oscar for their work in
The Time Machine, an Oscar that should have gone to Chang too, but
his name was not credited by the Academy. Other projects that Chang
worked on were creating the Pillsbury Doughboy, effects and costumes
for the Planet of the Apes, along with major props and costumes for
The Outer Limits television series.
Even after Project Unlimited folded, Chang kept working, creating
several props and costumes for the Star Trek series, including the
federation communicator, the tricorder, the phaser gun and the Salt
Creature. Chang also created masks for The King and I and the
massive headdress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.