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Wah Chang

Wah Chang

Wah Ming Chang (August 2, 1917December 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. (The phaser was largely designed by Matt Jefferies but built by Chang ) For Star Trek, Chang also built costumes for the salt vampire ("The Man Trap"), the Gorn ("Arena") and Balok's false image ("The Corbomite Maneuver"). He also 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.

Chang's communicator design has been credited as an inspiration for modern flip-type cell phones. His Balok effigy—repeated after each episode as part of Star Trek's closing credits—with its small chin, almond-shaped eyes and large cranium, did much to establish and popularize the archetype of humanoid extraterrestrial life.

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 the spectacular headdress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the feature film Cleopatra. Other work included building the title object from 1960's movie The Time Machine. This film would win Academy Award recognition for its special effects, but Chang did not share in this honor, probably due to a clerical error.

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.

For additional reading, see Wah Ming Chang: Artist and Master of Special Effects, by Gail Blasser Riley, 1995, Enslow Publishers, Inc., Berkeley Heights, NJ; and, The Life and Sculpture of Wah Ming Chang, by David Barrow and Glen Chang, Photography by Wah and Glen Chang, 1989, Copyright 1989 Wah Ming Chang, Carmel, CA ISBN 0-9625293-1-1 Paperback

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