Interview: “Carl’s Date” Director and Voice of Dug Bob Peterson

Return to the world of Up with the new short Carl’s Date which will play ahead of Pixar’s Elemental. We talked to writer-director Bob Peterson about the short in which he also voices Dug.

Laughing Place: Where did the idea for doing this last Dug Day short as sort of a coda to the Carl-Dug story come from?

Bob Peterson: Well, the first five [Dug Days shorts] are Carl and Dug sort of taking care of each other, living in the suburbs. And really, it was a gesture of going on to have a new adventure, which is what Ellie wanted. And so when those completed, I wondered, could we go a step further, and that he has to grapple with the idea of moving on to go on a date? And so I was only going to do it if we honored Ellie, and also if we just show Carl grappling and having trouble with this idea, because Ellie's such a big part of his life. And so that's where that came, and I've seen grandparents go through it, where you lose a spouse. Do you crumble? Do you wait? Or do you reach out and go on to something new?

Laughing Place: You've been associated with Dug for a while now, and it obviously touched upon something special, because he's become a cultural phenomenon. I mean, the way we view dogs is through the lens of Dug, I mean, I went to the vet the other day, and they talked about a cone of shame,

Bob Peterson: Yeah. It's in the vernacular.

Laughing Place: Yeah. And so what does it mean for the impact that particularly Dug has had in terms of really expressing the love we have between our dogs in both ways?

Bob Peterson: I think the nice thing about Dug is we hear his thoughts, but he acts like a dog, and so I think we can maybe project our dogs onto him just a little bit more. And I've had so many dogs through the years, and each one of them comes through Dug. And I think Dug celebrates joy and the best of what dogs bring to us, which is another person that we have this relationship with, that just happens to be furry. But Dug brings forward the best of what we love about our canine friends.

Laughing Place: And dogs have the purest form of love that you can imagine.

Bob Peterson: Yeah. Absolutely.

Laughing Place: What does it mean that Dug is able to teach Carl, who hasn't been on a first date in decades about love and the connection you can make, and sort of bristling it down to just the purest form?

Bob Peterson: Yeah, it's interesting. As I wrote this and we were creating it, I realized that Dug may be just a little more sophisticated now than he was in Up or in some of the early shorts that we did from living with Carl. And he's very empathetic, like when Carl hangs up the phone and he's upset, Dug realizes that. And so the fun was… Because dogs feel love. They feel love for each other. You can tell, the way they get excited and jump around. And what's that simple wisdom that a dog might have to teach us something? And it's served up with a little bit of wolf, little bit of wildness in it, all this stuff, but dogs are empathetic, and I was glad to show that.

Laughing Place: And to wrap up, this also sort of ends up being a love letter to Ed Asner's performance of Carl Fredricksen. Can you talk a little bit about what he brought to this whole experience?

Bob Peterson: Well, he is Carl. He's a curmudgeon, but he's also so fun. He's a hard worker, very opinionated, and we just had the best time. I showed up at the Oscars, and he pinched my cheeks really hard, and that kind of thing. He's just a lot of fun to hang with, and he's given us so much through the years, and I was happy that we… And he loves Carl too. I was happy that we were able to give that to him and then showcase his talent again.

You can catch Carl’s Date ahead of Elemental at theaters starting June 16.