Life Magazine cover featuring Wah Ming Chang’s headdress


Museum of Chinese in America

Museum of Chinese in America
New York, United States

Wah Ming Chang (1917-2003) was an artist, animator, and sculptor whose special effects shaped dozens of Hollywood’s greatest classics. 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 enjoyed local celebrity after featuring his work in his first solo show at a downtown gallery. Regular customer and famed artist James Blanding Sloan became young Chang’s mentor and legal guardian, after the death of Chang’s mother. By age 16, Chang was designing sets for the Hollywood Bowl, and, at age 21, he became the youngest member of Disney’s Effects & Model Department. Chang’s name never appeared in the credits for the original Star Trek series, even though he created some of the show’s most iconic set pieces and props, including the tricorder, the communicator, the Romulan bird-of-prey, and the final prototype for the phaser. In 1961, Chang’s firm, Project Unlimited Inc., won the Academy Award for Special Effects for Chang’s work on The Time Machine, for which Chang designed the titular device and 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 works for films and TV series like The Outer Limits, Spartacus, and Planet of the Apes.


  • Title: Life Magazine cover featuring Wah Ming Chang’s headdress
  • Date Created: 1961/1961

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