Wah Ming Chang (1917-2003) was an artist, animator, and sculptor whose special effects shaped dozens of Hollywood’s most classic productions. Born in 1917 in Honolulu, Chang was an artistic prodigy: he displayed his early drawings in his family’s San Francisco tea room and by age 9 was enjoying local celebrity after hanging his first solo show at a downtown gallery. Regular customer and famed artist Blanding Sloan became young Chang’s mentor and legal guardian after the death of Chang’s mother. By 16, Chang was designing sets for the Hollywood Bowl and became the youngest member of Disney’s Effects & Model Department at age 21.
While Chang’s name never once appeared in Star Trek’s credits, he created some of the show’s most iconic effects, including the tricorder, the communicator, the Romulan bird-of-prey, and the final prototype of the phaser. In 1961, the work of Chang’s firm on The Time Machine – for which Chang designed the titular device – won the Academy Award for Special Effects, though he was never credited among the recipients. Chang’s other creations include the dinosaurs from Land of the Lost, Elizabeth Taylor’s headdress in Cleopatra, the head of the first Pillsbury Doughboy, the puppet model used by Pinocchio’s animators, and more effects for The Outer Limits, Spartacus, and Planet of the Apes.