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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Wah Ming Chang, 86, Oscar winner

Associated Press

CARMEL, Calif. — Wah Ming Chang, an Academy Award-winning animator and a Carmel Valley artist, died Monday. He was 86.

Chang worked as an artist for more than seven decades. He worked on three Walt Disney films and as a Hollywood costume designer and sculptor.

Born in Honolulu to two artists, Chang moved to San Francisco with his family in the early 1920s. In San Francisco, they managed the Ho Ho Tea Room, a hangout for bohemian artists. Artist and journalist Blanding Sloan, a regular customer, took an interest in the 6-year-old Chang after he discovered him sketching portraits on the back of his mother's menus.

By the age of 9, Chang had his own show at a downtown San Francisco art gallery. After his mother died, Chang moved with Sloan and his wife to their Hollywood home and started creating film sets for the Hollywood Bowl at the age of 16.

Chang met his wife, Glenella Taylor, while working with Sloan in Dallas on "The Calvacade of Texas," a show celebrating the Texas Centennial, in 1936. When a 21-year-old Chang started working for Anaheim-based Disney in 1939, he was the youngest member of Disney's Effects and Model Department.

Chang married Taylor in Texas in 1941 — California law at the time did not allow marriage between a Chinese and a Caucasian.

Some of his more notable works include a stop-motion animation production of "The Three Bears." Chang created 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."

Chang designed costumes for the film "The King and I" starring Yul Brenner, 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 and made creatures for the TV series "The Outer Limits" and "Star Trek." It was his work on "The Time Machine" that earned him an Oscar for special effects.

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.