Animator Wah Chang Dead at 86

Academy Award-winning visual effects artist and animator Wah Ming Chang passed away on Monday, Dec. 22 in Carmel, Calif. at the age of 86. The Honolulu-born artist spent seven decades honing his craft in Hollywood, contributing to three Walt Disney films and working as a costume designer and sculptor.

In 1939, Chang became the youngest member of Disney’s effects and model department, where he built wooden models of Pinocchio and Bambi that animators used as references.

Shortly after starting at Disney, he developed polio and lost the use of his legs, but managed to recover after a 21-day hospital stay. In 1941 He married Glenella Taylor in Texas because California law at the time forbade marriage between a Chinese and a Caucasian.

Chang won a Oscar for his visual effects work on George Pal’s 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ sci-fi favorite The Time Machine. In addition, designed costumes for the classic Yul Brenner musical The King and I and created masks for the original The Planet of the Apes.

As an animator, Chang contributed to a stop-motion production of The Three Bears, and created stop-motion effects for Dinosaurus! (1960), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) and the 1974 TV series Land of the Lost. Other TV work included crafting creatures for the beloved sci-fi TV shows The Outer Limits and Star Trek, and sculpting heads for the original animated Pillsbury Doughboy.

Chang is survived by half-sister Lana Price of Carmel, Calif and several nieces and nephews. Glenella, his wife of nearly 60 years, died in 1997.