Wah Chang

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Wah Chang
Born (1917-08-02)August 2, 1917
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii
Died December 22, 2003(2003-12-22) (aged 86)
Carmel, California, USA
Nationality American
Known for film, sculpture, painting
Notable work Star Trek
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Chang.
For the metals company, see Wah Chang Corporation.

Wah Ming Chang (鄭華明[1] August 2, 1917–December 22, 2003) was a Chinese-American designer, sculptor, and artist. He is known primarily for his sculpture and the props he designed for Star Trek (the original series), including the tricorder and communicator. (While he is mistakenly credited with having created the phaser, it was actually designed by the Art Director of the original series, Matt Jefferies. Jefferies' phaser was not accepted, and Chang redesigned it for him.)[2][3]

For Star Trek, Chang built costumes for the salt vampire ("The Man Trap"), the Gorn ("Arena") and Balok's false image ("The Corbomite Maneuver"). He created tribbles by using artificial fur stuffed with foam, the Neanderthals in "The Galileo Seven", and the Romulan Bird of Prey ("Balance of Terror"), and the Vulcan harp first seen in "Charlie X" and later seen in "The Conscience of the King", "Amok Time", "The Way to Eden"; and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Wah Chang's futuristic "communicator," a design influence on contemporary clamshell cellular phones.

Chang's communicator design has been credited as an inspiration for modern flip-type cell phones. His Balok effigy was used in "The Corbomite Maneuver" Star Trek episode — and at the conclusion of many closing credits sequences of the series.[citation needed]

His other film credits include sculpting the maquette of Pinocchio which was used as the reference for the animators of the classic Walt Disney feature, and articulated deer models for Bambi.[4] He designed the spectacular headdress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the feature film Cleopatra. Other work included building the title object from 1960s movie The Time Machine. Chang's firm, Project Unlimited, Inc., would win Academy Award recognition for its special effects, but Chang was not listed on the award, due to the way the credits were submitted to the Academy.[3] Film historian Bob Burns reported that Chang didn't object to this. "He was the most humble, gentle man I've ever known in my life," Burns said. "He never boasted about anything he did, and he just did remarkable stuff."[4]

In addition, Chang built the artificial creature in "The Architects of Fear" episode of the original The Outer Limits, some props for the original Planet of the Apes film, the frightening skeleton animated in The Power, the flying machine in The Master of the World, and the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost.

Chang's work as a stop-motion animator through the effects company Centaur Productions, operated with fellow artist Gene Warren, has been enjoyed for years in the cartoons Hardrock, Coco and Joe and Suzy Snowflake.[citation needed]

Later in life, Chang moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where he produced sculptures of wildlife.[3][4]

In 1941, 31-year-old Wah Ming was diagnosed with polio after suffering flu-like symptoms. After an extended stay at the Twin Oaks Sanitarium hospital in San Gabriel, California, and treatments that included confinement in an iron lung, He eventually would walk again, but for the rest of his life, never had enough strength in his lungs to be able to blow up a balloon.[citation needed]

While his earlier creative efforts were consumed with special effects and film related wonders, his more mature artistic creations were delightful bronze sculptures and whimsical statuary from a life-sized Dennis the Menace, commissioned by creator Hank Ketcham and displayed in Dennis Park in Monterey, California, to the smaller statues like Girl and Frog, which is owned by a private collector in Los Angeles, CA.[citation needed]


Chang appeared in the documentary The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985) (Produced and directed by Arnold Leibovit).

Mr. Chang was a guest in the documentary Time Machine: The Journey Back (1993) produced and directed by Clyde Lucas


  1. ^ http://www.chineseamericanheroes.org/heroes/2012/Wah%20Ming%20Chang.pdf
  2. ^ Solow, Herbert F.; Yvonne Fern (1997). The Star Trek Sketchbook. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-00219-0. 
  3. ^ a b c "Creative Staff: Wah Ming Chang". StarTrek.com. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c "Wah Ming Chang, 86; Special-Effects Master Worked on 'Time Machine'". Los Angeles Times. 30 December 2003. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Riley, Gail Blasser (1995). Wah Ming Chang: Artist and Master of Special Effects. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89490-639-8. 
  • Barrow, David; Glen Chang (1989). The Life and Sculpture of Wah Ming Chang. Carmel, CA: Wah Ming Chang. ISBN 978-0-9625293-1-3. 

External links[edit]