Search form

Oscar-Winning Animator Chang Dies At 86

Wah Ming Chang, an Academy Award-winning animator and artist, died Dec. 22, 2003 in Carmel, California at the age of 86.

Some of his more notable works include a stop-motion animation production of THE THREE BEARS. Chang created posable wooden models of PINOCCHIO and BAMBI so that Disney animators could study body movements. He also contributed to BOZO THE CLOWN, TOM THUMB, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM and THE SEVEN FACES OF DR. LAO, reported Associated Press.

Chang designed costumes for the film THE KING AND I, created masks for THE PLANET OF THE APES and made Elizabeth Taylor's headdress in CLEOPATRA. He sculpted a series of heads to animate the first Pillsbury Doughboy. He also made creatures for the television series THE OUTER LIMITS and STAR TREK. He earned an Oscar for special effects for his work on THE TIME MACHINE.

Born in 1917 in Honolulu, Chang moved to San Francisco with his artist parents in the early 1920s. In San Francisco, they managed the Ho Ho Tea Room, a hangout for bohemian artists. Journalist Blanding Sloan, a regular customer, took an interest in Chang when he discovered the six-year-old boy sketching portraits on the back of his mother's menus.

Chang had his own show by the age of nine at a downtown San Francisco art gallery. After his mother died in 1928, Chang moved with Sloan and his wife to their Hollywood home where he was creating film sets for the Hollywood Bowl at the age of 16.

Chang met his wife, Glenella Taylor, in 1936 while on THE CAVALCADE OF TEXAS, a show celebrating the Texas Centennial. They were later married in 1941 when California law at the time did not allow marriage between a Chinese and a Caucasian.

Chang went to work for Disney in 1939 as the youngest member (21) of the effects and model department and worked on THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY. He soon developed polio and lost the use of his legs for a while. He eventually recovered and held onto a letter of encouragement written by Walt Disney to him during his illness.

Chang became head of the model department at the George Pal Puppetoon Studio, doing animated short films, using miniature sets and special effects photography.

He then ventured out on his own, to create a series of commercials and medical educational films.

He moved his family to Carmel Valley in 1970 where he continued to work on educational films about mans relationship to nature and the environment and became a successful sculptor.

Changs work is on display through December at San Franciscos Chinese Historical Society of America. The exhibit, Wah Ming Change and Tyrus Wong: Two Behind the Scenes, features the work of these artists who became friends when they worked on BAMBI at Walt Disney Studios in 1939.

Chang is survived by a half-sister, Lana Price of Carmel, and several nieces and nephews. His wife of nearly 60 years died in 1997. A public memorial service will beheld at 2:00 pm Jan. 17 at Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel.